Presentation of the Pearson Peace Medal
Rideau Hall, Thursday, March 17, 2016
It’s an honour and a great pleasure to welcome all of you to Rideau Hall for this presentation of the Pearson Peace Medal.
Years ago, back when I was a young law dean welcoming a new class of law students, I would pose the following question:
“Is the law just?”
I asked because in order to answer this question, one needs two things: to know the law, and to possess a sense of justice.
In other words, one must be both smart and caring, and I think you’ll agree with me when I say that Louise Arbour is the epitome of a smart and caring Canadian.
She is a most deserving recipient of the Pearson Peace Medal.
Today, we recognize a life and career dedicated to the practice of law and the pursuit of justice, not just here in Canada, but around the world.
How very appropriate that we gather today, on the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Association in Canada.
This organization and this medal are dedicated to causes which Lester B. Pearson held dear. They include helping refugees and people in need; securing equal rights and justice for all; and bringing about peaceful change through international law and institutions.
Louise Arbour has devoted herself to each of these causes and, much like Lester Pearson, she has been very effective.
As one of her nominators for this award put it:
“[translation] For Ms. Arbour, diplomacy is the art of bridging what is ‘eminently desirable with what is feasible.’ Ms. Arbour has achieved that aim on more than one occasion.”
That is very well said.
Louise Arbour is a bridge-builder, which helps explain why, in addition to being a Companion of the Order of Canada and a Grand Officer of the Ordre national du Québec, she has served at the highest international levels and been decorated by the nations of France, Spain, Colombia and Belgium.
And while I’m at it, I should mention what is perhaps her greatest honour: being given a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto!
If I’m not mistaken, Louise, I believe your star is shining on King Street West, right between Jeff Healey and Ryan Reynolds!
Not many lawyers can say that!
As proud as we are of Louise here in Canada, she is one of those great Canadians who truly belongs to the world.
I’m reminded of some lines by the Canadian poet and lawyer F.R. Scott:
“The world is my country / The human race is my race”.
I sometimes refashion Frank Scott’s optimum aphorism to all. I am a citizen of Canada but my country is the country of the mind.
I won’t go into details about Louise’s achievements today—we’d be here a long time if I did—but let me close with another question I used to put to my young law students.
Having asked whether the law they were studying was just, I would then ask, “If it isn’t, what will you do about it?” And I would remind them that, as lawyers, they would swear an oath to “improve the administration of justice.”
Louise Arbour truly grasps the distinction between law and justice, and she knows that the rule of law is only served by the constant, relentless pursuit of justice.
And so, in honour of her constant, relentless and global pursuit, I am delighted to present her with the 2016 Pearson Peace Medal.
Congratulations, Louise, and on behalf of all Canadians, thank you.