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Honorary degree citation - John Major

By: Marcel Danis, December 2003

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you a successful lawyer and skilled adjudicator, The Honourable Justice Mr. John C. (Jack) Major of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Born in Mattawa, Ontario on February 20, 1931, Justice Major received his education at Loyola College and the University of Toronto. He was called to the Alberta Bar in 1958, and went on to practice law with Bennett, Jones, Verchere in Calgary, becoming a senior partner in 1967. That firm now employs about 300 attorneys throughout the country.

Justice Major gained a lot of courtroom experience in his years as an attorney, and was involved in important legal matters that brought real change in local, provincial and federal government policies and legislation.

Early in his career, he served as a counselor in the Alberta inquiry into pre-paid arrangements at funeral homes, which resulted in legislation that changed how salespeople handled sales of eternal care plots in cemeteries.

Né à Mattawa (Ontario) le 20 février 1931, John Major fait ses études au Collège Loyola et à l'Université de Toronto. Il est admis au Barreau de l'Alberta en 1958 et exerce le droit au sein du cabinet Bennett, Jones, Verchères à Calgary, où il devient associé principal en 1967. Ce cabinet compte aujourd'hui près de 300 avocats à travers le pays.

Il acquiert une expérience considérable et s'engage dans des causes juridiques majeures qui mènent à des changements significatifs dans les politiques et les lois régionales, provinciales et fédérales.

Au début de sa carrière, il agit à titre de conseiller dans l'enquête menée en Alberta sur la vente d'arrangements préalables de services funéraires et de sépulture, dont les conclusions entraîneront des changements dans les règles déontologiques imposées aux vendeurs.

Cet homme réputé pour la sûreté de son jugement est pressenti par différentes instances pour les conseiller et notamment à la Commission de police de Calgary où il agit à titre de négociateur dans les services publics. Il a également siégé au conseil d'administration de la compagnie aérienne Canadien, dont il est devenu vice-président, et à celui de la compagnie Domtar.

He also represented the Federal Tax department on the Inquiry into the Royal American Shows, and examined tax evasion, dishonest gaming, and bribes to city and law­ enforcement authorities. This eventually led to the formation of the Macdonald Commission, which recommended that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's intelligence duties be redirected and prompted the creation of CSIS as a separate body to handle matters of protection of the national security interests of Canada and safeguarding its citizens.

Justice Major dealt with malpractice suits for the Alberta Medical Association, and was at one point the sole Alberta counsel. The Association now employs 50 attorneys.

He has been sought outside the courtroom for his wise decision-making abilities, and sat on the Calgary Police Commission, acting as a negotiator and dealing with public utilities. His involvement in the business world included being on the board and becoming vice chair of Canadian Airlines and being a board member of Domtar.

After a successful career in litigation, Justice Major was appointed to the Alberta Court of Appeal on July 11, 1991, and went on to the Supreme Court of Canada little more than a year later, on November 13, 1992.

His has been a career marked by innovation, successful arbitrating and fair adjudication. In his capacities as an attorney and a judge, he has always had an effect on policy, and in the last twelve years heard and ruled on cases that have defined a decade and a nation.

Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and an honour to present to you The Honourable Justice Mr. John C. Major, so that you may confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

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