Antonio Lamer, best-known as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada from 1990 to 2000, has died in Ottawa at age 74 after several weeks in hospital.
Lamer died Saturday, peacefully and surrounded by family members, said Eugene Meehan, a former aide and longtime friend.
He had been in and out of hospital several times in recent years suffering from recurring heart problems.
Born Joseph Antonio Charles Lamer in east-end Montreal, he began his legal career in 1957 and became renowned as an authority on criminal law.
Lamer put in nearly 20 years on the high court and spent a decade as chief of the nine-member bench.
He joined the Supreme Court in 1980, two years before the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted.
Lamer said in a CBC interview that once the Charter was in place, some judges found it "somewhat of a shock to see their job description changed so fundamentally."
Under the Charter, a law found to contravene an individual's constitutional rights could be struck down, something that happened with Canada's abortion law in 1988. This and other Charter cases ushered in an era that critics have denounced as judicial activism.
In an interview shortly before his retirement from the high court, Lamer spoke of the court's difficult role in interpreting the rights of the individual.
"It's not for me to criticize legislators but if they choose not to legislate, that's their doing," he told Southam News. "If they prefer to leave it up to the court, that's their choice. But a problem is not going to go away because legislators aren't dealing with it. People say we're activist, but we're doing our job."
He also said judges on the high court have been conservative in their approach and are reluctant to strike down legislation.
In January 2000, at 66, Lamer retired from the high court, but continued to work. In one of his jobs, he was an associate professor of law at the University of Montreal.
In March 2003, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador chose Lamer to oversee an inquiry into how the criminal justice system dealt with three discredited murder convictions. The hearings lasted about three years.
In May 2004, when the inquiry was well into its second year, Lamer suffered a mild heart attack at 70. About six weeks' worth of scheduled sessions were postponed and Lamer took the rest of the summer off to recover before the inquiry resumed in September of that year.With files from the Canadian Press
- More airport security, other actions needed, CBSA says in Taser incident report
- The Canada Border Services Agency will beef up patrols and have more security checks and cameras at Vancouver's airport, says a CBSA report released Monday that gives a timeline of the night Robert Dziekanski died after he was shocked with an RCMP Taser in October.
- Ottawa pays $45.6M to lawyers involved in residential school cases
- More than $45 million has recently been paid to residential school lawyers — one of the largest legal bills in Canadian history.
- Child poverty rates unchanged in nearly 2 decades: report
- The rate of child poverty in Canada is the same as it was in 1989, an advocacy group reported Monday while calling on the federal government to skip a planned GST cut to help tackle the issue.
- Liberal MP John Godfrey to leave federal politics
- John Godfrey, a longtime Liberal MP, announced Monday that he's leaving federal politics.
- Death of 81-year-old unnoticed in Montreal-operated residence
- An 81-year-old Montreal woman lay dead for about a week in a city-operated, low-income seniors home before anyone noticed, and other residents say the city has been neglecting the property.