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  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Round Table Discussion on the Role of Law Schools in Justice Reform in Mexico

Round Table Discussion on the Role of Law Schools in Justice Reform in Mexico

Querétaro, Mexico, Friday, November 30, 2012

Thank you for your warm welcome. I also want to congratulate you on your project to move to a new justice system.

It is delightful to have been invited to help inaugurate this important project on justice reform in Mexico, one of Canada’s true friends in the Americas.

I am a lawyer by profession, and spent much of my career prior to becoming governor general as a student, professor and dean of law. Throughout my life I have developed a profound respect for how precious is the rule of law—by which I mean a legal system centred upon the constant, relentless, pursuit of justice.

As you know, law without the pursuit of justice is at best empty words.

On the other hand, the rule of law, married to the constant pursuit of justice, is what makes us free. It allows us to achieve our potential as humans and as whole societies.

I am a member of the province of Ontario’s bar association, so allow me to share with you part of the oath sworn by new members of the profession:

I quote:

“I shall protect and defend the rights and interests of such persons as may employ me…”; “I shall neglect no one’s interest…”; “I shall not pervert the law to favour or prejudice any one…”; and—of direct relevance to your work—“I shall seek to improve the administration of justice.”

If I had started a new law school today, I would base it on the words “law” and “justice”. We need to ask the question: Is law just? Is this law just?

The judicial reform currently being implemented across Mexico aims to do exactly that. As leaders in the study and teaching of law, each of you has a critical role to play in ensuring that the evolving rule of law always bends toward justice.

Having been a professor and university administrator, I have seen up close how legal education can strengthen the law. By working in symbiosis with practicing lawyers, judges and officials, law students and faculties can enhance the system of justice while preparing the next generation of legal professionals.

Canadians, too, are eager to support your important work. And in fact, my eldest daughter who is a lawyer with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada has just returned from Mexico.  

She has been training prosecutors since 2010 in five Mexican states (Yucatán, Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche and Quintana Roo) on the foundational elements of prosecutorial work including prosecutorial decision-making, transparency, accountability and independence, witness and trial preparation, and on litigation skills.

Most recently, she spent a week with a group of prosecutors from the Yucatán region developing collaboratively model prosecution guidelines for these five states.  The intent is that these model guidelines will be shared with other prosecution offices and ultimately become publicly available guidelines that promote transparency and assist prosecutors in their decision-making.

Since 2004, my daughter has worked in Chile, Colombia and Mexico training prosecutors, public defenders, judges and police officers as part of the judicial reform in those countries.

Her hope is that, in sharing some of the best practices of the Canadian criminal justice system in a contextually relevant way, best practices that Canada has acquired through many decades of “lessons learned” in the oral trial system, she can contribute to the global effort to strive for a fairer, more accountable and more transparent criminal justice system that fosters public confidence in the administration of justice.

Her work is an excellent example of the diplomacy of knowledge, which is the willingness and ability to work together—across disciplines and across borders—to uncover, share and refine knowledge to improve the human condition.

The sharing of knowledge collectively enlightens us, just as the pursuit of justice frees us to achieve our true potential. Let us therefore continue to work together for the fairer, more just world of which we dream.

I wish you the very best with your important work. 

Thank you.