Ten things important to me about the TWU hearing

  • February 16, 2018


Note: Eugene Meehan of Supreme Advocacy asked two of the people who were in the courtroom for the TWU appeal on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 to write about their thoughts and feelings about those two days. One of the people he approached was Susan Ursel, who had led the team presenting the CBA intervention in the case. This article was originally published in the Jan. 18, 2018 Supreme Advocacy.

By Susan Ursel

Privileged nation

An adept, highly functional, engaged and impartial judiciary helps define a true democracy.  We are deeply privileged as a nation to be able to discuss and work out these complex issues of freedoms and rights with the help of such an institution.

Privileged as an Individual

I am deeply privileged as an individual to be able to able to participate in such a process without fear of harm or retaliation. Many of my colleagues around the globe are not so privileged.

Functional democracy

In a functional democracy, it is still possible to discuss matters of the heart, of religion, of rights and of freedoms, without debilitating rancour and with good will, even if and especially when we differ. These days, that fact can make me weep with gratitude.


So many different perspectives and voices from throughout our country and communities were there to speak to their interests as parties and intervenors in this case. They provided depth, breadth, intelligence and passion to the discourse. They are necessary.

SCC judges

The preparation, scope of knowledge, concern, and attentiveness from our Supreme Court justices was by turns awe-inspiring, challenging and frankly, daunting. And we would not want it any other way.


We are best served by our judiciary when we serve them with our wisest arguments and do not flinch from grappling with the complexity of the issues. Even if our knees are knocking and our hearts are hammering.

Fruitful, respectful and enjoyable

Fruitful, respectful and enjoyable dialogue between the bench and bar was on full and wonderful display in this case. It made me proud.


Tough questions of law do not mean you have to be a tough guy. The traditions of respect, collegiality and friendliness despite our differences made a lengthy and potentially charged hearing a pleasure to be a part of.

Shared experiences

Never underestimate the power of a shared experience to draw even the most disparate of folks together, even in court. Remember that fact when you are feeling most out of your element and surrounded by strangers. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Why I’m grateful

Finally, I am very happy that the Canadian Bar Association did us the honour of retaining my co-counsel David Grossman, Angie Westmacott, Olga Redko and myself, to present the Association’s perspective. We could not have asked for a better client or brief. Thank you!

Susan Ursel (Ursel, Phillips, Fellows, Hopkinson LLP, Toronto) SUrsel@upfhlaw.ca.

Photo: Olga Redko, Susan Ursel and David Grossman appeared on behalf of the CBA (Angela Westmacott not present) in Trinity Western.