Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella speaks on Judicial Independence, Access to Justice and an angry Canadian public

Newly revealed off-the-record speech

On July 7, 2011, Justice Rosalie Abella gave a lengthy address at University College, London titled ‘Constitutions and Judges: Changing Roles, Rules and Expectations.”

According to the Supreme Court of Canada’s then Executive Legal Officer Owen Rees, the speech was never published and further – Justice Abella never shares her speaking notes with anyone.*

Well… despite Mr. Rees’ information, somehow Justice Abella’s speech was scanned and published online by University College and is still available for download at the University College website here. (pdf 4mb) I posted a copy on my website that has been OCR’d (optical character recognition) so the speech is now searchable. You can download that OCR’d copy here.

Justice Abella’s speech is a good read both for the public and the legal profession not only because of the insight into the thinking of one of our Supreme Court Justices but also because the judiciary is falling into a state that Justice Abella warned against in her talk.

The public’s trust in the judiciary is failing. A large part of that is due to the refusal of the judiciary as an institution to hold wayward judges accountable in any meaningful manner. Further, at the Federal level, the organization tasked with investigating and disciplining Federal judges, the Canadian Judicial Council, is so obviously nothing more than a whitewashing bureau with as little transparency as it has accountability.

Like every profession empowered to oversee itself, the judiciary ended up placing its own interests before the public trust. And transparency? What a joke…

Let’s talk Judicial Accountability and Transparency. The Canadian Judicial Council’s annual reports went from seventy-two pages in 1996 to TWO PAGES in 2016 – a clear message from both the judiciary and the CJC that the Canadian public can go to Hell for all they care.

You can access the CJC’s annual reports at their website here: CJC website annual reports.

Justice Abella on Judicial Independence… and on judges like Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy

It is interesting that in her speech Justice Abella cautioned that judges should be vigilant that their judicial independence and impartiality are not cauterized by controversy. She also said that judges must keep the public confident that no matter what, rights and freedoms will be pursued and protected.

Superior Court Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy

But what happens when, as in my case, a judge like Federal Court Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy so obviously abandons even the appearance of impartiality and adherence to rule of law? And further, what happens when the Canadian Judicial Council and Attorney General of Canada openly defend and side with a judge whose conduct some lawyers have called ‘reprehensible’?

I submit that it is not the rogue acts of a handful of judges that undermine our justice system – it is the cover-ups that do the most damage to the public’s trust and confidence in our courts.

On reading her speech, I think that Justice Abella probably gets that point.

“Justice may be blind, but the public is not.” Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella.

Access to Justice

Starting at the bottom of page 19 of her speech and continuing for some time, Justice Abella talks about how important it is that judges retain the trust and confidence of the public and that the public is becoming angry over the lack of access to justice and the fixation of the justice system on procedure instead of a focus upon justice.

“So what’s the noise our profession can’t ignore? The sound of a very angry public. And it’s a public that’s been mad at us for a long, long time. Like the character from the movie Network, I’m not sure they’re going to take it anymore. And frankly, I’m not sure they should.”Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella.

“I’m talking of course about access to justice. But I’m not talking about fees, or billings, or legal aid, or even pro bono. Those are our beloved old standards in the “access to justice” repertoire and I’m sure all of you know those tunes very well. I have a more fundamental concern: I cannot for the life of me understand why we still resolve civil disputes the way we did more than a century ago.”Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella.

“I think it’s finally time to think about designing a whole new way to deliver justice to ordinary people with ordinary disputes and ordinary bank accounts. That’s what real access to justice needs, that’s what the public is entitled to get, and that’s what our professionalism demands. Justice must be seen to be believed. And getting people to believe in justice is what the legal system is supposed to do.” Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella.

Photo of Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella courtesy of the Supreme Court of Canada.

TEXT RECOGNIZED COPY BELOW – May have inaccuracies. Check against .pdf copies…


University College London

The Constitution Unit The Supreme Court London, England

July, 7, 2011

Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella

Supreme Court of Canada

In 1929, overturning the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision that “Persons” in the constitution excluded women, Lord Sankey, on behalf of the Privy Council, directed the Court to interpret the Canadian constitution as a “living tree capable of growth and expansion”, and in a “large and liberal”, not a “narrow and technical” way. The Supreme Court of Canada has, in recent years, taken this direction very seriously in its interpretation of the Charter ofRights and Freedoms and has, as a result, reminded us of Isaiah Berlin’s aphorism that there is no pearl without some irritation in the oyster, since there is no doubt that this large and liberal interpretation has by now produced some large and liberal irritation.

Read more

Canadian lawyers must no longer investigate themselves and their friends.

Independent investigations of lawyer misconduct should be the standard.

It is no longer acceptable that the Canadian legal profession, that exerts vast influence and authority into every area of life, continues to self-regulate without transparency, independent civilian oversight and external accountability.

The powerful Canadian legal profession must be brought into compliance with modern standards of independent oversight and external accountability.

Are lawyers more honest than police officers… or are they also vulnerable to temptations and pressures?

For good reason, we don’t allow our police to operate without external oversight and accountability. The stories of police abuse, corruption and incompetence are legion – and in the last few years became a deluge as incidents are regularly documented with solid video and/or audio evidence from mobile phones, security and dashboard cameras.

Ontario and many other jurisdictions formed civilian investigative units to independently investigate serious police wrongdoing and to lay charges where appropriate.

And still, we have trouble holding the police accountable.

Unlike police officers, lawyers do not generally commit crimes in the street while surrounded by surveillance cameras and citizens wielding mobile phones.

Lawyer misconduct is often done in backrooms with a signature, a few words – or a wink and a nod that betray a small client in favour of a larger big-spending long-term corporate client.

The law societies across Canada are simply a group of friends investigating and ‘disciplining’ the same people they went to school with, socialize with and meet in the workplace and in court. That works out exactly as you think it would and it is never about the public trust no matter how many times the law society executives say the words.

The Law Society of Ontario covered up and whitewashed hundreds of crimes by lawyers who committed criminal offences against their clients – according to the Toronto Star’s Broken Trust investigation. I can’t think of why it would be different in any other province.

Canadians must demand laws that will force upon the legal profession real transparency, independent civilian oversight and external accountability to Canadians at large. Self-regulation of lawyers must end.


Law Society of Ontario calls for input into money laundering rules… Foxes designing hen house security

Money Laundering needs specialists

Lawyers are key to successful money laundering. That’s why the rules shouldn’t be left up to them.

During his acceptance speech as the co-winner of the 2015 Allard Prize for International Integrity, journalist Rafael Marques de Morais said “(unethical) Lawyers are servants in the architecture of corruption.”

Indeed they are. Lawyers are very necessary servants in the architecture of corruption for without lawyers willing to assist their valued clients, money laundering would be much more difficult for organized crime, crooked politicians, cheating corporations and others so inclinded to wash and conceal money here in Canada or offshore.

With Canadian banks and other named businesses having to report to the government large cash transactions (deposits or withdrawals over $10,000 cash) and also suspicious transactions – lawyers are the go-to people for weaseling around the laws because they are largely exempt from the reporting rules and constraints of non-lawyers. Plus, lawyers have a vast array of creative tools and strategies available – not to mention an international brotherhood that is experienced in working around inconvenient laws.

After 9/11, Canadian lawyers fought hard to keep from being more closely regulated and scrutinized over the issue of money transfers. They succeeded for a time, but the pressure is on again.

“The Law Society ‘solution’ for preventing money laundering is to rely entirely upon the integrity of individual lawyers – with no accounting or oversight by the law society or anyone else unless a complaint is made. Given that those involved in money laundering would never complain to the law society, that wraps things up quite nicely.”

Law Society of Ontario calls for input into money laundering rules

Canadian lawyers admit they are in fear of “the possibility of a renewed effort by the federal government to extend the PCMLTFA (Proceeds of Crime – Money Laundering – and Terrorist Financing Act) to members of the legal profession.” (See page 2 of the Law Society of Ontario’s Call for Input – download 1mb pdf here.)

As a result, the law societies across Canada have banded together with the Federation of Law Societies of Canada to present a little dog and pony show for the public and the legislators (who are primarily legal profession club members themselves.) The ‘club’ created a ‘Professional Regulation Committee’ and is calling for input from lawyers to the proposed amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Rules.

A few minor changes coupled with a public relations campaign should do the trick… anything to stave off effective regulations that would cramp the profession’s ability to creatively serve the needs of their big-paying clients that they don’t want anyone to look at too closely.

You will note how the LSO proposal deals with transfers of cash, identifying and verifying clients and the use of lawyer’s trust accounts. A closer read shows that the proposed changes still leave lots of leeway and discretion to individual money-laundering lawyers. The money laundering toolbox is still intact with private mortgages, property transfers, offshore corporations and lots more tools still viable as lawyers’ secret conduits for tainted money.

Focus on Cash is a red herring.

The focus upon cash is a red herring for Canadian lawyers. Most of the money-laundering lawyers in Canada are not involved with large cash transactions through their own hands. By the time money arrives in their law firm accounts, it is coming through banks and from other lawyers in the form of documented transfers, real estate sales to apparent arms length parties and staged business dealings that have just enough appearance of legitimacy to protect the involved lawyers and law firms.

A Global Witness undercover investigation showed that 25% of New York lawyers would money-launder for strangers walking in off the streets. That was for strangers, not valued and known clients. Do we think that proportion of crooked lawyers is any different in Toronto, London or Barbados?

LSO Treasurer Paul Schabas (left) covered up fraud and money-laundering indicators for corrupt lawyer Gerald Ranking.

Law Society of Ontario Treasurer Paul Schabas knew that lawyer Gerald Ranking fraudulently used a fake business entity in Ontario courts, and that Ranking received a million dollars in a trust account for this phony purported client.

Intruding into this Law Society of Ontario dog and pony show are some serious facts that destroy the law society’s credibility to deal with apparent money-laundering by legal club member lawyers.

For instance, Law Society of Ontario Treasurer Paul Schabas was co-counsel with corrupt Fasken lawyer Gerald L. Ranking on a civil case where Ranking went wild with criminal misconduct. Schabas at the time was a bencher and a member of the law society’s discipline committee. (See ‘Paul Schabas and Canada’s Corrupt Bay Street Lawyers‘ for details and supporting court exhibits.)

What did Paul Schabas do when he learned that Gerald Ranking’s purported client in a civil case was actually a non-existent fictional creation?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nada. Zilch.

What did Law Society of Ontario bencher Paul Schabas do when he learned that Gerald Ranking had received about a million dollars in a trust account for his ficticious non-existent client?

Paul Schabas and his law society knew that lawyer Gerald Ranking of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP’s Toronto office fraudulently claimed that his purported client was a registered Barbados business – when in fact the ‘company’ was a phony non-entity conjured up to deflect liability from Ranking’s actual clients. Schabas and the law society also knew that Ranking received over a million dollars court costs payments in the name of the phony ‘company’ that Ranking knew didn’t really exist – a badge of money laundering.

What did Paul Schabas do when he knew that the million dollars could not possibly be deposited to the credit of the fake ‘business’ that the court awarded it to?


So you see… Law Society Treasurer Paul Shabas and the Law Society of Ontario cannot be trusted to administer, investigate and discipline lawyers who violate anti-money laundering rules, including the ‘know your client’ provisions.

And that was just one case. Here’s a few hundred more…

According to the Toronto Star’s Broken Trust investigation, in the last few years the Law Society of Ontario covered up and whitewashed hundreds of crimes by lawyers who committed criminal offences against their clients.

And now the Law Society of Ontario is proposing minor changes to the anti-money-laundering rules that will do little to stem the problem of money-laundering lawyers – the “servants in the architecture of corruption.”

It is time to bring Canada’s legal profession into compliance with modern standards of transparency, independent oversight and external accountability.