Jean-Thomas Taschereau (1814-1893) was appointed as the senior-most French justice in the first Supreme Court on Sept. 30, 1875. Taschereau, born in Quebec City, was the son of a judge of the King’s Bench and legislative assemblyman (also named Jean-Thomas), the brother of Elzéar-Alexandre Cardinal Taschereau, Archbishop of Quebec, and brother-in-law of Sir Charles Fitzpatrick, Minister of Justice under Laurier and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Jean-Thomas the Younger was called to the bar in 1836. He studied law in Paris and took up private practice upon his return to Quebec City; he also taught at Université Laval from 1855 to 1857. In 1865, he was appointed a judge of the Quebec Superior Court, and elevated to the Court of Queen’s Bench of Quebec in 1873. Taschereau retired on Oct. 6, 1878, and died fifteen years later.
Jean-Thomas Taschereau’s son, Louis-Alexandre Taschereau, served as premier of Quebec from 1920 to 1936. Louis-Alexandre’s son, Robert Taschereau, was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1964 to 1967.
The Rt. Hon. Sir Henri-Elzéar Taschereau PC Kt. (1836–1911) succeeded his cousin Jean-Thomas on the Supreme Court on Oct. 7, 1878. Born in Quebec City and educated at U de Laval, he was called to the bar in 1857 and elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada in 1861 as the Conservative member for Beauce, where he voted against Confederation and was defeated for re-election in 1867. He was appointed a judge of the Quebec Superior Court in 1871, serving seven years. During his time on the Supreme court, he taught law part-time at the University of Ottawa. On Nov. 21, 1902,Taschereau, being the senior-most puisne justice, became Chief Justice, serving for four years until his retirement on May 2, 1906. He continued to travel to London to sit on the Privy Council Judicial Committee until he died in the spring of 1911.
The Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Fitzpatrick GCMG PC (1853–1942), the incumbent justice minister, had himself appointed Chief Justice by Laurier on June 4, 1906 – the only person ever directly appointed to be Chief Justice. Sir Charles’s wife was sisters with the wife of Jean-Thomas Taschereau, making him the uncle of Louis-Alexandre Taschereau and great-uncle of Robert Taschereau.
Born in Quebec City, Charles Fitzpatrick studied law at U de Laval and was called to the bar of Quebec in 1876. He acted as chief counsel to Louis Riel during his treason trial in 1885. Fitzpatrick represented Quebec County as a Liberal in the the Quebec Legislative Assembly from 1890 to 1896 and as its MP from 1896 to 1906. He served in the cabinet of Sir Wilfrid Laurier as Solicitor General of Canada from 1896 to 1902, and as Minister of Justice from 1902 until 1906.
Sir Charles resigned as Chief Justice on Nov. 21, 1918, to accept an appointment as Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec, serving until 1923. He died in the summer of 1942.
Pierre-Basile Mignault (1854–1945) was appointed to the Court on Oct.25, 1918. Born in Worcester, MA, he received a BCL from McGill and was called to the Quebec bar in 1878. He then proceeded to practice law in Montreal until 1914, when he was appointed to the International Joint Commission, overseeing boundary waters with America.
On the Court, Mignault was one of the most important proponents of the observance of the subtle points of Quebec civil law and its antecedents in French law of the ancien régime. He wrote a treatise on the history and practice of Quebec civil law in nine volumes between 1885 and 1916, which is still cited in courts today. Mignault retired on Sept. 30, 1929, and died sixteen years later, at the age of 91. Parc Mignault in Montreal is named after him.
Lawrence Arthur Dumoulin Cannon (1877–1939) was appointed by Mackenzie King on Jan. 14, 1930 – his last appointment to the Court before his defeat by R.B. Bennett that August. Born in Arthabaska, QC, Cannon received a BA and an LLL from Université Laval, was called to the Bar in 1899, served on Quebec City Council from 1908 to 1916, and from 1916 to 1923 was the Liberal MLA for Quebec City Centre. He went back to practising law until he was made a judge of the Court of King’s Bench of Quebec in 1927, serving three years. Cannon stayed on the Supreme Court until his death on Dec.25, 1939.
L.A.D. Cannon was the son of Lawrence John Cannon, a justice of the Superior Court of Quebec. He was also the son-in-law of Chief Justice Sir Charles Fitzpatrick, and the brother of Lucien Cannon, Solicitor-General under Mackenzie King. Lucien Cannon is the grandfather of Lawrence Cannon, the former foreign affairs minister and our current ambassador to France. L.A.D. Cannon’s son, Charles Arthur Dumoulin Cannon, was the Liberal MP for the Magdalen Islands from 1949 to 1958.
The Rt. Hon. Robert Taschereau PC CC (1896–1970) was appointed to replace Cannon, his cousin and former law partner, on Feb. 9, 1940. He was the son of Quebec premier Louis-Alexandre Taschereau, grandson of Justice Jean-Thomas Taschereau, and great-nephew of Henri-Elzéar Cardinal Taschereau, Chief Justice Sir Charles Fitzpatrick, and Sir Adolphe-Philippe Caron, defence minister under Macdonald and Postmaster-General under Thompson.
Taschereau was born in Quebec. He studied at Laval University and obtained an LLL in 1920, the year he was called to the bar. Taschereau was the Liberal MNA for Bellechasse from 1930 to 1936, returning to law until he was appointed to the Court. As a puisne justice, Taschereau gained fame in 1946 by co-chairing the Kellock-Taschereau Commission to root out Commies in the government.
As the senior-most justice, Taschereau was promoted to Chief Justice on Apr. 22, 1963. He served as acting Governor-General from Mar. 5 to Apr. 17, 1967, after the death of Georges Vanier. His court established guidelines for the expropriation of land by the NCC in the 1966 case of Munro v. National Capital Commission. But the Robert Taschereau Court is most infamous for the ruling in May 1967 in which it decided 8-1 (Mr. Justice Emmett Hall dissenting) to deny a retrial to Steven Truscott, who had been sentenced to hang in 1959 as a 14-year-old boy when he had been found guilty of murdering a local girl. (His sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1960, was paroled in 1969, and was exonerated in 2007.) Many blamed Taschereau’s poor judgement on his worsening struggle with alcoholism, and he resigned on Sept. 1, 1967, dying three years later.
Louis-Philippe Pigeon CC (1905–1986) was appointed to the Supreme Court by Lester Person on Sept. 21, 1967. Born Henryville, QC, he studied at ULaval and was called to the bar in 1928. He was law clerk to the Quebec legislature from 1940 to 1944, taught constitutional law at his alma mater, was a legal advisor to Quebec premier Jean Lesage and was chairman of the National Council on the Administration of Justice from 1963 to 1967. He also wrote a very influential book on the legal interpretation of statutes and legislation, which he published in 1965. Pigeon served ably on the Court until he retired on Feb. 8, 1980. He died six years later, aged eighty-one.
The Rt. Hon. Joseph Antonio Charles Lamer PC CC CD (1933-2007) was appointed to replace Pigeon by Pierre Trudeau on Mar. 28, 1980. Born in Montreal, Antonio Lamer joined the Army right out of high school. He served in the Royal Canadian Artillery from 1950 to 1954 and in the Canadian Intelligence Corps from 1954 to 1960, and was later Honorary Lieutenant Colonel of the 62nd (Shawinigan) Field Artillery Regiment, RCA, from 1992 to 1998. In 1956, he graduated in law from the Université de Montréal and was called to the bar in Quebec in 1957. He practiced privately and taught law and criminology at his alma mater, and was appointed to both the Quebec Superior Court and the Court of the Queen’s Bench of Quebec in 1969, and promoted to the Quebec Court of Appeal in 1978. In 1987, he married Justice Danièle Tremblay of the Federal Court of Canada. (Justice Tremblay-Lamer is currently sitting as a supernumerary judge of the Federal Court.)
Lamer was made Chief Justice on July 1, 1990. His tenure saw the continued expansion of the importance of the Supreme Court that began under R.G.B. Dickson. R. v. Khan (1990) decided when evidence given by children can be dismissed as hearsay; R. v. Martineau (1990) eliminated the crime of “culpable homicide” under s.213(a) of the Criminal Code, wherein a death caused accidentally in the course of a lesser indictable crime is considered murder; R. v. Hess and R. v. Nguyen (both 1990) found that a person having sex with a minor is not committing statutory rape if he has a justifiable reason to believe the person was not a minor; R. v. Askov (1990) established how to decide if a person faces trial “within a reasonable time”; McKinney v. University of Guelph (1990) decided public universities aren’t really “the government”; R. v. Keegstra and R. v. Andrews (both 1990), importantly, defended the government’s power to censor hate speech; R. v. Sullivan (1991) said fetuses don’t count as legal persons in cases of criminal negligence; Reference re Provincial Electoral Boundaries (Saskatchewan) (1991) decided that the right to vote in Canada does not mean the right to electoral equality, but the right to effective representation in Parliament, and that therefore inequalities in riding population are okay if the constituents are better served by that configuration; Reference re Canada Assistance Plan (B.C.) (1991) decided that courts don’t have to answer reference questions if there’s not enough legal content to the issue; R. v. Jobidon (1991) declared that consent isn’t a valid defence for grievous bodily harm; Kindler v. Canada (Minister of Justice) and Reference Re Ng Extradition (both 1991) told the government that extradition to countries with the death penalty was okay (later reversed in 2001’s United States v. Burns); R. v. McCraw (1991) classified rape threats as threats of serious bodily harm; R. v. Wholesale Travel Group Inc. (1991) pointed out that there is a difference between “true” crimes and regulatory offences; R. v. Stinchcombe (1991) declared that the Crown has the duty to disclose all of the evidence it has to the defence, whether or not it uses it; Canadian Council of Churches v. Canada (Minister of Employment and Immigration) (1992) set new parameters for a party to prove it is personally affected by legislation and thereby be granted standing to challenge its constitutionality in court; R. v. Genereux (1992) found the government, within certain guarantees of judicial independence, could constitutionally set up a separate court-martial courts system; R. v. Butler (1992) found that pornography counts as freedom of expression, but the government can still restrict the sale of violent pornography; Canadian National Railway Co. v. Norsk Pacific Steamship Co. (1992) decided that you can still sue for lost profits under tort law even if the plaintiff doesn’t suffer any physical loss of property; R. v. Nova Scotia Pharmaceutical Society (1992) found that a law worded too vaguely can be struck down as a violation of a right to fundamental justice; R. v. Zundel (1992)struck down a section of the Criminal Code forbidding the publication of false news as a violation of freedom of expression; R. v. Parks (1992) found a person committing a crime while sleepwalking could be declared not guilty by reason of automatism; London Drugs Ltd. v. Kuehne & Nagel International Ltd. (1992) found that privity of contract, a legal principle limiting a contract’s effects to be strictly between its signatories, does not mean that the contract’s obligations and protections do not extend to employees of the signatories; New Brunswick Broadcasting Co. v. Nova Scotia (Speaker of the House of Assembly) (1993) claimed parliamentary privilege is an unwritten part of the Constitution; R. v. K.G.B. (1993) found that prior inconsistent statements are admissible in court when they are necessary and the witness can be cross-examined; Hall v. Hebert (1993) decided the doctrine of ex turpi causa non oritur actio (from a bad cause, no action comes) only applies when the plaintiff would profit from illegal activity or subvert a criminal penalty, and that otherwise normal civil or criminal damages should be awarded; Canada v. Ward (1993) defined “persecution” in refugee claims to include non-state-sanctioned persecutors; Ramsden v. City of Peterborough (1993) struck down a bylaw prohibiting posters on public property as an unconstitutional interdiction of freedom of expression; Ontario Hydro v. Ontario (Labour Relations Board) (1993) found that the federal government’s jurisdiction under Section 92(10) of the Constitution Act of 1867 over public works “declared by the Parliament of Canada to be for the general advantage of Canada” to extend to incidental matters (in this instance, labour relations); R. v. Morgentaler (1993) struck down provincial regulations on abortion, like it had for federal regulations in the case of the same name in 1988; Rodriguez v. British Columbia (Attorney General) (1993) determined that there is no constitutional right to assisted suicide; R. v. Dersch (1993) decided that police need a warrant to obtain confidential medical records; R. v. Marquard (1993) found that an expert giving evidence in areas outside his expertise should be disregarded at trial; Hunt v. T&N plc (1993) determined that the court orders of a provincial superior court could override provincial laws passed in other provinces that would deter its execution; R. v. Daviault (1994) found that being drunk is only a valid criminal defence only when drunk to the point of insanity or automatism; Native Women’s Association of Canada v. Canada (1994) found that the government is not obliged to financially support interest groups while drafting Constitutional amendments; R. v. Heywood (1994) struck down the laws against vagrancy in the Criminal Code, after finding that it was written so broadly that it had essentially made loitering a criminal offense; Dagenais v. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (1994) set out the modern guidelines on issuing publication bans in criminal trials; Miron v. Trudel (1995) decided that making offers to married couples and excluding common-law partners is discrimination; Egan v. Canada (1995) established the Charter right to freedom from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation; R. v. Park (1995) established a judge does not have to tell a jury in a sex assault case to consider the accused mistakenly believed he had consent if the defence does not have an “air of reality”; Weber v. Ontario Hydro (1995) declared that a labour arbitration board can be counted as a “court of competent jurisdiction”; R. v. Hibbert (1995) found that criminal defence of duress is an excuse, not a mental impairment; Hill v. Church of Scientology of Toronto (1995) established that in cases not involving the government where common law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms conflict, the Charter is to be interpreted in favour of common law, not the other way around; R. v. Jorgensen (1995) made it clearer how one “knowingly” distributes obscene materials; R. v. Badger (1996) ruled that ambiguity in aboriginal treaty rights should give the benefit if the doubt to the Aboriginals; R. v. Van der Peet (1996) decided aboriginal fishing rights don’t confer the right to sell the fish, just to catch them; R. v. Pamajewon (1996) decided aboriginal self-government is subject to reasonable limitations, and does not include the right to control gambling; Adler v. Ontario (1996) decided the constitutional guarantee of public funding of separate Catholic education in Ontario did not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; R. v. Noble (1997) ruled the exercising of the right to silence of the accused cannot be given credence at trial; R. v. Feeney (1997) found police are not even allowed to enter a private house for non-emergency reasons without permission or a search warrant; R. v. Hydro-Québec (1997) decided environmental protection was both a federal and provincial jurisdiction; R. v. Belnavis (1997) decreed the backseat of a car is not a place that can reasonably expected to be private; R. v. R.D.S. (1997) established how to decide if a judge is biased; Wallace v. United Grain Growers Ltd. (1997) established that damages can be awarded for wrongful dismissal if the employer does the firing in bad faith; Godbout v. City of Longueuil (1997) found laws requiring municipal workers to reside in the municipality they work for to be a Charter violation; Delgamuukw v. British Columbia (1997) saw the Supreme Court openly and definitely decline to declare why Aboriginal people deserve entitlements; R. v. Lucas (1998) found laws against defamatory libel to be a “reasonable limit” on freedom of expression covered under Section 1 of the Charter; Vriend v. Alberta (1998) declared that provincial governments could not exclude sexual orientation from their human rights codes; Aubry v. Éditions Vice-Versa Inc. (1998) established that you do not need consent from someone to photograph them in a public place, but you do need their permission to publish it; Thomson Newspapers Co. v. Canada (Attorney General) (1998) struck down a law prohibiting the publication of opinion polls within three days; Pushpanathan v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) (1998) established the standards to review the decisions of the Immigration and Refugee Board; Reference re Secession of Quebec (1998) ruled that the unilateral separation of Quebec from Canada was unconstitutional, but that if there was a clear majority in favour of separation, the federal government was obliged to negotiate in good faith with Quebec on matters of secession; R. v. Cuerrier (1998) found that infecting people with HIV counts as aggravated assault; Cadbury Schweppes Inc. v. FBI Foods Ltd. (1999) sorted out the legal status of the sanctity of trade secrets, and the ways they differ from patents; R. v. Godoy (1999) decided an anonymous 9-1-1 call is sufficient grounds for police to forcibly enter a residence; R. v. Ewanchuk (1999) eliminated the defence of implied consent as a defence to charges of sexual assault; Law v. Canada (1999) established the “Law Test” for adjudicating claims of violation of equality rights under section 15 of the Charter; M. v. H. (1999) gave same-sex common-law couples the same rights as straight couples; Bazley v. Curry (1999) made the rules on the vicarious liability of non-profit organizations; Litigation Guardian of Dobson v. Dobson (1999) ruled women can’t be sued for negligence to their fetuses during pregnancy; British Columbia (Public Service Employee Relations Commission) v. British Columbia Government Service Employees’ Union (1999), known as the Meiorin Case, created a unified rule on when human rights legislation can be justifiably broken for a bona fide occupational requirement; New Brunswick (Minister of Health and Community Services) v. J. G. (1999) decided that parents fighting for custody against the state have the right to legal aid; and British Columbia (Superintendent of Motor Vehicles) v. British Columbia (Council of Human Rights) (1999), known as the Grismer Estate Case, held that any blanket discrimination based on disability without any attempt at accommodation is unconstitutional.
Lamer retired on Jan. 6, 2000, and was made Associate Professor of Law at the Université de Montréal and Honorary Colonel of the Governor General’s Foot Guards; he was also Communications Security Establishment Commissioner from 2003 to 2006. From 2003 to 2006 he chaired an inquiry conducted by the Newfoundland government surrounding the wrongful criminal proceedings in three murder cases. He died of heart failure in 2007.
Louis LeBel (1939-now) was appointed to the Supreme Court by Jean Chrétien on Jan. 7, 2000. LeBel was born in Quebec City. He graduated in 1958 from Collège des Jesuites, earned his law degree at Université Laval and was called to the bar in 1962, then went on to get an LL.M from the University of Toronto in 1966. He was a top student, winning the Governor General’s medal. He practiced law in Quebec City and taught at University of Ottawa and Université Laval until 1984, when he was appointed directly to the Quebec Court of Appeal, where he sat for 16 years.