CBA statement on the passing of former prime minister John N. Turner, Q.C.

  • September 21, 2020

The Canadian Bar Association is saddened at the passing of former prime minister John Napier Turner, Q.C., on Sept. 18. Mr. Turner had been a CBA member for more than 60 years, joining in 1955.

Mr. Turner served in a number of cabinet positions during his years in federal politics. As Justice Minister for four years under Pierre Trudeau he made his mark.

In a 1969 speech to the Canadian Bar Association, Mr. Turner set high standards, saying:

“We will do everything we can within the limits imposed on by Parliament and the Constitution to balance the rights of the individual citizen against the State. In a world where the young, the dispossessed, the disenchanted, and the urban poor find the State more and more remote, where bigness becomes oppressive, we have to look for ways of restoring the recourses and remedies of the citizen against the Government. … I am determined to promote equality of access and equality of treatment before the law as between the rich and the poor alike in this country.”

While in that role, Mr. Turner created the Law Reform Commission and the Canadian Judicial Council. He also tried to get the provinces to sign on to a national legal aid system based on the example of medicare – an idea the Canadian Bar Association endorsed in 1970 – which unfortunately has yet to be realized.

The CBA extends its condolences to Mr. Turner’s family, friends and colleagues.