Message from the President

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Thursday, November 18, 2021
Posted in Latest News


Dear CIAJ Members,

Next month, I will step down as President of CIAJ after two years in that role.

It has been a bit of a bumpy trip. If you look at graphs of the ebbing and flowing of coronavirus cases over the past 21 months or so, it very much resembles a roller coaster. And the ride is not yet over. Similarly, at CIAJ, we have been riding those ups and downs. It has been a real challenge steering an organization like CIAJ—whose primary mandate is mainly to bring people together to improve the administration of justice—when public health guidelines have urged us to stay apart.

In terms of delivering programs, we have asked ourselves at various points:

Can we deliver our usual programs, or should we cancel or postpone them?

Can programs be delivered online? Will the speakers agree to deliver remarks remotely? Will participants show up? Can we accommodate people in all of Canada’s time zones?

Can we adapt our programs to make them more suitable for online delivery?

Can we do new things—podcasts, webinars, hybrid programs?

Can we reach new audiences—community members, members of boards and tribunals, students?

Finding the answers was often a difficult task. But we had the good fortune to have supportive and enthusiastic Board members, experienced and devoted officers, and most important of all, loyal and energetic staff members, most particularly, our Executive Director, Me Christine O’Doherty. Without this cast of talented contributors, CIAJ might not have survived the pandemic.

But CIAJ did much more than survive. It thrived.

We did cancel some programs and we postponed others, but we managed to deliver most of our core programs, in some form or another. We adapted some programs to an online format, and to our collective surprise, participants often found them just as valuable as in-person seminars, and usually more convenient to attend. We did many new kinds of programs and reached many new audiences.

CIAJ’s substantial advances in the delivery of programs was not all that it achieved over the past two years. It also took the opportunity to review all of its functions and governance structures to determine whether we can improve CIAJ’s future operations. We conducted a review of our human resources. We brainstormed on ways to improve CIAJ’s international opportunities, reinforce its branding, expand its positioning on the legal landscape, and grow its membership. We created a Governance Committee, chaired and guided by CIAJ’s First Vice-President, Justice P. Colleen Suche, to embark on a thorough review of CIAJ’s governance structure—its Board of Directors, its Executive Committee, its various other committees, and its Executive Director. The Governance Committee will release its report this fall.

All of this to say that the CIAJ has emerged from the challenges of 2020–2021 a dynamic, responsive, and influential organization. We are enormously grateful to all those who assisted us in achieving this outcome. Over to the next President, Justice P. Colleen Suche, to guide CIAJ over the next two years.

Message from the 2021 Annual Report. You can consult it by clicking here.

About the author

The Honourable Justice James O'Reilly

The Honourable Justice James O'Reilly


Justice James O’Reilly was appointed to the Federal Court in 2002 and to the Court Martial Appeal Court in 2003. He has served as co-chair of CIAJ’s Judgment Writing Seminar since 2009 and has been appointed CIAJ’s President in October 2019.