York Chancellor Roy McMurtry wins two Canadian Bar Association awards

York University Chancellor Roy McMurtry, a lawyer as well as former chief justice and former attorney general of Ontario, recently won two awards from the Canadian Bar Association (CBA).

The first is the 2009 Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Law – established in 1993 by then Governor General Ramon John Hnatyshyn – in recognition of McMurtry’s outstanding contributions to the field of legal scholarship in Canada. McMurtry helped to shape public policy in the law while in public office, and as chief justice of Ontario, his decisions helped define Canada and civil society.

The second award is the 2009 Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Conference (SOGIC) Ally Award for achievements advancing the cause of equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered (LGBT) and two-spirited people. McMurtry was recognized with the SOGIC award for consistently promoting equality. He played a key role in ensuring the Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms became a reality in Canada and contributed significantly to the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Left: Roy McMurtry

The SOGIC Ally Award is open to lawyers, professors, law students or retired judges who are not members of the LGBT communities, but who have advanced the cause of equality of LGBT communities through either a single important action or series of actions or through a career contribution.

The awards were presented to McMurtry and seven other CBA award-winners at the CBA awards ceremony and reception Nov. 27 at the Le Méridien King Edward Hotel in Toronto.

This is not the first time McMurtry has won a CBA Award. In 2007, he received the CBA President’s Award for his contributions to the legal profession and the association.

McMurtry, now a member of the advocacy department at Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP in Toronto, where he serves as counsel to the firm, has had a long and distinguished legal career which began in 1958 when he was called to the bar in Ontario. By the time he was elected to the Ontario legislature in 1975, he had already practised law for 17 years. He served as attorney general for Ontario until 1985, during which time the Ontario legislature passed more than 50 law reform statutes introduced by McMurtry, including the first major family law reform legislation in Canada, the creation of a bilingual court system and a network of legal aid clinics.

In 1985, McMurtry was appointed Canada’s high commissioner to Great Britain, a post he held for the next three years. In 1991, he was appointed associate chief justice of the Superior Court of Ontario, Trial Division. Three years later, he became that court’s chief justice. In 1996 he was appointed chief justice of Ontario, a position he held until 2007.

McMurtry is the founder and president of The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, which has published 78 books on legal history since 1979. He is the creator of the Ontario Justice Education Network, which helps high-school students learn about the law. In addition, he continues to be involved on the advisory committee of Pro Bono Law Ontario.