BREAKING NEWS: Former SCC Chief Justice McLachlin’s departure from HK court after extending Singapore court tenure speaks volumes

By Julius Melnitzer | June 19, 2024

Former Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin has resigned from Hong Kong’s final court of appeal. She cited her desire to spend more time with her family as the reason for her departure. But all signs point to the fact that her resignation was prompted at least partly by the Chinese government’s continuing crackdown on civil liberties and the rule of law in Hong Kong.

Although McLachlin is 80, it was just six months ago that she renewed her tenure on the Singapore International Commercial Court for three years. And while she has in the past defended the independence of the Hong Kong court – including her assertion in 2022 that the court was “completely independent”, which she in substance repeated in 2023 amidst calls for her to step down– her departure is only a week removed from the resignations of British judges Lord Jonathan Sumption and Lawrence Collins, which in turn followed on the resignations of their colleagues Lord Robert Reed and Lord Patrick Hodge in 2022.

Sumpton cited the “impossible political environment” and allegations that the rule of law was under “grave threat”; Hodge pointed to the oppressive national security law Beijing imposed in 2020; Collins attributed his resignation to “the political situation” even as he expressed confidence in the court’s independence; and Reed accused Hong Kong’s administration of departing “from values of political freedom and freedom of expression”.

Meanwhile, McLachlin continues to insist that she had “confidence in the members of the court, their independence and their determination to uphold the rule of law” without any reference to the the Chinese regime’s actions. It’s not the kind of mealy-mouthed silence of which Canadians, and Canadian lawyers in particular, should be proud.

Julius Melnitzer is a Toronto-based legal affairs writer, ghostwriter, writing coach and media trainer. Readers can reach him at [email protected] or

Related Article: McLachlin succeeded by putting the law ahead of personal views

1 Comment

  1. It is about time. Her stature added prestige to a court that no longer deserves it. Perhaps #SCOTUS could use her services.

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