Supreme Court Season 2: Season of the SCC: Part 5

Fournier J, Girouard J, Brodeur J, Malouin J, Rinfret CJ, Abbott J, Beetz J, Gonthier J, Fish J

Fournier J, Girouard J, Brodeur J, Malouin J, Rinfret CJ, Abbott J, Beetz J, Gonthier J, Fish J


The Hon. Télesphore Fournier PC (1823-1896) was appointed to the inaugural Supreme Court on Sept. 30, 1875. Born in Saint-François-de-la-Rivière-du-Sud, QC, he went to school at the Nicolet seminary, began articling in 1842 and was called to the bar in 1846. He was the co-editor of the Le National de Québec newspaper from 1855 to 1859. Fournier was the Liberal MP for Bellechasse from 1870 to 1875 and concurrently the Quebec MLA for Montmagny from 1871 to 1873. He served in the cabinet of Alexander Mackenzie as Minister of Inland Revenue (1873–1874), Minister of Justice and Attorney General (1874–1875) and Postmaster General (1875) before leaving for the Court. Fournier retired on Sept. 12, 1895, and died in May of 1896 at the age of 72.

Désiré Girouard (1836-1911) replaced Fournier on Sept. 28, 1895. Born in Saint-Timothée, QC, he received a BCL from McGill and was called to the bar in 1860. He served as the Conservative MP for Jacques-Cartier from 1878 to 1895 and was elected Mayor of Dorval in 1892.

Girouard served on the Court until his death on Mar. 22, 1911. His son, Sir Édouard Percy Cranwill Girouard KCMG DSO, was an accomplished civil engineer and British colonial governor, serving as Governor of Northern Nigeria from 1907 to 1909 and Governor of the East Africa Protectorate (now Kenya) from 1909 to 1912. Sir Édouard’s grandson, Mark Girouard, is a noted architectural historian and an expert on the history of the traditional English country house.

The Hon. Louis-Philippe Brodeur PC (1862-1924) was appointed to the Supreme Court on Aug. 11, 1911. Born in Beloeil, QC, he graduated from Laval and was called to the bar in 1884. He wrote and edited some newspapers before serving as the Liberal MP for Rouville from 1891 to 1911, serving as Speaker of the House of Commons from 1900 to 1904, Minister of Inland Revenue from 1904 to 1906, Minister of Marine and Fisheries from 1906 to 1910 and Minister of the Naval Service from 1910 to 1911.

Brodeur left the Supreme Court on Oct. 10, 1923, to serve as Lieutenant Governor of Quebec. He died in Quebec City on New Year’s Day, 1924.

Arthur Cyrille Albert Malouin (1857-1936) was appointed to the Court on Jan. 30, 1924, lasting barely more than 8 months – the shortest tenure of any Supreme Court justice. Malouin was born in Quebec City, graduated from Laval and passed the bar in 1882. He was Liberal MP for Quebec Centre from 1898 to 1905 and a judge of the Quebec Superior Court from 1905 to 1924. Malouin retired from the Court on Oct. 1, 1924, and died 12 years later.

The Rt. Hon. Thibaudeau Rinfret PC (1879-1962) replaced Malouin on Oct. 1, 1924. Rinfret was born in Montréal; his brother was the Hon. Fernand Rinfret PC, Liberal MP for St. James from 1920 to 1939, Secretary of State for Canada under Mackenzie King and Mayor of Montreal from 1932 to 1934.

Thibaudeau attended Laval and McGill and passed the bar in 1901. He practiced privately in Montreal until being appointed as a judge of the Quebec Superior Court in 1922.

Rinfret was appointed Chief Justice on Jan. 8, 1944. As Chief Justice, Rinfret saw the end of judicial appeals to the Imperial Privy Council in 1949, making the Supreme Court truly supreme. One of the most important rulings of his Court was 1949’s Reference re Validity of Section 5(a) of the Dairy Industry Act, usually called the “Margarine Reference”, which struck down the government’s ban on the production of margarine and set stricter definitions on what constitutes criminal law. Frey v. Fedoruk et al. (1950) decided what constitutes a breach of the peace. R. v. Boucher (1951) declared that criticism of the government is not seditious libel. R. v. Azoulay (1952) decided that judges have an obligation to explain confusing evidence to juries.

Rinfret was acting Governor General of Canada from Jan. 28 to Feb. 28, 1952, between the tenures of the Earl Alexander of Tunis and Vincent Massey. In that role, Rinfret proclaimed Elizabeth II Queen of Canada on Feb. 6 of that year. Rinfret retired from the Court on June 22, 1954, and died in 1962.

The Hon. Douglas Charles Abbott PC (1899-1987) joined the Court on July 1, 1954. D.C. Abbott was born in Lennoxville, QC, and earned a BA from Bishop’s University before joining the Army in 1916 and seeing action in France in World War I. After the war he earned a BCL from McGill, studied law at the Université de Dijon, and passed the bar of Quebec in 1921. Abbott was the Liberal MP for Saint-Antoine – Westmount from 1940 to 1954, serving under King and Saint-Laurent as Minister of National Defence (1945-46) and Minister of Finance (1946-54).

Abbott retired from the Supreme Court on Dec. 23, 1973. His son, the Hon. Anthony Abbott PC, was Liberal MP for Mississauga from 1974 to 1979 and served as Minister of National Revenue under Trudeau.

Jean-Marie Philémon Joseph Beetz CC (1927-1991) replaced Abbott on Jan. 1, 1974. Born in Montreal, QC, Jean Beetz earned an LLL from the Université de Montréal, a Rhodes Scholarship and received a BA from Oxford University in 1953, then was called to the bar and taught constitutional law at the Université de Montréal until he was appointed to the Quebec Court of Appeal in 1973. An expert in constitutional law, Beetz was special counsel to Pierre Trudeau leading up to the patriation of the Constitution in 1982. Beetz retired on Nov. 10, 1988, and died three years later.

Charles Doherty Gonthier CC (1928-2009) was appointed by Mulroney on Feb. 1, 1989. Gonthier was born in Montreal. His father, Georges Gonthier, was the Auditor-General of Canada, and his maternal grandfather, the Rt. Hon. Charles Doherty PC, was Minister of Justice under Borden and a Canadian delegate to the Versailles Peace Conference. Charles Gonthier earned a BCL from McGill and passed the bar in 1952. He was appointed to the Quebec Superior Court in 1974, then to the Quebec Court of Appeal in 1988. Gonthier retired on Aug. 1, 2003, and died in 2009.

Morris Jacob Fish (1938-now) was appointed to the Supreme Court on Aug. 5, 2003, the last appointment by Jean Chrétien. Born in Montreal, Fish was a bright and promising student at McGill, earning a BA and a BCL, then did postgrad work at the Université de Paris before passing the bar of Quebec in 1964. An expert in criminal law, Fish was a part-time professor of law at McGill, the University of Ottawa and the Université de Montréal, and was appointed to the Quebec Court of Appeal in 1989. He was also a reporter for the Montreal Star from 1959 to 1970.

Fish retired on Aug. 31, 2013. Prime Minister Harper attempted to appoint Mr. Justice Richard Nadon of the Federal Court to the seat, but the Supreme Court ruled in the Reference re Supreme Court Act in March 2014 that Nadon’s long tenure on the Federal Court was not adequately linked to the bar of Quebec and so was ineligible for the seat. The seat is still vacant.


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