News Releases

For immediate release July 14, 2000

Karl F. Warner, Q.C. Address on the occasion of the elevation of Judge Carol Baird Ellan to Chief Judge of the BC Provincial Court

Check against delivery.

Chief Judge Baird Ellan, Associate Chief Judges, Your Honours, members of this Court, Mr. Attorney, and colleagues, family and friends of all:

I am very pleased and privileged to appear before this Court yet again on behalf of the Benchers and members of the Law Society of British Columbia, to welcome and provide best wishes to our new BC Provincial Court Chief Judge, Carol Baird Ellan.

Chief Judge Baird Ellan takes on an extremely challenging, multi-faceted and crucial role in our justice system today, one that I am sure will offer tremendous opportunities for her to continue the work of her predecessors. I have observed before and will say again that our judiciary is an integral and fundamental part of our democratic systems and appointments such as the one we are celebrating today will only enhance the strength of this court in order to keep it vital, vigourous, and vigilant. The task of judging is not an easy job in this day and age and the role of a BC Provincial Court Chief Judge is now more important than ever before. Our province responds to justice issues with fervent interest. But, fervent interest, if remaining uninformed, can contribute to an erosion of judicial independence, even though advanced with the best of intentions. Thus, our judges and the Chief Judge in particular are increasingly looked upon to perform an educational as well as an adjudicative function. In my view, this additional role is just another evolutionary step in our development of delivering justice to the people and ultimately will strengthen the good and necessary work of the court. But we can not leave the court alone in facing the criticism and pressure. As citizens scrutinize our institutions more closely and as governments ask us all to do more with less, the onus is on each and every one of us in the justice system to work better, smarter and more responsively and to help one another deliver a justice product that remains balanced but is improved from the perspective of the public. The trick for all of us is to ensure that our courts are able to be flexible in designing solutions for ever changing and even newer problems that are coming towards us at light speed while at the same time ensuring that historically enshrined fundamentals and protections are not left out or forgotten in the process.

Chief Judge Baird Ellan is being called upon today to lead this charge at the provincial court level, by ensuring that we continue to have a responsible, independent and responsive court, one that is in tune with the changing needs and complexities of the citizens it serves.

But I go now specifically to Her Honour Chief Judge Baird Ellan. I am told that she is more than suitably prepared for this important role. Born and raised in Vancouver, our new Chief Judge graduated from UBC with a background in Arts and Commerce and spent summers working in the banking industry before obtaining her law degree in 1979. She completed her articles at Ladner Downs and was called to the Bar in 1980, upon which she practised law for two years at Thorsteinssons. From 1983 - 1993, Her Honour worked as Crown Counsel in the Vancouver and Fraser regions, where she gained experience in criminal, tax and corporate law, before her appointment to the provincial court. I am told that her first assignment in 1993 was with the Robson Square Civil Division in Small Claims and Family Court, a post in which she served well not only as a judge but as a member of the provincial court task force responsible for recent changes to the Small Claims Courts Division. From there, Her Honour moved to the Adult Criminal Court at 222 Main Street and served there as Administrative Judge from 1996 onwards. I have heard, too, that during that time, and in the past six months during which time she served as an Associate Chief Judge, she excelled in her work and inspired confidence and loyalty within her colleagues, the bar and the variety of litigants her court serves.

Now I'm told that our new Chief Judge is known for her compassion and support for the underdog — both figuratively and literally speaking. Figuratively, in that she has earned a reputation for dealing with disenfranchised litigants in a patient, constructive and supportive manner. And literally, in that she apparently has a reputation arising out of the care of what has been described to me as somewhat of an ill-tempered cocker spaniel, Ginger, one of two dogs in the family, who is, according one of Her Ladyship's longtime friends and Bench colleagues, who I will not name, an unattractive dog with a terrible personality and yet, one that has won Her Honour's heart and who accordingly, has had bestowed upon it more love and affection than it apparently deserves despite appearance or surly behavior. Indeed, it is gratifying to think that even such dogs who have so little apparently to commend them can find peace and comfort in the tolerant world of Chief Judge Baird Ellan. That said, I am told by my informer and that dog's apparent malefactor that Ginger has however become sweeter with age, due in no small part I am sure to the loving care and supervision of her master.

It goes without saying that Her Honour's extensive experience at 222 Main has prepared her for the hectic pace of overseeing this, the extremely busy provincial court. The sheer volume of work, the diversity of the people who appear before it, and the various societal pressures it must work under, all contribute to the need for a Chief Judge who engenders confidence, respect, organization, tolerance and that unflappable demeanor so important to keeping the wheels of justice in motion. In all aspects, professionally, personally, (she is a parent of five children) and in the community, our new Chief Judge has demonstrated that she can manage her own schedule and those of others effectively, consistently and fairly. As a matter of fact, I am told that judges who have worked with her have considered her to be a key factor in fostering a pleasant atmosphere in what is nothing short of a stressful working environment.

Chief Judge Baird Ellan is also renowned for her communications skills, in that she is reputed to be open-minded, a good listener, an incisive advisor, and an encouraging mentor. These are the qualities of a leader, and leadership is crucial to bringing justice in new and innovative ways to British Columbians. Like her predecessor, the now Honourable Mr. Justice Bob Metzger, this new Chief Judge will be looked upon to represent the best interests of the people who use the court system and she will be called on frequently to communicate effectively with all partners in the justice system.

On behalf of the Law Society of British Columbia and our 10,000 members, we look forward to working with Chief Judge Baird Ellan and pledge our support to her and this court as it continues to evolve. Your Honour, we congratulate you and wish you much success in the important new role you take on today. Thank you.