Follow the events of The Honourable Michael MacDonald, Chief Justice of Nova Scotia,
and Jennifer Stairs, Director of Communications for the Executive Office of the Nova Scotia Judiciary,
as they take part in a Canadian judicial reform mission in Ukraine. READ THE BLOG >>
“For judges to be able to do their jobs, we need to be impartial and protected from undue influences. That’s called judicial independence and it’s one of the pillars of our Canadian court system. Unfortunately, Ukrainian judges don’t enjoy the same protections. Its judiciary continues to be plagued by politicial interference and allegations of corruption, which has seriously diminished the public’s trust and confidence in the judges and the courts.”
- Chief Justice Michael MacDonald
Ukraine is a sovereign state in Eastern Europe that gained its independence 25 years ago, in 1991. The country has struggled with the rule of law ever since and its judiciary has been plagued by politicial interference and allegations of corruption.
This is not the first visit to Ukraine. Preliminary meetings this spring enabled Canadian officials to start developing relationships and possible solutions for rebuilding public confidence, a necessary foundation for improvement in the years to come.
On this trip, the three judges will be joined by University of Toronto professor Peter Solomon, Oleg Shakov, Director of International Programs for the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada, Jennifer Stairs, Director of Communications for the Executive Office of the Nova Scotia Judiciary, and Mykhailo Buromensky, a Ukrainian law professor, member of the Constitutional Commission and president of the Institute of Applied Humanitarian Research.
While those initial meetings laid out the importance of judicial independence, conduct and accountability, this trip will focus primarily on how communication with the public, the Bar, civil society and journalists can help reform the justice system.
The group will split its time between Odessa and Ivano-Frankivsk, regions in southern and western Ukraine, respectively. The regional courts in these areas will serve as pilot projects that, if successful, will demonstrate to other regions that the Ukrainian courts can be effective and credible mechanisms for achieving justice.
Chief Justice Michael MacDonald
Chief Justice Michael MacDonald
“Judicial independence doesn’t disappear overnight – it erodes over time with every bad decision, every negative news story and every inappropriate comment that government or other agencies make. Once the public’s confidence is lost, it’s difficult to get it back. Citizens need to know that the courts and the justice system operate openly and fairly for everyone.”
The four-year Support to Judicial Reform Mission is a joint project of the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada and the National Judicial Institute, both based in Ottawa, with funding from Global Affairs Canada.
For more information on past projects and programs involving Canada and Ukraine, please visit the FEDERAL JUDICIAL AFFAIRS WEBSITE >>
Well, I'm back on Canadian soil and settling in to my regular work once again. We travelled home on Friday through Munich. In Montreal the team scattered to their respective cities, closing the chapter on this part of our mission. READ MORE >>
The Home Stretch
Wednesday, Nov. 9 - 7:15 p.m. (Lviv, Ukraine)
We just rolled in to Lviv after about a two-hour drive on winding, rainy roads. It's dark now but from what I saw earlier, the countryside was beautiful, dotted with small, rustic farmsteads and statuesque churches. READ MORE >>
Monday, Nov. 7 - 5:12 p.m. (Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine)
Our time so far in Ivano-Frankivsk has been nothing short of wonderful, both our meetings with the Judges and our tour of the town on Sunday. This is a small city of about 200,000 people, whose history and culture have been shaped by the Ukrainian, Polish, Jewish and Armenian communities. Formerly a part of Poland, they speak primarily Ukrainian here, although Russian is not uncommon. READ MORE >>
The Halfway Point
Saturday, Nov. 5 - 8:32 a.m.
These last couple of days have been a bit of a blur, but an overwhelming success. Thursday we met all day with members from civil society groups, including anti-corruption groups and public advocates, the equivalent of Legal Aid in Nova Scotia. They all seemed appreciative of the opportunity to share what they see as the problems in the system. But more importantly, they have some great ideas to improve communication and boost public confidence in Ukraine's judical institutions. READ MORE >>
Wednesday, Nov. 2 - 11:08 p.m.
Today can only be described as exhausting, but productive. Whereas we met an entire day with the Judges yesterday, today was split into two sessions. We spent the morning with members of the Bar and in the afternoon we met with members of the Ukrainian media, our largest session and most lively discussion thus far. READ MORE >>
The Realities in Ukraine
Tuesday, Nov. 1 - 10:31 p.m.
I'm finally back at the hotel, going over our discussion with the Judges. Today really drove home for me the challenges facing the Ukrainian Judiciary and the Courts. READ MORE >>
It's Game Time
Monday, Oct. 31 - 10:37 p.m.
Our first full day is under our belts and the team is feeling good about the days ahead. Tomorrow we meet with Judges of the Odessa District Administrative Court and their press secretaries. READ MORE >>
Getting Down to Business
Monday, Oct. 31 - 1:45 p.m
Our work got off to a roaring start this morning at the hotel in Odessa. The Canadian members for this mission had the opportunity to meet our Ukrainian partners, who will be helping on the ground over the next two weeks. Among them is Professor Mykhailo Buromensky, a member of the Constitutional Commission and president of the Institute of Applied Humanitarian Research. READ MORE >>
The Odessa Dilemma
Sunday, Oct. 30 - 9:44 p.m.
After a lovely dinner at a traditional Ukrainian restaurant in town, I'm getting ready to turn in for the night. But first I thought I'd share an interesting tidbit that we learned this afternoon, which solved a little dilemma I'd been having. READ MORE >>
Sunday, Oct. 30 - 3:50 p.m. (Odessa, Ukraine)
Well, we made it, and we’re no worse for wear. A long day of traveling but everything went smoothly and we’re now settled at the hotel in Odessa. READ MORE >>
Saturday, Oct. 29 - 2:40 p.m. (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
Today is the day. It only really dawns on me as I’m sitting at the gate at the Halifax airport, waiting to board the plane for Toronto. This time tomorrow Chief Justice Michael MacDonald and I will be in Odessa, Ukraine, with the rest of the team from across Canada. READ MORE >>