By Gail L. Gatchalian
The Honourable Justice Thomas Cromwell will be the opening keynote speaker at the annual Canadian Association for the Practical Study of Law (CAPSLE) conference taking place in Halifax from April 29 to May 1, 2018. I asked Justice Cromwell to tell us a little about how his experience as an educator influenced him, why he accepted our invitation to speak, what he plans to talk about in his keynote address, and, for out-of-towners, what is the one thing he recommends they do when visiting Nova Scotia:
GG: You are well-known for your time as a judge on the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal and then the Supreme Court of Canada. In the labour world, you are also known for your time as an arbitrator. You were also an educator. Can you tell us a little about your time as a teacher, and how that experience shaped who you are?
TC: My time as a university teacher really impacted me in two ways. First, it has given me a life-long love of being around young people. I really enjoy speaking with people who are just starting out in the profession, whether as a law clerk or an articling student. Second, in order to teach something, you have to break it down into its basic principles. This is something I have brought to my legal work. I drill down and find the basic animating legal principles. I attribute this to my time as a teacher.
GG: We were so pleased when you agreed to be the opening keynote speaker at the CAPLSE Halifax conference, a conference that brings together teachers, education faculty, school board and government representatives, teacher associations, and lawyers practicing in the education sector. Why did you accept the invitation to speak to this audience?
TC: I have spent a lot of time over the past several years working on access to civil and family justice. There is a big education piece to that puzzle. I relish the opportunity to share my thoughts about access to justice with educators and people responsible for education. Many of us really feel that a lot more could be done in schools to equip people to be more legally competent, and this would result in the prevention of disputes or the prevention of the escalation of disputes. The opportunity to speak about access to justice to this audience was too good to pass up.
GG: Can you give us a hint about what you will be saying about the intersection of education and the law?
TC: A big aspect of access to justice is not access to lawyers. It is access to knowledge about the legal system and about the law so that people can recognize when they have a legal dispute and so that they have a basic idea of where to go when they need help.
GG: You lived in Halifax for many years. For those attending the CAPSLE Halifax Conference from out-of-town, what is the one thing you recommend they do or see when they are here?
TC: There are lots of great things to see and do in Halifax, but I would recommend that people visit the town of Lunenburg. I had the good fortune to live there for several years when I first came to Nova Scotia. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are very few places where you can see such beautifully preserved period structures, in such a beautiful natural setting. If you can, spare the time to take the hour drive down to the South Shore.