The Right Honourable Richard Wagner, P.C., Chief Justice of Canada

The Rt. Hon. Richard Wagner is the eighteenth Chief Justice of Canada. He was appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court of Canada in 2012 and became Chief Justice in 2017.

As Chief Justice of Canada, he also presides over the Canadian Judicial Council, National Judicial Institute, and the Advisory Council for the Order of Canada. Chief Justice Wagner currently serves as president of the Association des Cours Constitutionnelles Francophones, an international judicial organization.

Before this, he sat on the Québec Court of Appeal from 2011 to 2012 and on the Superior Court of Québec from 2004 to 2011. He has a Bachelor of Social Science and Licentiate in Laws from the University of Ottawa.

Chief Justice Wagner practiced law in Montréal from 1980 to 2004. He specialized in professional liability (of lawyers, accountants, architects, and engineers), commercial litigation (especially in real estate), oppression remedies, and class action lawsuits. He argued cases before all levels of court in Québec and all quasi-judicial tribunals, as well as before the Federal Court and the Supreme Court of Canada.

Throughout his career, as a lawyer and a judge, Chief Justice Wagner has always been passionate about access to justice. He was one of the founders of the Centre d’accès à l’information juridique (CAIJ), which provides legal information to lawyers, judges, and law students, for which he received the Barreau du Québec’s Award of Merit. As Chief Justice of Canada, he took the Court to Winnipeg, Manitoba to hear cases outside of Ottawa for the first time in history. He launched the annual Year in Review, an informative and visually-engaging overview of the Court’s work. He directed that the Court’s plain-language judgment summaries, or Cases in Brief, were written in truly plain and accessible language. He has also been a strong proponent of judicial independence as a critical part of our democratic balance, and of civility and collegiality as a key to better decision-making on the bench.

Chief Justice Wagner was born on April 2, 1957 in Montréal.

Judicial career

  • Quebec Superior Court for the District of Montréal – September 24, 2004-February 3, 2011
  • Quebec Court of Appeal – February 3, 2011-October 5, 2012
  • Supreme Court of Canada – October 5, 2012-present
  • Chief Justice of Canada – December 18, 2017-present

Legal practice

  • Called to the Quebec Bar (1980)
  • Lavery, de Billy – formerly Lavery, O’Brien and Lavery, Johnston, Clark, Carrière, Mason & Associés (1980-2004)
    • Associate (1980-1987)
    • Partner (1988-2004)

Other professional activities

  • Canadian Bar Association (1980-2004)
    • Board member of Quebec Branch
    • President of the Construction Law Section (among others)
  • Bar of Montréal (1980-2004)
    • Elected positions: Councillor (1998-2000), First Councillor (2000-2001), Bâtonnier (2001-2002)
    • Chair of the Superior Court liaison committee, Chair of the ad hoc committee on Quebec law libraries
  • Barreau du Québec (1980-2004)
    • General Council member
    • Chair of the applications committee, member of several committees (including administration and finance)
  • Canadian College of Construction Lawyers | CCCL (1998-2004)
    • Founding Fellow
  • École du Barreau du Québec
    • Lecturer in trial advocacy (1989-90 and 2001)
    • Lecturer on civil procedure under both the former and new Code of Civil Procedure (2003)
  • Centre d’accès à l’information juridique | CAIJ (2002-2004)
    • Member of Board of Directors and Vice-President
    • Received the Barreau du Québec’s Award of Merit in 2006 in recognition of his contribution to the legal profession and, in particular, to the creation of CAIJ, which provides access to legal information for members of the profession throughout Quebec
  • Superior Court of Quebec (2004-2011)
    • Sat on several court committees, including judicial practice committee (which oversaw training of newly-appointed judges)
  • Conférence des juges des cours supérieures du Québec (2006-2011)
    • Member of the Board of Directors (2006-2011)
    • President (2009-2011)
  • Canadian Superior Court Judges Association (2011-2012)
    • Member of the Board of Directors
    • Sat on the Judicial Conduct Review Committee and the Remuneration Committee
  • Canadian Judicial Council
    • Chair
  • National Judicial Institute
    • Chair of the Board of Governors
  • Advisory Council for the Order of Canada
    • Chair
  • The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple (2019-present)
    • Honourary Bencher
  • Friends of the McGill Library (2018-present)
    • Honourary Friend
  • Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters (2018-present)
    • Honourary President
  • Association des Cours Constitutionnelles Francophones | ACCF (2019-present)
    • President
  • Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19 (2020-present)
    • Co-Chair

Academic history

  • Diploma of College Studies (DEC), Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf – 1975
  • Bachelor of Social Sciences (B.Soc.Sc.) with major in Political Science, University of Ottawa (cum laude) – 1978
  • Licentiate in Laws (LL.L.), University of Ottawa Faculty of Law (cum laude) – 1979
  • Honorary doctorate, University of Ottawa Faculty of Law – 2019