Memoirs and Reflections

Memoirs and Reflections

ROY McMURTRY
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 640
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt4cgj9s
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  • Book Info
    Memoirs and Reflections
    Book Description:

    These memoirs cover all these facets of his remarkable career, as well as his law practice, his work on various commissions of inquiry, and his reflections on family, sport, and art.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-1661-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Foreword THE OSGOODE SOCIETY FOR CANADIAN LEGAL HISTORY
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Jim Phillips

    Few people have had a career as extensive, varied, and transformative as R. Roy McMurtry. In the public positions he held – reforming attorney general of Ontario, architect of the agreement that brought about the patriation of the Canadian Constitution, high commissioner to the United Kingdom, and chief justice of Ontario – he made immense contributions to Canadian law, politics, and life. Throughout, he has been a champion of anti-racism and human rights and an inspiring leader and motivator of others. Roy McMurtry also founded the Osgoode Society more than thirty years ago, and for that reason, among many others,...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Part One: Getting Established

    • 1 The McMurtry Family Tree
      (pp. 3-16)

      I have always been of two minds when it comes to reading lengthy family histories at the beginning of memoirs or biographies. Though the narratives of the ancestors can be interesting in themselves, I generally prefer to get quickly into the protagonistʹs own life, with just a brief overview of the background story. In my own case, however, our family cherished the stories from the past and recounted them often. As a result, the exploits of many of my forebears in work and sport and the ideals they held about politics, humanity, and poetry had a direct influence on me...

    • 2 School and Sports
      (pp. 17-30)

      My childhood years were personally idyllic and untroubled by the harsh realities of the larger world, which included the Great Depression. Born in 1932, I was the first of four sons for my parents, Elizebeth and Roy McMurtry, followed by my brothers William (Bill), John, and Robert (Bob).

      My earliest memories are of trains speeding by just below the porch of my parentsʹ home on the Old Bridle Path in Toronto when I was not yet two years old. My next recollection is being served with a ʺsummonsʺ by a member of the Toronto Police Department in my playpen when...

    • 3 Student Days at the University of Toronto
      (pp. 31-47)

      I decided to enrol at the University of Toronto, mainly because I wanted to live at home with my parents and my three younger brothers. During my four years at St Andrewʹs College, time with my family had been limited to summers, the occasional weekend, and the Christmas and Easter vacations. A less-structured life at home had great appeal after the rigours and discipline of boarding school.

      I had greatly admired some of my high-school teachers, and a career as a teacher and coach continued to appeal to me. In particular I enjoyed studying history, and the four-year Honours Modern...

    • 4 Preparing for a Career in Law at Osgoode Hall
      (pp. 48-60)

      I was still very attracted to a career in teaching, and my first stop that bleak November of 1954 was the Ontario College of Education, to see if the registrar would accept my late entry into the teaching certification program. I was politely informed that I would be very welcome – the following September. The course had commenced almost three months earlier, and the college was not prepared to give me any special treatment.

      Next I went to the Osgoode Hall Law School, which was located in the east wing of the magnificent structure at the corner of University Avenue...

    • 5 Articling Student
      (pp. 61-70)

      Although I knew more about criminal litigation than civil, I accepted my fatherʹs advice and signed on to article with Bert MacKinnon, a partner at Wright and McTaggart. The firm had around eight lawyers, and they conducted both a civil and a commercial litigation practice. MacKinnon and another partner, Joe Potts, had worked for my father, and he held them in high regard. They later became judges, MacKinnon as a member of the Court of Appeal and associate chief justice of Ontario, and Potts on the High Court Trial Division (which became the Superior Court of Justice). The senior member...

  6. Part Two: The Practice of Law

    • 6 Early Law Career
      (pp. 73-88)

      In the spring of 1958 I met sole practitioner Philip Benson, sixteen years my senior, who represented insurance companies in casualty claims. His practice had increased dramatically, and he decided to hire a junior lawyer. I became that person once I graduated – and Phil and I went on to be partners for seventeen years. Although his practice was mostly insurance litigation, he agreed that I could continue to be involved in the criminal courts as well as in general civil litigation. It turned out to be a good working relationship because our personalities were quite different. Phil was very...

    • 7 Mentor, Arthur Maloney
      (pp. 89-116)

      In 1958 Arthur Maloney was the MP from Parkdale in Toronto, a respected lawyer and, for the most part, a popular figure. He had been born and educated in the Ottawa Valley, then enrolled at St Michaelʹs College at the University of Toronto. He was passionate, charming, articulate, and generally much liked by members of the media. Maloneyʹs large family was well known throughout Ontario. His doctor father had also been a federal MP, and his brother Jim was a long-time member of the Cabinet of Premier Leslie Frost. Jim was also well known for his alcoholic binges, which did...

    • 8 Entering the Political Arena
      (pp. 117-134)

      When I began to practise law, I never thought I would become seriously involved in politics. At the time I was called to the bar in 1958, Ria was expecting our second child, and, along with our expanding family, I was totally focused on building a successful legal career.

      My father considered himself a Conservative – an attitude he inherited from his own father, William James McMurtry, who had been a passionate supporter of Sir John A. Macdonaldʹs National Policy. He was also very proud of the political career of his maternal great-grandfather, Charles Waters, a member of the Legislature...

    • 9 Family Life
      (pp. 135-144)

      Following Dalton Campʹs defeat in the 1968 federal election, I focused my energies almost entirely on my busy legal practice and, of course, my now large family. For Ria and me, the arrival of our sixth child was a celebration of both our tenth wedding anniversary and Canadaʹs 1967 Centennial. It was a joyful and a raucous household. Two years earlier we had moved to a bigger home on Lascelles Boulevard, where Ria and I still live. I often look back in awe at how Ria coped with all these small children and babies as well as a husband who...

    • 10 Member of the Kitchen Cabinet
      (pp. 145-155)

      Between 1968 and 1970 I had little time for partisan politics, and I still believed that my political activity would never be anything more than sporadic adventures. Occasionally I attended political meetings and weekend retreats to discuss strategies related to Bob Stanfieldʹs federal leadership, but I had never been involved with the provincial Progressive Conservative Party. The Conservatives had formed the government in Ontario since 1943, with John Robarts as the successful premier from 1961 on. Bill Davis, my former University of Toronto football teammate, was the highly respected education minister – the man most likely to succeed Robarts. The...

    • 11 The By-election, Community Service, and the Law
      (pp. 156-172)

      Towards the end of 1972 Bill Davis asked me to consider running for the Progressive Conservative nomination in the St George by-election, which would likely be held in the late winter of 1973. His request presented a significant personal dilemma. I had become interested in the process for developing public policy in Ontario and was also serving as the president of my local ratepayers association. I thoroughly enjoyed the human dynamic of people working together to protect their neighbourhoods from excessive high-rise development and other problems. Certainly the opportunity to serve a broader public in the Ontario Legislature had a...

  7. Part Three: Attorney General of Ontario

    • 12 Stepping into the Attorney Generalʹs Role
      (pp. 175-192)

      On September 18, 1975, the Progressive Conservative government was returned to power in Ontario, but with a minority government of just 51 seats. The New Democratic Party led by Stephen Lewis became the official opposition, with the Liberal Party under Robert Nixon close behind in third place. Between them, however, they had 74 seats. It was the first minority government in Ontario for many years, and we didnʹt know how it would all work out. Obviously our government could no longer control the legislative agenda or the timing of the next election. Unless we could get the cooperation and support...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • 13 Cabinet Minister with a Law Reform Agenda
      (pp. 193-212)

      The first major decision that I made as attorney general was to create a bilingual court system in Ontario in those centres where the service was warranted. In the province of Quebec the English language had been an official language from well before Confederation, and the lack of a bilingual court system in Ontario was frequently commented on in Quebec, particularly by those who wished to fuel the fires of separatism. The general impression in Quebec was that Canadaʹs largest province was reluctant to embrace bilingualism as a working language in its most important institutions. In truth, at that time...

    • 14 Attorney General versus the National Hockey League
      (pp. 213-226)

      A year and a half before I became attorney general in October 1975, my lawyer brother, Bill, was asked by the government of Ontario to investigate issues related to excessive violence in hockey. The report had considerable influence during my early months in office. The fact that criminal assaults in hockey games was but one of a multitude of issues I faced at that time did not prevent massive media attention to it.

      The growing public concern with violence in hockey came into sharp focus when the Bramalea Blues hockey team withdrew from the Ontario Junior B championship series with...

    • 15 Racism and Religion
      (pp. 227-243)

      Early in my career as attorney general I committed my ministry to making race relations a priority. The demographics were changing dramatically, particularly in southern Ontario. The South Asian community had increased significantly as a result of immigration, largely from East Africa, where tyrannical regimes had become hostile to these minority groups in their populations. Canada was also becoming a destination for immigrants from Hong Kong and South Korea, and the number of black Canadians continued to grow because of the ongoing immigration from the Caribbean.

      The sad reality is that every society contains racist elements. Governments must therefore confront...

    • 16 Violence on the Highways, on the Newsstands, and as Entertainment
      (pp. 244-249)

      When I became attorney general, I decided that one of my priorities would be to try to reduce the appalling loss of life on Ontarioʹs roads. My law practice had involved a significant volume of motor-vehicle negligence litigation, including both the prosecution and the defence of impaired driving cases. I strongly believed that government could do much more to improve highway traffic safety. However, I was also aware that there was a general acceptance in society that a particular number of vehicles on a highway would produce a predictable level of accidents. A large number of police officers also shared...

    • 17 A Mixture of Challenges Involving Marijuana, Ed Ziemba, Francis Fox, and Amway Corporation
      (pp. 250-261)

      In March 1977 I found myself in some controversy as a result of statements I made about the decriminalization of marijuana during a visit to a community college in Belleville. The decriminalization had been recommended five years earlier after an inquiry into the non-medical use of drugs by Osgoode Hall Law School dean Gerald Le Dain, who later became a judge on the Supreme Court of Canada. In my talk I expressed some support for the idea, but even this limited endorsement created considerable comment both in the Legislature and among the public at large.

      A day later, the editorial...

    • 18 The Osgoode Society for the Writing of Canadian Legal History
      (pp. 262-267)

      One unexpected opportunity that came my way as attorney general was the chance to create the Osgoode Society for the Writing of Canadian Legal History. Like many lawyers, I had long been disappointed with the paucity of books about Canadian legal history. My interest in history had been my main focus during my undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto, and it has always astounded me that so few Canadians seem to enjoy reading books on this theme. Considering that our contemporary world is inevitably shaped by the past, particularly that of our own country, history should be a subject...

    • 19 Solicitor General and the Mississauga Derailment
      (pp. 268-277)

      In 1978 George Kerr resigned as solicitor general for Ontario because of a phone call he made to his local Crown attorney’s office on behalf of a constituent charged with a criminal offence. He had intended to be in court to give evidence of good character for this person, whom he knew well, but, when he realized he would not be free that day, he most unwisely called the office of the Crown attorney to provide his evidence. He wanted the presiding judge to consider what he had to say. Although well intentioned, Kerr’s efforts could be perceived as an...

    • 20 The Challenging Cases of Susan Nelles and Henry Morgentaler
      (pp. 278-289)

      When I returned to Toronto from a spring-break holiday with our family in March 1981, the news media were understandably obsessed with the arrest of a young nurse who worked at the world-renowned Hospital for Sick Children. The nurse, Susan Nelles, was charged with first-degree murder related to the deaths of four very young infants. She was alleged to have been on duty and ʺin chargeʺ of the babies when they died as a result of extremely high overdoses of digoxin, a prescription drug commonly in use for children suffering from heart disease. I immediately asked for a report from...

    • 21 The Constitution and the Patriation Case in the Supreme Court of Canada
      (pp. 290-307)

      During my years as the attorney general for Ontario, the drama surrounding the patriation of the Canadian Constitution provided an especially interesting dimension to my myriad responsibilities.

      Ontario has always played a key role in Canadaʹs evolution from colony to nation – resulting in our present vast and diverse land with a federal system of government. What emerges from the historical record is the changing role that Ontario has played, from the ardent defender of provincial interests to a conciliator between the provinces and the federal government. In many respects Ontario has served as the counterpoise against excessive views that...

    • 22 Negotiations over the Patriation of the Canadian Constitution
      (pp. 308-321)

      Immediately after the Supreme Court of Canada announced its decision on the patriation reference case, Roy Romanow and I went to Jean Chrétienʹs home in Ottawa for a post-mortem. It was obvious to us that some significant compromises would now be necessary before the continuing constitutional impasse could be resolved. We knew that certain ingredients were essential to any agreement, and we reviewed several areas where compromise would be necessary. Two items in particular were crucial: an entrenched charter of rights, despite the opposition of the majority of the provinces; and an amending formula or, as an alternative, a referendum...

    • 23 René Lévesque
      (pp. 322-328)

      When the Parti Québécois led by René Lévesque was elected as the government of Quebec in November 1976, I was not at all surprised. Moreover, although this new regime represented a serious challenge to the future of the Canadian federation, I did not regard it as an enemy of Canada. Rather, I believed it was important for the Davis government in Ontario to maintain cordial relations, to the extent possible, with the Lévesque government in the interests of a united Canada.

      Shortly before the Quebec referendum, I spoke to the Empire Club on the challenges of Quebec to Canadian unity....

    • 24 Israel
      (pp. 329-335)

      When I was first elected to the Ontario Legislature in 1975, I was assisted by many of my Jewish friends and others in the Jewish community. I had, of course, been interested in the State of Israel since its creation, and, not surprisingly, many of its supporters urged me to visit that nation which, in its brief life, has been at the centre of much contention in the world. As it happened, between 1976 and 1983 I made three trips to Israel in all.

      In the summer of 1975 our eldest child, Janet, spent more than two months working in...

    • 25 Travel Abroad to India and Pakistan
      (pp. 336-344)

      My links with the South Asian communities in Ontario became close during my years as attorney general. As chair of the Cabinet Committee on Race Relations, I was invited by the governments of both India and Pakistan to visit their countries. These invitations were encouraged by the many South Asian associations in the province, which believed that a visit by a senior Ontario Cabinet minister to their homelands would acknowledge their many contributions to the economy and culture of Ontario – and, in addition, give me the opportunity to learn more about the rich culture and diversity of these nations....

    • 26 Northern Justice, Aboriginal Art, and My Own Painting
      (pp. 345-353)

      In my years as attorney general I had come to know Judge Gerald Michel of Sudbury, who, as a provincial court judge, often presided in courts in the tiny, remote First Nations communities that cling to the banks of James Bay and Hudson Bay. The court party usually visited these communities four times a year, and Judge Michel had suggested several times that I accompany him so I could experience first-hand the special cultural justice challenges that exist in the Far North. In late 1983 I accepted the invitation. Fred Hayes and Ted Andrews, the chief judges, respectively, of the...

    • 27 Reflections on the Davis Government and Life as a Constituency Politician
      (pp. 354-364)

      My years in the Cabinet during the government of William Davis were a unique adventure and experience for me. I had known him since our football days together at the University of Toronto in 1950 and had observed his political career with much interest. In my opinion, the Davis administration, which included both majority and minority governments between 1971 and 1985, provides an excellent model for all Ontario premiers to follow, and itʹs worth analysing in greater detail.

      In appointing his first Cabinet, Bill Davis wisely kept his major political rivals for the PC leadership inside the tent, giving them...

    • 28 Candidate for the Leadership of the PC Party of Ontario
      (pp. 365-378)

      When I was elected to the Ontario Legislature in September 1975 and appointed attorney general two weeks later, I was delighted to have the opportunity to serve as the ʺsenior law officer of the Crown.ʺ A trial lawyer is naturally attracted to this position, given the attorney generalʹs broad responsibilities for the administration of justice. For nearly six years after this election, Premier Davis led a minority government. Amid all the uncertainties, I was determined to enjoy my new position for as long as it lasted. The furthest thing from my mind was the thought of ever seeking the leadership...

  8. Part Four: At the Court of St James and Home Again

    • 29 My New Life as High Commissioner in London
      (pp. 381-397)

      The possibility of a diplomatic posting had never entered my mind before I received a telephone call from Brian Mulroney on January 27, 1985, the day after my defeat at the PC leadership convention. It was a Sunday afternoon, and a friend who owned a bar on Yonge Street was hosting a post-convention party for my campaign team. Despite my loss, the mood was celebratory. I have no idea whether my supporters were impressed when it was announced that the prime minister of Canada was on the phone. I was certainly surprised, and I never did learn how Mulroney had...

    • 30 The High Commissionerʹs Work
      (pp. 398-417)

      I had assumed that my responsibilities in Britain would focus almost entirely on Canada–UK relations and that there would be little time for significant meetings with other ambassadors. However, I soon learned that London provided a special listening post in relation to the broad international community and that most nations were represented by senior individuals who were very knowledgeable about important international issues relevant to Canada. Consequently, I arranged formal meetings with them to obtain their views on matters of interest to Canada. I found that ambassadors in London were more likely to be candid in expressing their personal...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • 31 My Years with Blaney, McMurtry and the Canadian Football League
      (pp. 418-433)

      As my term as high commissioner in London was coming to an end, friends often asked me what I planned to do after I went back to Canada. When I explained that I simply wanted to return to the private bar, many of my lawyer friends responded that I would probably not enjoy the role as much as I had in my earlier years. The practice of law, they cautioned, had become more a business than the profession it had traditionally been. Expensive overhead costs had made ʺbottom-lineʺ considerations dominant, opportunities for pro bono work had diminished, and the concept...

    • 32 Sport as a Development Tool in the Commonwealth
      (pp. 434-440)

      In 1989 Joe Clark, Canadaʹs external affairs minister, asked me to chair the Commonwealth Heads of Government Committee on Sport Relations to review and report on the future of sports relationships among Commonwealth countries. This committee was intended to be one of several similar bodies tasked with recommending initiatives to strengthen the Commonwealth as it went into the twenty-first century. Sports events such as the Commonwealth Games, held every four years, were obviously an important link among the almost fifty nations (at the time) that made up the Commonwealth. Just three years before, the boycott of the 1986 Edinburgh Commonwealth...

  9. Part Five: Sixteen Years as a Judge

    • 33 Appointment to the Bench, 1991
      (pp. 443-454)

      The combination of my legal practice at Blaney, McMurtry and my responsibilities with the CFL provided a full, interesting, and demanding working life and, as I approached my fifty-eighth birthday in May 1990, I was generally very content. That same spring Frank Callaghan, my first deputy attorney general from my years in the Ontario Cabinet, was appointed chief justice of the Ontario High Court of Justice, shortly after Ian Scott, the attorney general in David Petersonʹs Liberal administration, announced that the government intended to merge the County and District Courts with the High Court. The reorganization had been recommended in...

    • 34 Chief Justice of Ontario
      (pp. 455-477)

      I had never had any particular ambition to be appointed chief justice of Ontario, even though two of my recent predecessors in that role – George ʺBillʺ Gale and Willard ʺBudʺ Estey – had also served as chief justice of the Trial Court. In Canada, the chief justice in every province is also by law the chief justice of the Court of Appeal. A provincial chief justice has but one specific statutory authority: to administer the Court of Appeal, including the assignment of judges and the scheduling of court sittings. As the senior judge in each province, however, the chief...

    • 35 The Role of Judges in Relation to the Rule of Law, Independence, and the Charter of Rights
      (pp. 478-488)

      The public interest in the appointment of members of the judiciary has increased dramatically in Canada since the entrenchment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in our Constitution in 1982. As a result, there have been frequent and sometimes overheated arguments about whether certain judicial decisions should in fact be reserved for elected politicians to make. One of the ironies of the ongoing debate is that the momentum for an entrenched Charter of Rights was created by elected politicians and a few legal scholars, but not by members of the judiciary. Indeed, Bora Laskin, the future distinguished chief justice...

    • 36 Visits to Cuba
      (pp. 489-496)

      The same year that I was appointed chief justice of Ontario, 1996, I made my first visit to Cuba – and, in the years since, it has been one of my favourite destinations. In particular I like Havana, the picturesque old colonial city of Trinidad, Pinar del Rio, and the Valle de Viñales, where much of the Cuban tobacco is grown. The initial invitation –to address an international legal conference – came from the University of Havana Law School. I was asked to speak about the Canadian legal system and, specifically, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The conference...

  10. Part Six: Retirement

    • 37 Life after Judicial Retirement
      (pp. 499-522)

      Before I retired as chief justice of Ontario on May 31, 2007, I was approached by two successful litigators and close friends – Glenn Hainey, a future Superior Court justice, and John Callaghan, the youngest son of the late Chief Justice Frank Callaghan – who invited me to join the advocacy department in the Gowlings law firm. They stressed in particular that the firm would be happy for me to remain active in community service and did not expect me to become a major profit centre. Patrick LeSage, my former associate chief justice and my successor as chief justice of...

    • 38 Reflections on My Life
      (pp. 523-534)

      My life has had no master plan. Not until I became a judge at the age of fifty-nine and realized I could stay in that role for sixteen years did I ever think seriously about what I might be doing ten years hence. Nor did I ever envision that I would have so many different careers. My life is a result not so much of good management as of good luck, and a willingness to accept new challenges and opportunities when they arose.

      I was fortunate in my parents, who were devoted to their sons. We were encouraged always to...

  11. Index
    (pp. 535-562)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 563-567)