Farewell to the Right Honorable Antonio Lamer, Former Chief Justice of Canada

The Right Honorable Antonio Lamer, the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court between 1990 and 2000 who passed away on the weekend, lay in repose earlier today in the Main Hall in the lobby of the Supreme Court building.

His flag-draped casket had an honour guard of 5 soldiers from the Governor General’s Foot Guards and a Mountie in ceremonial red serge uniform. Lamer was Honorary Colonel of the Foot Guards.

Numerous members of the public and the legal profession came to pay their last respects and were filing by all afternoon long. When I left my office to go down to the Hall to have a look, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Official Opposition Leader Stéphane Dion were there, expressing their condolences to Lamer’s family.

A religious ceremony will be held at the Marie‑Reine‑du‑Monde Cathedral in Montreal on Friday, November 30, 2007 at 1:00 p.m. The family will receive visitors from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 29, 2007, and from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Friday, November 30, 2007, at the Centre funéraire Côte‑des‑Neiges, 4525 Chemin de la Côte‑des‑Neiges, in Montreal.

A private memorial ceremony by invitation only will be held at the Supreme Court of Canada on Monday, December 3, 2007 at 3:00 p.m.


  • Mourners pay respects to former chief justice in Ottawa (CBC Ottawa): “On Wednesday, an honour guard from the Governor General’s Foot Guard accompanied his casket, draped with a Canadian flag, into the Grand Hall of the building where he served as chief justice from 1990 until his retirement in 2000. There it lay in repose, a formal ceremony where the public can pay respects to a dignitary.”
  • The Legacy of the Right Honourable Antonio Lamer: A Model of Judicial Independence (James Stribopoulos, The Court, November 27, 2007): “Justice Lamer arrived at the Supreme Court on the eve of the Charter’s entrenchment. He quickly stood out amongst his colleagues as a judge with a perspective on the Charter that was as clear as it was ambitious. It took Justice Lamer very little time at all to offer what remains to this day the strongest defence of the Charter and the role of the judiciary under it ever offered by a Canadian jurist. Very much aware of the fact that the Charter was viewed with much skepticism in many quarters, including by many conservative judges, Justice Lamer was unapologetic in explaining how and why everything had changed (…) For Justice Lamer the role of the judge was to do what was right, irrespective of whether or not it also happened to be popular. As he explained to Macleans during a 1998 interview: ‘Let’s not forget there are no jobs in the world that enjoy our tenure of office. You can’t fire a judge. He can’t be terminated except by both houses of Parliament. The sole justification for that is to make it possible for him to do the unpopular thing, without fear of losing his job, when it’s the right thing to do. You don’t usually need judges to do the popular thing – politicians do it for them’.”
  • Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Lamer Dies (Library Boy, November 26, 2007): “Lamer had little patience with political critics who accused him – or any of his fellow judges – of unwarranted activism or of usurping the role of elected legislators. As chief justice for the decade from 1990 to his retirement in 2000 he staunchly defended his record in speeches and letters to the editor. ‘When I read, when I hear, that the court has become activist, well it hasn’t become activist under my stewardship, it has always been activist,’ he said.”

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