[Appointed Chief Justice of Ontario June 1, 2007- Retirement December 9, 2013]
Remarks by the Honourable Warren K. Winkler Chief Justice of Ontario
Monday, December 9, 2013 at 10:00 A.M.
Courtroom #1 – Osgoode Hall
Chief Justice Smith, Chief Justice Bonkalo, Associate Chief Justice Hoy, Associate Chief Justice Marrocco, Justices of the Court of Appeal, Regional Senior Justice Then, Justices of the Superior Court of Justice, Justices of the Ontario Court of Justice, Treasurer, Members of the Bar, Family and Friends.
In the words of my dear friend The Honourable Robert Montgomery, here this morning having celebrated his 88th birthday yesterday, this ceremony is my “Swan Song”, a happy and joyous occasion, the culmination of my judicial career. It marks both an end and a beginning. It is the end of a twenty-year judicial career. It is the beginning of the next chapter of my life.
But today is also very much about my family and my friends and colleagues. It is about love and hope. It is about gratitude for the blessings I have received and the richness of the life I have enjoyed.
Before continuing I have some very special people to thank.
Let me begin by thanking Martin Teplitsky and Linda Rothstein for their generous remarks.
Marty, you are one of my dearest friends. Over the years I have been the beneficiary of your wise counsel and unbending friendship. Thank you for appearing here today in my honour.
Linda, you too are one of my closest friends. You are an exemplar to women in law and indeed for the entire profession. You are a constant confidant and valued advisor. Your appearance here this morning is a great comfort to me.
There are other special people to whom I wish to express my deepest appreciation:
First, to my colleagues on the Court of Appeal, I thank you for your guidance and support during my tenure as Chief Justice. Your friendship I will cherish always.
I am especially grateful to Associate Chief Justice Dennis O’Connor who retired at the end of last year. He was and will always remain a valued friend. By any standard of excellence, he was a brilliant and respected leader of the Court. To borrow a phrase from Dennis, “I think we made a pretty good team”. We never disagreed on a single issue over the five and a half years that we worked together. I will be forever indebted to him.
Associate Chief Justice Hoy succeeded him and quickly and quietly gained the full confidence of her colleagues on the Court. I thank her for her loyal and unerring guidance and counsel. I thank her for her kind words here today.
I cannot overlook the unselfish work of Justice Goudge who performed the administrative duties of Associate pending the appointment of Associate Chief Justice Hoy. I thank you for your personal guidance and friendship, not only during this period, but throughout my time as Chief, indeed throughout my time as a lawyer. And thank you for your generous words here today.
I would be remiss if I did not give special mention to the loyal and devoted staff of the Court, and particularly to their leaders Huguette Thomson and John Kromkamp. They serve beyond the call of duty and for this I thank you. I cannot overlook Charlene Attardo for her dedicated work on behalf of the Court. Charlene is always there for us, no matter what time, or what day, and for this I thank you.
I want to express my special gratitude to the research lawyers and law clerks. We could not do the work we do without their assistance. I would especially like to thank Alison Warner with whom I worked very closely over these many years.
And to my valued assistant Michelle Rowntree for her loyal and steadfast support over the past 10 years, I thank you Michelle. You have eased the load immensely. And finally, but not least, I express my sincere gratitude to Jacob Bakan, my special counsel, for his dedication and wise advice which was invaluable. People comment that when they pass by our offices there is often a gale of laughter emerging. Well, I cannot deny that. The three of us share the notion that a day without a good laugh is a wasted day. Thank you both from the bottom of my heart.
Deputy Attorney General Monahan, you should be justifiably proud of the excellence that the Court staff demonstrates on a daily basis. Thank you for your leadership and cooperation in supporting the administration of justice within the province.
I would like to recognize Shirley and Bob our floor ushers, for their cheerful and good spirited support. Their broad smiles and humour are a constant comfort to all of us, on even the dreariest mornings. I will miss you both.
Finally, I would like to thank the members of the legal profession — with whom I share a strong bond and immense fondness, for your unstinting support. I admire and respect your total commitment to the public in general, and to your clients in particular. You serve as an indelible exemplar to every free and democratic society and provide an unquestionable justification for a self-regulating Bar that is beyond reproach.
Although it is not the tradition for other than two selected members of the Bar to address the Court on the occasion of a swearing-out, I personally asked Thomas Conway, Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada, to address the Court on behalf of the profession. Thank you, Treasurer, for doing so, and for your constant support. I regard you as a true kindred spirit.
Most of all, I want to express my deepest gratitude to my family.
I have been fortunate and blessed to have had the most loving and wonderful family a man could ask for. Here with me today is Ruth and our two daughters Julia and Janet, as well as two of our three grandchildren Emily and Joshua, and Janet’s spouse Gordon Jermane. Julia’s husband David is at home with our granddaughter, Sarah.
My family has always been my greatest comfort and joy and the wellspring of my strength. They have given me the freedom to follow my passion in the law. Without them I could not have fulfilled my professional dreams. For this I thank you. Let me express a very special thank you to Ruth for her patience, support and guidance, above all, for her unfailing love over the past forty- six years. Through “the thunder and the sunshine” you have been a constant comfort to me. Retirement from public service will allow me more time with you. I look forward to this very much.
I consider it a great privilege to have lived the life of a lawyer for 28 years, and then of a trial judge for 14 years. And for the past six and a half years it has been an enormous honour and privilege to be Chief Justice of Ontario.
As a lawyer I felt that I had the best job in the world. I was wrong. As a judge I was certain that I had the best job in the world. I am now confident that as Chief Justice I truly had the best job anyone could possibly dream for. For me, the term “job” is a misnomer. Not for a moment did I ever feel that what I did at the Court amounted to work. Not many people in this world are fortunate enough to be able to say that.
People speak about the “Court of Appeal family”. To an outsider this might appear to be something of a cliché. The reality, however, is that every member of this court places an enormous value on collegiality and mutual respect. It allows us to effectively work together cohesively and explains a lot about the wonderful reputation this court enjoys across the country, a well-deserved and unvarnished reputation for leadership in jurisprudence. All members of the Court share a common goal: to serve the public, and in doing so they have an unvarying commitment in the search for justice.
Some members of the public might not always appreciate the dedication which the members of the Court bring to each particular case that comes before them. None of my colleagues ever lose sight of the fact that each case involves the fate of real people, and that it is profoundly important that each decision arrive at a just conclusion. The Judges of the Court of Appeal are the most dedicated, passionate and caring group of individuals I have ever worked with.
During my tenure as Chief Justice, thirteen judges have been appointed to our court; ten of whom have been appointed in the past two years. This pace of change is unprecedented in the Court’s history. It is simply a product of demography. But more so, it is the way that institutions renew themselves. I leave with an awareness that the new members of the court have brought great individual strengths that add to the lustre of this great institution. I am confident that they will continue to do so.
As I take my leave, I take with me an appreciation of the uniqueness of this marvelous institution as well as the experience I have gained here. Our court combines within it the reflection and rigour associated with the academy, with the “doing” of the “real world”. There is an immediacy and pragmatic quality enjoined with an intellectual depth and richness that pervades the daily life of our court. It has been a wonderful privilege to experience this culture. It is truly unforgettable.
As I leave the court, I do so with a deep respect for my colleagues. I have learned so much from them, an enormous amount, that will inform my future. As I depart I borrow a phrase from Tennyson’s poem about Ulysses, who, as he pushed away from the dock on his last voyage, was able to say:
“Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.”
These words strike a chord within me as I look back to the time shared with my colleagues on the court as we strove together to do justice. For everything you have given me, your friendship and your love, I will always be grateful.
And now I say for the very last time, Mr. Registrar, will you please close the court.