The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin – Doctor of Civil Laws (’23)

Portrait of the Right Hon. Beverley McLachlin. © Supreme Court of Canada, photo by Roy Grogan.


The Right Honourable Beverley Marian McLachlin, PC, CC, CStJ, is a Canadian jurist and author who served as the 17th Chief Justice of Canada from 2000 to 2017, the first woman to hold that position and the longest serving Chief Justice in Canadian history. In her role as Chief Justice, she also simultaneously served as a Deputy of the Governor General of Canada.

Dr. McLachlin retired in December 2017, nine months before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75. In March 2018, she was nominated to become a non-permanent judge on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal, the first Canadian jurist nominated to the post. The appointment was gazetted and came into effect July 30, 2018, for a three-year term.

Dr. McLachlin was born Beverley Gietz in Pincher Creek, Alberta, in 1943, the eldest child of Eleanora Marian (née Kruschell) and Ernest Gietz. She received a BA and an MA in philosophy and an LLB (winning the gold medal as top student and serving as Editor-in-Chief of the Alberta Law Review) from the University of Alberta. She was called to the Bar of Alberta in 1969 and to the Bar of British Columbia in 1971. She practised law from 1969 until 1975. From 1974 to 1981, she was an Associate Professor and Professor with tenure at the University of British Columbia.

As Chief Justice, Dr. McLachlin was the Chairperson of the Canadian Judicial Council, on the Board of Governors of the National Judicial Institute, and on the Advisory Council of the Order of Canada. She is a Member of the King’s Privy Council for Canada.

Dr. McLachlin has defined her function as one that requires conscious objectivity. “What you have to try to do as a judge, whether you’re on Charter issues or any other issue, is by an act of the imagination put yourself in the shoes of the different parties, and think about how it looks from their perspective, and really think about it, not just give it lip service. I think the court belongs to the Canadian people and it should reflect the Canadian people.”

Dr. McLachlin is the Honorary Patron of the Institute of Parliamentary and Political Law. She was awarded the Yes She Can Award from Balmoral Hall School in 2005 and is currently the Visitor of Massey College, an interdisciplinary graduate college for students of distinguished ability at the University of Toronto. She has received more than 31 honorary degrees from various universities, including Acadia.

She is married to Frank McArdle, a retired lawyer and former Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association executive director and has one son.

The Right Honorable Beverley McLachlin will convocate on Monday, May 15, at 10 a.m.