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Chief Justice of Canada's Supreme Court to speak at UMFK commencement and receive honorary degree

April 15, 2005


The Right Honourable Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Beverley McLachlin will address the 123rd graduating class of the University of Maine at Fort Kent during commencement exercises on Saturday, May 7, at 1:00 p.m. in the University SportsCenter.

McLachlin, who was appointed chief justice of Canada's highest court in January 2000, will also be presented with an honorary degree during the ceremony.

"Chief Justice McLachlin is a respected scholar, teacher, faculty member, eminent jurist and leader, who is internationally known for her analysis of the role of the judiciary in a democratic society," said UMFK President Richard Cost. "We are honored that she accepted our invitation to address the class of 2005, and are delighted to award her the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters."

Cost, who will confer the degree, recommended McLachlin receive the honor before the University of Maine System Board of Trustees, after gaining the endorsement of the UMFK Board of Visitors, earlier this year. In his letter of recommendation to Chancellor Westphal, Cost noted:

"The chief justice is an ideal candidate for the honorary degree and an excellent choice for commencement speaker. Her participation in our institution's commencement is especially fitting considering the close relationship that exists between the United States and Canada, the extraordinary bond that was and is lived out here in the St. John Valley where history created one people joined by a river long before national boundaries were established, and given the significant number Canadian students enrolled at UMFK in recent years," said Cost.

McLachlin will address the 285 students that comprise UMFK's graduating class, their family members and friends, university faculty and staff, and invited guests attending the 2005 commencement exercises.

The chief justice was born and raised in Southern Alberta, Canada. She attended the University of Alberta at Edmonton, where she earned a bachelor of arts and a master of arts in philosophy in 1964 and a bachelor of laws degree in 1968.

McLachlin practiced law in Edmondton, Fort St. John and Vancouver from 1968 to 1971. She taught at the Faculty of Law at the University of British Columbia from 1975 to 1981.

In 1981, she was appointed to the County Court of Vancouver, and later that year elevated to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. In 1986, McLachlin was named to the Court of Appeal of British Columbia.

She was named chief justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in 1998, where she served until her appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1989. On January 7, 2000, she became chief justice of Canada.

McLachlin has authored numerous publications and delivered many addresses on the role of the judiciary in society.

She is the recipient of honorary degrees from 20 colleges and universities in both Canada and the United States.

The chief justice currently serves as chairperson of the Canadian Judicial Council, the Advisory Council of the Order of Canada, and the Board of Governors of the National Judicial Institute.