Our MPs asked a few gentle questions of the newest Supreme Court justice, he answered in kind, and the faith of the people in the holy of holies was not weakened.
Judges should stick to the law and leave social agendas to elected politicians, says the man nominated by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to be the newest member of the Supreme Court of Canada.
Marshall Rothstein, the first high court nominee in history to face questions from a committee of MPs, tempered his remarks Monday by observing that legislation must always be measured against the Charter of Rights.
"The important thing is that judges, when applying the Charter, have to have recognition that the statute that they're dealing with was passed by a democratically elected legislature, that it's unlikely that the legislature intended to violate the Charter . . . and therefore they have to approach the matter with some restraint.
"But the most important thing is that they apply a rigorous and thorough analysis and if they do that then I'd say that they're doing their job. If they depart from that, it might be a different matter."
Surely we did not expect Mr. Justice Rothstein to declare that he was being elevated to the godhead, and therefore was beyond such petty considerations as the rule of law, constitutional convention and the division of responsibilities between the legislative and judicial branches.
He tailored his comments to the audience. Had a Liberal government subjected an appointee to such questioning, that appointee would have waxed rhapsodically about the judiciary's role in strengthening and extending Charter rights and progressive social policy as the inevitable fruit of judicial deliberations thereon.
We learned little about Justice Rothstein's judicial philosophy or personal opinions, but that was not the purpose of the exercise. The point of this gentlemanly question-and-answer session was to demonstrate that our highest judges can no longer use their position as a shield against all criticism and questioning, and that they will not wilt when brought out into the light.
Fears of demagogic inquisitions were much exaggerated. Future Supreme Court justices have nothing to fear; nor should they have anything to hide.