This year the Alberta Court of Appeal celebrates the completion of its first century of service to Albertans. In Canada's constitutional democracy, judges have two roles: to resolve disputes and to uphold constitutional rights. Under the rule of law, everyone must comply with the law, including the government. Equally, everyone should be able to rely on the law. It is this country's independent judiciary that interprets and applies the law one case at a time, ensures the legality of challenged actions and helps preserve public confidence in our social order.
The Alberta Court of Appeal has a long history of maintaining the rule of law and protecting the rights of Albertans. Since it was first created as a separate appeal division in 1914, this Court has done much to deliver fair and equal justice. From recognizing the equality of women and protecting minorities to ensuring fair trials and maintaining the proper division of powers between the federal and provincial government, the Court has played an instrumental part in the life of this province. With the adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, Parliament gave the judiciary an even greater role in upholding constitutional rights and freedoms. In the Charter era, the Court has acted to protect freedom of speech, freedom of religion, mobility rights, the equality rights of children, voting rights, aboriginal rights and freedom from unreasonable searches.
As a consequence, over the last 100 years, the Court has helped shape the province that Alberta is today. At times, it has been characterized as cautious and conservative; at others, as creative and courageous. Sometimes it has had to make unpopular decisions. But at all times the members of the Court have acted in fidelity to the rule of law and the long-term interests of the province and its people. If the judiciary is to maintain its integral role in the delivery of justice, we ourselves must meet justice's highest standard. That means an impartial, informed, open-minded judiciary, respectful of change when warranted and resistant to change when capricious. Albertans expect and deserve no less.
As we get ready to celebrate this Court's 100th anniversary, we have an opportunity to consider how the law has contributed to the society that we as Albertans and Canadians enjoy today. I am humbled and honoured to be marking this milestone in the Court's history as its Chief Justice as we reflect on its past and the Court embraces the challenges of the present. This anniversary also invites everyone to look forward. There is no doubt that today, more than ever, judges are called on to weigh and balance competing values and rights. I have the utmost confidence that, as the Court's second century begins, this Court and its members will continue to faithfully protect the values and principles that are the foundations of our free, peaceful and democratic society.
The Honourable Catherine Anne Fraser
Chief Justice of Alberta