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International projects bring judge-to-judge collaboration

Justice Mary Moreau knows the impact that global judicial collaboration can have on emerging democracies.

Moreau, who took part in the Technical Assistance Partnership (TAP) program when she was Chief Justice of the Court of King’s Bench of Alberta and has since been appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, has a long history of international involvement. She’s had assignments with the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs and other organizations that included missions to Ukraine, Morocco, Mexico and Haiti, as well as taking part in the recent TAP initiative in Mongolia. She’s also been involved with the International Association of Judges, a group of national associations of judges that promotes the rule of law and independence of the judiciary.

A woman speaks into a microphone.

Justice Mary Moreau addresses members of Mongolia’s Judicial General Council.

Photo credit: Judicial General Council of Mongolia

She says such work typically focuses on emerging democracies, where the challenge is separating the judiciary from the government or government control. “They struggle with building public confidence and investor confidence in the country, because if the country does not have a strong rule of law, then investment is very difficult,” Moreau explains. For example, investors may be concerned about the courts upholding contracts that were fairly negotiated, she says. “If there’s a reluctance to trust the judiciary, then it has an economic impact on the country.”

Building public confidence in the courts “is a very useful function,” Moreau comments. Canadians can offer useful advice, she says, “because there’s not a sense that we have some underlying agenda, whether economic or otherwise.”

“We call them our partners”

Engaging judges in the exercise promotes trust because “it’s judge-to-judge,” she says. The process also builds alliances between judicial institutions in Canada and the country in question: “We call them our partners.”

The lessons can go both ways. Canadians involved in missions often see the sophistication of thought processes that go into initiatives in the countries they visit, such as in the area of judicial conduct, Moreau points out. “I’ve learned a lot from my work in these countries, including ideas we can bring back to Canada.”

For Canadians to assist the judiciary in countries such as Mongolia “heightens confidence of other nations in Canada. The word gets out,” she says. “Canada’s reputation and credibility abroad is assisted by these programs.”

People sit around a large conference table.

Judge-to-judge: Canadian judicial experts meet with Mongolian judicial representatives to discuss Mongolia’s reform efforts.

Photo credit: Judicial General Council of Mongolia

Moreau says the fact that TAP initiatives are limited to up to 1 year means “we have to identify objectives that are realizable.” In Mongolia, this meant focusing on judicial ethics and conduct and improving public confidence in the courts through communications initiatives. “We were able to map out target dates and deadlines for certain developments in both those areas,” she recalls. (A new TAP initiative in Mongolia has now been approved.)

A significant part of the work there has been supporting judges in dealing with ethical dilemmas in their personal and professional lives, for instance when they receive gifts from litigants. Moreau notes that the TAP initiative facilitated the publication of an ethical guide that was unveiled at a biennial all-judges congress in the autumn of 2023. A second element was to put together a national body that can be consulted confidentially by judges facing possible ethical dilemmas, much like Canada’s own National Ethics Advisory Committee, which is made up of superior court judges from across the country. And on the communications side, Mongolia has introduced a guide so the media can better interact with the judiciary and report on court proceedings, she adds.

A meaningful impact

“We’ve laid those foundations down, which will assist with improving public confidence in the court system,” Moreau says, noting that having even a small impact can be meaningful for judges who participate in TAP initiatives.

“The reality of the world we live in is that if we can move a dial, it can create wonderful legacy,” she comments. “I think I’ve made a bit of a difference, as have my colleagues on that mission.”

People pose in 2 rows for a photo.

Building alliances: Canadian judicial experts and Mongolian judicial representatives involved in a workshop pose for a group photo.

Photo credit: Judicial General Council of Mongolia

International work can be challenging, especially given lengthy travels and vast time differences, Moreau points out. “If you're not prepared for a heavy workload abroad, it’s probably not a job for you.” 

There can also be communications challenges, and often “you rely entirely on interpreters,” she adds, although “that doesn’t seem to be a bar to creating sustaining relationships.” Indeed, on Moreau’s third trip to Mongolia, when she and her group met with several individuals from various institutions in the country’s justice system, “it was an exchange of hugs and welcomes that were very warm,” she recalls. “I will miss those folks.”

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