Jessup International Moot Court Competition
Shandong University, February 22, 2011
I certainly do not feel like a stranger here. Cooperation between Shandong University and Canada, specifically with my alma mater, the University of Toronto, goes back 100 years.
I am delighted to be here today at Shandong University for the opening of the China Finals of the Jessup International Moot Court Competition. This is my second opportunity to address this gathering. I was at Renmin University last year. It is indeed an honour to appear before you, China’s best law students and professors, and with distinguished members of the judiciary from China and from abroad.
Your efforts here and in the future will shape China’s legal profession, contributing to the ongoing development of a society in which the rights and obligations of all Chinese citizens are fully recognized, understood, cherished and defended.
During the week ahead, you will be called upon to represent the interests of both sides of the moot case. You will apply the powers of analysis and advocacy you have developed in the classroom as you convince the judges here with the best arguments you can muster, based on established rules found in public international law.
I am sure you will all rise to the challenge and I look forward to observing the proceedings.
I thought I would speak to today first about what the law means to Canadians. We firmly believe that the rule of law is fundamental to the success and sustainability of any society.
Over 50 years ago then Prime Minister John Diefenbaker gave voice to this fundamental conviction when he introduced his Bill of Rights, a forerunner to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He said, “I am a Canadian, a free Canadian, free to worship God in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, free to choose those who will govern my country.”
We recognize that these freedoms are underpinned by the rule of law. Further, we understand that the rule of law requires that the judiciary must be independent of those who govern, that the judiciary is not subject to the direction of the influential, or the powerful, indeed that the powerful should only rule by the authority that is granted by the law.
These are, as I said, principles that are fundamental to Canadians and underpin all aspects of Canadian society. But we also know that we are not unique in this. We believe that this is a universal principle. Indeed, Canadians have been instrumental in the development and advancement of international law.
It was John Peters Humphrey, a Canadian lawyer and diplomat that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1946. Humphrey himself put it best when he stated. "there has never been a more revolutionary development in theory and practice of international law and organization than the recognition that human rights are matter of international concern."
It is in this sense of our shared international commitment and our shared international responsibility that I respectfully remind this distinguished community of our ongoing concerns for Mr. Chen Guangcheng, a barefoot lawyer and Shandong resident. Mr. Chen, like all of you, has a passion for the law and he firmly believes in the universality of the rule of law.
However Mr. Chen and his family continue to pay a heavy price for his courageous efforts to ensure that the rights of many are not diminished by a few. We all need to be able to hear his voice.
I know that these conversations can be difficult, and I know that they have to be couched in respect. But they are necessary, part of what I am called to do and, I think, what you are called to do, too.
Here in China, I am often asked questions about Canadian society. Sometimes I hear—from journalists, from students, from cab drivers, often from cab drivers--questions about the length of time it takes to consider and resolve cases in Canada that are of interest here in China. Sometimes these questions are put passionately, even bluntly. But Chinese friends have every right to ask me these questions, and it is my duty as a Canadian Public Servant to respond. And in explaining, I try to make clear why we take the care we do to ensure that the independence of the judiciary is respected, that due process is faithfully observed, and why we are so convinced that there can be no short cuts when it comes to respecting the rule of law.
But my golden rule as a diplomat, as an ambassador, is to listen far more than I talk. I was listening at Renmin University last year, particularly in my informal conversations with young Chinese lawyers at the tea break. And I came away, as I do so often, with a profound respect for the diversity of views in this country, with a clear understanding that I am privileged to be among a group of professionals committed to the very highest standards of their noble calling, and with a keen sense of how lucky I am to be among, for these few hours, the best and brightest of an amazing country.
In closing I congratulate Renmin University and Shandong University for hosting this important event and wish you all a very good week at the Jessup finals.