‘Entrance-row seat to historical past’: Supreme Courtroom followers line as much as witness listening to in Winnipeg

It’s something you usually see for major concerts by rock bands or door-crashing sales — people waiting in early hours before dawn to secure a good spot in line.

That scene played out in front of the Law Courts building in downtown Winnipeg on Wednesday morning, as people lined up to witness history — the first Supreme Court hearing to be conducted outside of Ottawa.

“It’s something that Canadians don’t normally get to do unless they go to Ottawa. It’s a big opportunity,” said first-year law student Rowan Greger, who arrived just after 6 a.m. in full suit and tie and was first in line.

Several fellow law students are skipping class to take in the hearing as well, Greger said, but he was a bit taken aback to find he was first to arrive.

Ronnie Pollock, left, Kathy Clune and Rowan Greger were the first ones in line on Wednesday. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

“I thought other people would be camped out here. I was kind of embarrassed when I was the only one,” he said with a laugh. “I expected sleeping bags and lawn chairs, but no.”

It wasn’t long, though, before he was joined by others. And as the morning went on, the line eventually snaked alongside the building.

Former lawyer Kathy Clune, who was second in line, had planned to show up at 4 or 5 a.m., but she slept in.

“I was also surprised that there wasn’t a big lineup. I can’t believe that people in Winnipeg would be more excited about a Boxing Day sale than the Supreme Court of Canada,” she said.

“This is the highest court in the land. I think it’s super exciting.”

A crowd fills the courtroom for Wednesday’s Supreme Court hearing in Winnipeg. (Thibault Jourdan/CBC)

In deciding to step away from Ottawa for the first time in its 144-year history, the Supreme Court said it was important to give Canadians the chance to see what it does and why.

Chief Justice Richard Wagner posted an online video message about it.

“It’s important for us to be accessible to all Canadians, because the Supreme Court is your court. The decisions we make affect your life and that of your family and community,” he said.

Ronnie Pollock, who was third in line on Wednesday, said “it’s fabulous” that the Supreme Court is making itself accessible to more Canadians.

Like Greger and Clune, he expected a longer lineup but was pleased to have sneaked in before the crowd showed.

“I thought the lineup would kind of be like for the Pope or the Queen or the Beatles. I’m kind of surprised, but nonetheless I’m happy that I can get in and get a front-row seat to history,” he said.

The hearing on Wednesday is an appeal in a criminal case that could have implications for how long a judge is allowed to take to issue a verdict.

The court will also hear a non-criminal matter in the city on Thursday. That appeal stems from a case in British Columbia and involves French language rights in education.

The public is invited to attend both hearings, which begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Manitoba Law Courts Building at 408 York Ave.

Comments are closed.