There’s a good article in May’s Walrus on the Supreme Court of Canada under the “reign” of its Chief Justice, Beverley McLachlin. It paints Mclachlin as a consensus-builder within the Court who has taken great pains to reach out into the wider community in order to show that the institution can be a welcoming and, even, democratic place. This is true. Since I’ve been in Montreal (four years), the Chief Justice has spoken at least three times (that I can remember) at various universities around the city.
Her early life is worth noting, as is her young adulthood. Born in Pincher Creek, Alberta, we learn that her hardworking Methodist parents instilled in her a certain tolerance of others, as well as a work ethic that has remained with her until this day. When we interviewed her for our book, the same influences came out. There was also the great story (though drenched in pathos) about how her mother wanted to be a writer, but, as a housewife in the post-war period, was never really afforded the chance. It came to Beverley to take up the mantel. Which she did, for a while. Before becoming a law student, she toyed with the idea of being a journalist – she wrote, throughout her undergrad, for the University of Alberta’s Gateway.
Importantly, I think the McLachlin story reveals the importance of choosing one field and sticking to it. Having abandoned journalism, she then contemplated (as you do) life as an academic in the philosophy department. But that dream didn’t have much staying power. Once law school started, it was only the law for Beverley (though it should be noted that the journalist’s pursuit of Truth, as well as the philosopher’s focus on the Idea, are still very much apparent in her writings for the Court). And, based on her success as Chief Justice, the country is better for it.