Saturday, November 12, 2011

Paul Martin '64 receives honorary degree

By Lucianna Ciccocioppo / Photo by Jeff Kirk

(June 3, 2011) Forty-seven years after he received his LLB, alumnus Paul Martin joined the Class of 2011 today at Convocation to receive his honorary degree, and laud the “first generation of lawyers without borders.”

In his warm, humorous address, which was webcasted live and followed in the Twitterverse, the former prime minister joked he was back for “reparations” since he lost his mooting competition in his final year of law school. 

“Had I won the case, instead of my close friend who later became a judge, I might have been on the bench today—a position that certainly has more job security.”

Martin received a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, because of his outstanding contributions to public service, philanthropy, sustainable development and Aboriginal rights.

Martin said he had been asked to share with the graduates the steps to a successful legal career. “Having never practiced law, that did present a bit of difficulty,” he said. He chose instead to praise and highlight the newest initiative of the Faculty of Law, the Global Professional LLM (GPLLM), “a program you may want to consider in time.”

Martin said that lawyers must lead the way in global governance, since “the world cannot be left to the squabbling of economists” and cited the primacy of national sovereignty, which was affected by “the financial crises bringing the global economy to its knees.”

Canada’s 21st prime minister said if the European and US banking crises had such an impact, what will happen if Chinese or Indian banks fail?

“It is lawyers who must set the context,” he said. “The basic question the world has to address is why build a global model, why build with all freedoms but none of the protections? The legal profession around the world must stop playing the role of wallflower at the global party.”

“I cannot tell you how much I envy the Class of 2011; you will live a world that has never been seen before, a Canada and a world of unprecedented opportunities,” said Martin. “You are graduates of one of the world’s great law schools and great universities. And for those of you who didn’t win at moot court, your time will come.”

Convocation 2011 - dignitaries