Photo: Gowra Prashad
The Honourable Roland Roy McMurtry, former Chief Justice of Ontario, was born in Toronto in 1932. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto (Trinity College) in 1954, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1958. While attending university, he was admitted to the Zeta Psi fraternity and became a close friend of future Premier of Ontario, William G. Davis, his football teammate. He practised law for 17 years before being elected to the Ontario Legislature in 1975. Immediately upon his election, he was appointed by then Premier William Davis as the Attorney General for Ontario.
Over 1975-1985, as Attorney General, McMurtry was responsible for the introduction and passage of more than 50 provincial statutes that improved the administration of justice in Ontario, established a bilingual court system, and launched a province-wide network of community legal clinics focusing on such issues as housing and workers’ compensation. He argued major constitutional cases before the Supreme Court of Canada, including the landmark case in 1981 that led to the new Constitution.
He played an instrumental role in the negotiations leading to Canada’s repatriated Constitution in the early 1980s. A late night "kitchen accord" among McMurtry, Jean Chrétien and Roy Romanow in November 1981 played a significant role in ending the federal-provincial constitutional deadlock, allowing the Constitution to come into law the following year. Roy McMurtry also played a key role in the negotiations on Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
From 1985 until late 1988, McMurtry served as Canada's High Commissioner to Great Britain. Upon his return to Canada, he re-entered the practice of law and became chairman and chief executive officer of the Canadian Football League. In 1991, he was appointed Associate Chief Justice of the Superior Court, Trial Division and Chief Justice of that court in 1994. In February, 1996, he was appointed Chief Justice of Ontario. Currently, he is a member of the Estate Law Firm, Hull and Hull LLP, where, based in their Toronto office, he serves as counsel to the firm.
In his personal time, McMurtry has become an accomplished landscape artist. His paintings enjoy prominent display in Canada and internationally.