The Sunday Magazine

Pressure mounts to correct the injustice done to the late Supreme Court Justice Gerald Le Dain

What happened to Gerald Le Dain after a battle with depression abruptly ended his career? Why was he not given credit for significant judgments to which he had contributed? What are the prospects for an apology to the Le Dain family?
Justice Gerald Le Dain in his Supreme Court of Canada robes. (Submitted by the Le Dain family)

One of our most respected and accomplished legal thinkers did not willingly resign from the Supreme Court of Canada, as previously believed.

The late Justice Gerald Le Dain was forced off the bench.

This happened after his wife appealed to then-Chief Justice Brian Dickson for some time off for her husband. She said he had been carrying a heavy caseload while suffering from clinical depression. Rather than granting a medical leave, Dickson asked Le Dain to hand in a letter of resignation. He complied.

Three decades later, producer Bonnie Brown appealed to those in the know to share his story, including a former justice of the Supreme Court, former law clerks, and Le Dain's family.

After we aired her documentary, "One Judge Down," there was a great deal of feedback, through letters and comments on social media. Many asked pointed questions: about what happened to Gerald Le Dain after his career ended so abruptly; about why he was not given credit for significant judgments to which he had contributed; and about the prospects for an apology to the Le Dain family.

​'His intellect never flagged, but I always felt that in some respects his treatment at the court punctured his soul, and you could see the air slowly coming out.'- David Butt
Former Supreme Court Justice Gerald Le Dain. This photo was taken as one of a series of photographs Palmer did of Companion of Canada recipients called A Portrait of the Companions of Canada. (Harry Palmer)
Guest host Gillian Findlay and Bonnie Brown read some of the mail. Then, along with David Butt, they discuss the epilogue to Bonnie's documentary. David Butt was a law clerk for Le Dain during his tenure on the Supreme Court and is now a criminal lawyer in Toronto.

Even though Le Dain recovered from his depression, the answer to the question, "What happened next?" is not a happy one.

David Butt says of his former mentor, "His intellect never flagged, but I always felt that in some respects his treatment at the court punctured his soul, and you could see the air slowly coming out."

We have also posted a transcript of Bonnie Brown's documentary. You can read it here.

Click 'listen' above to hear this segment. 

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