Charles Doherty Gonthier 1928-2009 : Un HommageCharles Doherty Gonthier 1928-2009: A Tribute

Sustainability, Global Justice, and the Law: Contributions of the Hon. Justice Charles Doherty Gonthier[Record]

  • Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger

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  • Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger
    Senior Director, Sustainable Prosperity
    Director, Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL)
    Fellow, Lauterpacht Centre for International Law (LCIL), Faculty of Law, Cambridge University

Citation: (2010) 55 McGill L.J. 337

Référence : (2010) 55 R.D. McGill 337

As United Nations (UN) Secretary General Kofi Annan noted in the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa, it is time to face an uncomfortable truth: Evolving laws and justice systems form crucial elements of this global fabric. Within the study and practice of law, it is not enough simply to recognize the immensity of the challenges. As the life and contributions of Justice Charles Doherty Gonthier eloquently demonstrate, it is possible—and indeed necessary—to inquire, to inspire, and to act in solidarity with others. Current legal systems are intricately woven into the shared values—and indeed the morality—of an increasingly interdependent world. A growing respect for the dignity and basic needs of humanity as one community is among these values, together with a sense of responsibility—perhaps even duty—toward a common future. With wisdom, integrity, generosity, courtesy, and compassion, Justice Gonthier served for many as beacon and guide to find, develop, and implement a path to a more just and sustainable development for Canada and for the world. Justice Gonthier served law and society as a renowned jurist, both as president of a leading Canadian judicial institute, and as justice of Canada’s highest court. He continued to serve upon his retirement. His contributions to society on all levels were tremendous. Among these contributions, in the eyes of jurists in Africa, the Americas, Europe, Asia, and across the world, he will be especially remembered for his sincere efforts to advance sustainable development as part of global justice. As a Wainwright Fellow at the McGill University Faculty of Law, he shared his wisdom, experience, and compassion with legal scholars of all ages. As the founding chair of an international legal research centre, he inspired deep and respectful collaboration among judges, academics, and lawyers, guided rigorous academic inquiries and publications in many languages, and hosted forums for civil national and international dialogue, becoming a beloved mentor to a global network of jurists across the world. He was a man of great modesty and also great beliefs. In honour of his wisdom, his kindness, his integrity, as well as his ability to inspire and to guide, this brief tribute highlights some of the key challenges that Justice Gonthier, with courage and diplomacy, helped to identify and address in the world. In keeping with his approach as a global mentor, the paper does not dwell upon these problems, but instead highlights Justice Gonthier’s values, principles, and future research agenda to illuminate how his work will continue to inspire a new generation of legal minds. Driven by economic globalization, environmental change, and demands for social justice, the world is facing sweeping challenges. The risks for both humanity and the earth have never been greater. But current problems also present opportunities for global co-operation on an unprecedented scale. With courage, wisdom, and vision, as embodied in the thoughts and actions of Justice Gonthier, diverse societies can still learn to work together for a common future. This future must understand and respect environmental limits, use resources more sustainably, and address long-standing global inequalities. International law has in the past been part of the problem. But it can also be part of the solution. It is almost a truism today that globalization has brought unprecedented change in the world with exponential growth in transboundary connections, integration of transportation and communication systems, increases in trade and investment flows, high commodity prices, global growth of extractive industries, and new technologies. The environment—a fragile chain of interconnected ecological systems upon which this planet’s life-support systems depend—has been one of the most significant victims of present patterns of globalization. There is …