'So proud to be Canadian'

Tue, October 5, 2004

ROSALIE ABELLA, whose brother died in a concentration camp and whose father could not practise law when he came to Canada because he was Jewish, was near tears yesterday as she was sworn in as a justice of the Supreme Court. "One of the psychological legacies of having a holocaust background like mine is that you take nothing and no one for granted," Abella said, her voice faltering.

Abella, from Ontario, said her parents never dwelled on what it felt like when their 2-year-old son was killed at Treblinka. "They never cried, I always did. I never understood how they found the strength not to cry."

She said her appointment was a tribute to the optimism of her parents and their confidence in Canada.

"In one generation, a journey that started in a displaced persons camp in Germany ended in the Supreme Court of Canada. I am so proud to be a Canadian."

The appointments of Abella and Louise Charron bring the Supreme Court to full strength -- nine members -- for a busy fall sitting that begins with a landmark hearing on same-sex marriage.


Charron, from Quebec, also struck a note of patriotic gratitude: "It is a privilege of living in a peaceful and free country. Unfortunately, we don't have to do more than read newspapers on just about any day to realize how fortunate we are.

"The raison d'etre for this ceremony is not about the individuals themselves but about the values of the Supreme Court."

Outside the courthouse, about 25 demonstrators carried signs accusing the new justices of a history of biased judgments.

"We object to Abella particularly because she has a history of biased judgments against men, against fathers and against shared parenting," said Glenn Sheraton, executive director of Fathercraft Canada.

Aidan Reid, a spokesman for Campaign Life, said the government was "fixing" the court to push its agenda on gay rights and other issues.

Reid said he has no problems with social activists but they should work in Parliament, not in the Supreme Court.

But Abella had no apologies for the activist role that courts have played in recent decades. She said Canadian law has gone through a revolutionary change since she was a student. There are now five men and four women on the court.