In Memoriam Gerald Le Dain

Sad news from the Supreme Court today of the death of Gerald Eric Le Dain, law teacher and judge. He was educated at McGill University and the University of Lyon, where he became a Docteur de l’Université in 1950. He practised law with Walker, Martineau, Chauvin, Walker & Allison in Montreal, and taught at McGill University, before becoming dean of Osgoode Hall Law School in 1967.

On a personal note Gerry gave both of the Slaw Simons their first academic jobs.

For Canadians of a certain age, his name will be associated with the Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs, which he chaired.

His judicial career started at the Federal Court of Appeal and the Court Martial Appeal Court. He was elevated to the Supreme Court of Canada on May 29, 1984. Justice Le Dain served on the Supreme Court for four years and retired on November 30, 1988.

Justice Le Dain took the judicial role very seriously. It troubled him that on the Court he had to make important policy choices, especially under the Charter, in which there was no effective authority beyond the Court. He showed just how difficult and tough it can be to be a judge. He will be remembered for cases such as Central Trust v. Rafuse and Canadian Pacific Hotels Ltd. v. Bank of Montreal and R. v. Thomsen


  1. I was sad, indeed, to see that Gerry had died. I well remember his asking me to teach and all of his warm, helpful encouragement and support. He was, among many other things, a kind man.

    He was, too, a man of passions. And, accordingly, he had a temper that could flare. At a faculty meeting where we were arguing a point long since forgotten, the discussion grew heated. These were the times when people feared or hoped that significant social change was possible and rhetoric was ramped up accordingly. At any rate, something was said that wounded Gerry’s amour propre — a favourite expression of his — and he angrily stormed from the room, leaving a somewhat difficult silence in his wake. Perhaps three minutes later, the door to the chamber opened and in popped Gerry, smiling and explaining that he’d left his galoshes behind. Overshoes in hand he made a second and much calmer exit. The charm — and bathos — of all of this left us laughing for the rest of the meeting.

    He will be much missed. My condolences to his wonderful family.