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Beverley McLachlin is proud of her court's record of unanimity.ANDREW VAUGHAN

Beverley McLachlin marked her tenth year as Chief Justice of Canada by pronouncing the end of a volatile debate over judicial activism.

Chief Justice McLachlin told a Canadian Bar Association conference in Ottawa that a reasoned truce has developed between those who fear the unbridled power of judges and those who see the judiciary as a vital check on legislators who might run roughshod over individual rights and liberties.

The debate was dominated by absolutists, Chief Justice McLachlin said Friday: "Some went as far as to argue that unelected courts were imposing their own policy views onto Canadian society.

"The last 10 years have seen a shift in the debate. The stark, either/or alternatives of absolute legislative power and court supremacy have given way, more and more, to a recognition that in a mature democracy of rights, both institutions are vital."

Her words corroborated a consensus view that Chief Justice McLachlin arrived in the job intent on promoting the idea that the courts and legislatures engage in a respectful, back-and-forth "dialogue" that results in sound constitutional laws.

According to a prepared text of her speech, Chief Justice McLachlin identified one of her crowning achievements as being the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada is "increasingly accessible, understood and accepted as an institution fundamental to Canadian democracy."

Chief Justice McLachlin also said that she was proud of her court's record of unanimity. About three-quarters of Supreme Court rulings are unanimous, she said, compared to less than half in the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The members of this court - first and foremost its Chief Justice - believe strongly in the right of dissent and its significance in shaping the law," she said.

In a speech larded with humorous asides about everything from the advanced age of judges to the quality of coffee in the Supreme Court, Chief Justice McLachlin said she was originally concerned that her time as Chief Justice might turn out to be boring, since most overriding Charter of Rights issues had already been decided.

"By my fears proved groundless," she said.

Chief Justice McLachlin said the Court has continued to breath life into the Charter of Rights.

"When people look back, I hope they will see a court of integrity, independence and some modicum of common sense," she concluded. "When I became Chief Justice, I made a wish. It was a simple wish - that I leave the court as strong as I found it.

"The support I feel from Canadians and, indeed, others around the world, led me - modestly - to dare hope that thus far, my wish has been fulfilled. This has been the most challenging and rewarding decade of my life."