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Toews dons his judge's robe

Swearing-in event sees him outline attributes he'll seek

Flanked by Glenn Joyal (left), chief justice of the Court of Queen's Bench and Richard Chartier, chief justice of the Manitoba Court of Appeal, Vic Toews is sworn in as a Court of Queen's Bench judge in a ceremony Friday.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Flanked by Glenn Joyal (left), chief justice of the Court of Queen's Bench and Richard Chartier, chief justice of the Manitoba Court of Appeal, Vic Toews is sworn in as a Court of Queen's Bench judge in a ceremony Friday.

A courteous ear. A wise tongue. Sober consideration. Impartial decision-making.

It's these four attributes Justice Vic Toews pledged Friday he'll work on providing to everyone appearing before him in a court of law.

Toews was officially sworn in as a Court of Queen's Bench judge after nearly two decades of living in the public eye as a sometimes-controversial politician.

At a well-attended ceremony held in the largest courtroom in Winnipeg's law courts complex, Toews conceded the four Socratic principles he'll use to guide him as a judge were "decidedly concise."

"Nonetheless," Toews said, "they are goals a judge should continuously strive for."

The swearing-in was packed with friends, family, justice officials, lawyers and representatives from Winnipeg police, RCMP and Corrections. It was hosted by the top judges of the three levels of Manitoba's court system.

Toews, a former senior Conservative cabinet minister, was appointed in March to the Queen's Bench court by federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay. He resigned from Parliament last summer amid widespread speculation he hoped to become a judge.

His judicial appointment triggered many raised eyebrows in local legal circles -- largely because of the tough-on-crime political agenda he supported while in office.

As attorney general and then public safety minister, Toews was a vocal proponent of mandatory minimum sentences, the elimination of house arrest for some crimes and tougher rules for repeat offenders.

He didn't directly address anything controversial in his remarks on Friday.

"I recognize that some of the issues that I will deal with will involve arguments and discussions that will continue, and indeed evolve with our society for many decades to come -- well beyond the relatively short time that I will spend on the bench," Toews said. "As much as I am interested in those issues, especially as they relate to some of the areas of law that I have practised in or was otherwise involved with, I recognize my contribution will be modest at best, and for the most part, simply chipping around the edges of very large issues," he added.

Toews said he considered saying something about "the important relationship" between lawmakers and those charged with interpreting and measuring the law, but decided not to. Not because that's controversial, Toews said, but because it was more important the swearing-in ceremony focus on family and friends who were present.

"To the extent that I will make public comments about matters of law and its interpretation, I will make those comments in the context of future judgments that may address broader public concerns, when asked to do so," said Toews.

Prior to becoming a top provincial and then federal politician, Toews was a Manitoba Crown attorney who rose through the ranks to direct the province's constitutional law branch.

His appointment to the bench means he has the rare distinction of having held positions of power in all three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial.

Sworn in Friday alongside Toews was Justice Sadie Bond, a now-former senior prosecutor for the Manitoba office of the federal Crown.

Bond, who hails from the Maritimes, was a legal aid lawyer in Toronto prior to moving to the Northwest Territories.

There, she became assistant chief federal prosecutor for the region.

Bond then moved to Manitoba and for the last several years has handled challenging and complex drug and organized-crime cases.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

-- With files from Mary Agnes Welch

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