The third justice Alexander Mackenzie appointed on Sept. 30, 1875 was the Rt. Hon. Sir Samuel Henry Strong PC Kt. (1825-1909). Sir Samuel was born in Poole, Dorset, England; his uncle was Philip Henry Gosse, the esteemed naturalist. His family immigrated to Ottawa in 1836; Sir Samuel attended Osgoode Hall and was called to the bar in 1849, whereupon he set up practice in Toronto. In 1869 he was appointed a Vice-Chancellor of Ontario, or justice of the Ontario Court of Chancery. In 1874 he was promoted to the Ontario Court of Error and Appeal, serving a year before being promoted to the Supreme Court.
Sir Samuel Strong became Chief Justice of Canada on Dec. 13, 1892. He was the first chief justice appointed to the Imperial Privy Council, and so was the first with the title “the Right Honourable”. He retired on Nov. 18, 1902, and died in 1906.
John Douglas Armour (1830-1903) replaced Strong on Nov. 21, 1902. Born near Peterborough, ON, Armour attended Upper Canada College and U of T, called to the bar in 1853 and practiced law in Cobourg. He was appointed to the Court of the Queen’s Bench of Ontario in 1877, then Chief Justice of the Court of the Queen’s Bench of Ontario later that year, then Chief Justice of Ontario in 1901. Armour served only seven months on the Supreme Court, dying on a business trip to London on July 11, 1903. Shortly before his death he had been appointed a member of the Alaska-Canada Boundary Commission; a mountain is named after him on the Alaska-BC boundary. Armour Township, in Parry Sound District, Ontario, is also named after him.
Albert Clements Killam (1849-1908) replaced Armour on Aug. 8, 1903. He was the very first Westerner to serve on the Supreme Court. Born in Yarmouth, NS, he received a BA in 1872 from U of T. He was called to the Ontario bar in 1877 and practised for two years in Windsor before moving to Winnipeg; in 1881, he became an examiner of the Law Society of Manitoba. In 1883, he was elected as a Liberal to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, resigning in 1885 to be appointed to the Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba. In 1899, he was named Chief Justice of Manitoba, serving until 1903. He resigned on Feb. 6, 1905 to accept an appointment as chairman of the Board of Railway Commissioners. He died in Ottawa in 1908. The village of Killam, AB, east of Camrose, is named after him.
John Idington (1840-1928) was appointed on Feb. 10, 1905. Born in Puslinch, ON, Idington attended U of T, passed the bar in 1864, and practised law for 40 years in Stratford. He was appointed to the High Court of Justice of Ontario in 1904, and to the Supreme Court a year later. His most notable contribution on the bench was his dissent in the case of Quong Wing v. R. in 1914, in which he argued that the term “Chinaman” should only apply to Chinese immigrants and not to naturalized citizens, whereas the majority on the Court decided that “Chinaman” applied to anyone of Chinese descent. Idington retired on March 31, 1927, and died the following February.
Robert Smith (1858-1942) was appointed to the Court on May 18, 1927. Born near Almonte, ON, he went to Osgoode Hall, was called to the Ontario Bar in 1885, and practiced law in Cornwall. He was also the Liberal MP for Stormont County from 1908 to 1911, and served as a lieutenant-colonel in the reserves. In 1922, he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Ontario, serving until 1926. Smith retired on Dec. 7, 1933, and died in Ottawa at the age of 83.
Henry Hague Davis (1885-1944) replaced Mr. Justice Smith on Jan. 31, 1935. Born in Brockville, ON, Davis received three degrees from the University of Toronto, was called to the Ontario bar in 1911 and then proceeded to practice law in Toronto. In 1933, he was appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal, serving until 1935. Davis served on the Supreme Court until his death on June 30, 1944.
Roy Lindsay Kellock CC (1893-1975) replaced Davis on Oct. 3, 1944. He was born in Perth, ON, graduated from McMaster in 1915, and passed the Ontario bar in 1920. He was appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal in 1942, serving for two years. Kellock is best remembered for chairing two Royal Commissions as a justice: one in 1945 to investigate a massive sailors’ riot in Halifax that August (Kellock blamed their commander, Rear-Admiral Leonard Murray), and one in 1946, when, with fellow justice Robert Taschereau, Kellock chaired the Royal Commission to Investigate the Facts Relating To and the Circumstances Surrounding the Communication, by Public Officials and Other Persons in Positions of Trust, of Secret and Confidential Information to Agents of a Foreign Power, aka the Kellock-Taschereau Commission, which was created to investigate the claims by defected Soviet clerk Igor Gouzensko of widespread Communist spying and became Canada’s version of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Kellock retired from the bench on Jan. 15, 1958, and died in December of 1975.
John Diefenbaker chose Wilfred Judson CC (1902-1980) for the Court on Feb. 5, 1958. Born in Todmorden, Yorkshire, England, he received a BA and an MA from Manchester U before leaving for Canada in 1923, to attend Osgoode Hall and be called to the bar in 1932. He was appointed to the High Court of Justice of Ontario in 1951 and to the Supreme Court seven years later. Judson retired on July 20, 1977, and died three years later.
Willard Zebedee Estey CC (1919-2002) replaced Judson on Sept. 29, 1977. Born in Saskatoon, the son of Supreme Court justice James Wilfred Estey, Willard “Bud” Estey went to the University of Saskatchewan, fought in World War II, earned a master’s from Harvard and taught for a year at USask before moving to Ontario in 1947 to practice law. He was appointed to the Court of Appeal for Ontario in 1973, Chief Justice of the High Court of Justice of Ontario in 1975, and Chief Justice of Ontario in 1976. On the Supreme Court, Estey wrote the first major Court decision involving the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1984’s Law Society of Upper Canada v. Skapinker, which found that citizenship was not necessary to practice law, and that therefore the Law Society’s rejection of a Canadian permanent resident with South African citizenship violated his mobility rights. Estey retired on Apr. 22, 1988, and died in 2002.
John Sopinka (1933-1997) was appointed to the Court on May 24, 1988. He was the first Ukrainian justice of the SCC. Sopinka was born in Broderick, SK, His family moved to Hamilton and he attended U of T. While studying law between 1955 and 1957, he also played professional football for 37 games in the CFL with the Toronto Argonauts and then the Montreal Alouettes. He was called to the bar of Ontario in 1960 and practiced criminal law, being one of the few justices of modern times with no prior judgeships. Sopinka died in office of a blood disorder on Nov. 24, 1997. The Sopinka Cup, the national law-school mock trial competition, is named for him, as is the courthouse in Hamilton.
William Ian Corneil Binnie CC (1939-now) filled the vacancy on Jan. 8, 1998. Like Sopinka, he was a barrister with no previous judicial experience. Binnie was born in Montreal and eaned degrees from McGill, Cambridge and U of T, then called to the bar in Ontario in 1967. Binnie retired on Oct. 21, 2011, and returned to private practice in Toronto.
Michael J. Moldaver (1948-now) filled the vacant seat on Oct. 21, 2011. He was born in Peterborough and earned a BA from the University of Toronto, then was called to the bar of Ontario in 1973 and practiced in criminal law. Moldaver was appointed to the High Court of Justice of the Supreme Court of Ontario in 1990, then to the Ontario Court of Appeal in 1995.