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Antonio Lamer "liberated" Canada for abortion.

Montreal -- Former Supreme Court judge Antonio Lamer was given a rousing Catholic funeral at Montreal's Mary Queen of the World Cathedral, presided over by Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte. He passed away Nov. 24 at the age of 74. Lamer is most famous for admitting public opinion helped shape his 1988 decision striking down Canada's abortion law.

Beginning in 1980, Lamer served 20 years on the Supreme Court, including the last ten as chief justice. During that time, he became known as a law reformer and key architect of how courts would interpret the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms. With his colleagues, he often came under fire for judicial activism (Toronto Star, Nov. 26, 2007).

Lamer had an "enormous thirst" for Charter interpretation, according to Justice James MacPherson of the Ontario Court of Appeal. During the 1980s, with Justices Brian Dickson and Bertha Wilson, he came to be identified for his willingness to strike down legislation and "reform" controversial areas of law (Globe and Mail, Nov. 26, 2007). Eugene Meehan, president of the Canadian Bar Association, said the Supreme Court became the most powerful branch of government under Lamer's direction (National Post, Nov. 26, 2007).

Lamer defended his legal philosophy in a 1995 address before the Empire Club of Canada. "As for the suggestion that judges intrude into the legislative sphere, the truth is that many of the toughest issues we have had to deal with have been left to us by the democratic process," he said. "The legislature can duck them. We can't. Think of abortion, euthanasia, same-sex benefits, to name a few. Our job is to decide the cases before us properly, to the best of our abilities."

Lamer drew condemnation not only for supporting the striking down of Canada's abortion law in the pivotal 1988 Morgentaler case, but also for admitting afterward he did so on the basis of public opinion.

"Had you asked me at a hearing if I was for or against (abortion), I would have said against," he said at the University of Toronto in 1998. Lamer also declared the basis for his decision to reject the former abortion law was influenced in no small way by public opinion. "My reasoning is that unless you have a vast majority of people think something is criminal, you should not make it a crime."

"Mr. Lamer has made a truly astounding admission," commented Gwen Landolt of REAL Women of Canada, herself a lawyer. "Now the mask is off the Supreme Court. We all suspected that the justices were making political, rather than legal decisions, but now we have the Chief Justice more or less confirming it."

David Beatty, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Toronto, said Lamer's comment was one of the most shocking ever heard from a senior member of the judiciary. "The last thing a judge should do is to look at the will of the majority. His purpose is to serve as a check against tyranny."

Writing in B.C. Report magazine, journalist Terry O'Neill said Lamer should have either resigned or been fired from the Supreme Court for his views. "The fact that Chief Justice Lamer is saying that he looks to public opinion in making his rulings should be cause for great concern. He is revealing that the court over which he presides sways in the breeze of popular sentiment, rather than standing firm on a foundation of law" (The Interim, April 1998).

None of this seems to have been known at Montreal's Catholic Chancery. At the funeral, Cardinal Turcotte praised Lamer as "a giant of the law" and a man "who worked a great deal for justice. And justice is surely something that pleases God. He leaves a great void in our midst." The Cardinal surmised that life "would be more serene and harmonious ... if we were all so passionate about justice." Although eulogies are not standard pratice at Catholic funerals, current Supreme Court Justice Beverly McLachlin, whose views are diametrically opposed to Catholic teaching, was allowed to give one (, Nov. 30, 2007).

Cardinal Turcotte also presided over the controversial Oct. 3, 2000 funeral for former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the man who led the drive for the legalization of abortion and homosexuality in Canada. Trudeau's Charter of Rights and Freedoms later became the source for the Supreme Court's elimination of Canada's abortion law and facilitated the increasing spread of homosexual "rights" through the courts.
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Title Annotation:Canada
Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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