Chief Justice of Canada visited China to promote legal cooperation

By Wang Ru (China Daily Canada)      Updated : 2015-10-15

Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada visited China recently and made a speech on social justice. Wang Ru / China Daily

Chief Justice of Canada Beverley McLachlin recently paid a visit to China and had conversation with Chinese legal professionals on social justice and legal cooperation.

Her visit is seen as a part of the ongoing bilateral discussions regarding access to justice between Canada and China.

During the meeting at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing on September 29, McLachlin, and Tao Kaiyuan, vice president of Supreme Peoples' Court of China, gave their presentations on social justice and met with local representatives from courts, law firms and law schools.

McLachlin said the justice system of Canada learnt a lot valuable experiences through communication with other countries. She stressed the importance of judicial remedy, legal aid and transparency of trials for an equal society.

Tao introduced China's push on the juridical reforms in the past five years. She said that China would increase cooperation with other countries in various of juridical issues.

McLachlin is the first woman in Canada to be appointed the Chief Justice. In addition to her judicial duties at the Supreme Court, she chairs the Canadian Judicial Council, the Advisory Council of the Order of Canada, and the Board of Governors of the National Judicial Institute.

"The visit of Chief Justice McLachlin is very timely," said Guy Saint-Jacques, "Last October, the Chinese Government announced its intentions for ambitious judicial and legal reforms."

"Canada and China have a long history of legal cooperation. In fact, good governance, rule of law, and legal aid were all central areas of Canadian development programming in China for many years," he added.

Canada partnered with China through the early stages of the country's legal aid programming and now sees the increasing attention that access to justice is receiving in China.

In 1998, Canada undertook a ground-breaking project to help China develop a legal aid program that would help society's most vulnerable. The Legal Aid Legislative Research Collaboration Project introduced several Canadian models and other international examples to assist Chinese partners in drafting the country's legal aid legislation.

From 2002-2008, the Canadian Bar Association partnered with the National Legal Aid Centre to establish the Canada-China Legal Aid and Community Legal Services Project. Canada contributed $3.8 million dollars towards strengthening China’s legal aid and community legal services systems.

At the national level, the Canadian Bar Association worked with the National Legal Aid Centre to help develop a legal and policy framework to govern China's legal aid system; standard eligibility criteria; training programs; and research capacity.

More locally, the project helped to develop model legal aid centers in provinces such as Guizhou and Guangxi, by supporting training, management, and administrative structures, as well as public legal education.

More recently, from 2010-2014, Canada and China worked together to improve legal aid services to marginalized groups including ethnic minorities in Yunnan, Jilin, and Liaoning. Canada contributed some $2.5 million dollars to this effort.

Through these projects and this cooperation, China has learned more about Canadian approaches to legal aid, while Canada has gained a better understanding of the challenges facing China.