January 26, 2010
Justice Bertha Wilson
Bertha Wilson was the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, sworn in on March 30, 1982, less than three weeks before the Charter of Rights and Freedoms became a centerpiece of Canadian Constitutional law. Wilson's career on the Court before she retired in 1991 would engage with many constitutional controversies in Canada.
Justice Bertha Wilson: One Woman's Difference is an important new anthology, edited by Professor Kim Brooks of the Faculty of Law at McGill University. Brooks' introduction to the volume is available on ssrn. The collection provides perspectives on Bertha Wilson's judicial career and explicit interrogations of the relevance of gender to the judiciary.
For Americans - - - the third woman on our United States Supreme Court having been appointed last summer - - - the Canadian experience provides a much richer data base for making arguments about gender on the Supreme Court. While Justice Bertha Wilson was appointed six months later than SCOTUS' first woman justice, Sandra Day O'Connor, the Supreme Court of Canada quickly surpassed SCOTUS in the number of women justices: Madame Justice Claire L'Heuerux-Dube was appointed in 1987, with woman justices appointed in 1989, 1999, 2002, and two in 2004. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada is now the Madame Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin and four of the nine justices are women. The ratio on Australia's High Court is similar.
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