Estey, Willard (1919-2002)

Willard Zebedee Estey was born in Saskatoon on October 10, 1919. He was the son of James Wilfred Estey, a Supreme Court of Canada Justice, and Muriel Baldwin. He graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a BA in 1940 and an LLB in 1942. After serving in World War II, Estey went to Harvard Law School and completed an LLM in 1946. He taught at the University of Saskatchewan for a year, and in 1947 joined a Toronto law firm. In 1973 he was appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal; in 1975 he was named Chief Justice of the High Court of Justice of Ontario; he became Chief Justice of Ontario in 1976; and he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada on September 29, 1977. Estey received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Wilfrid Laurier University in 1977 and served as that university’s sixth chancellor from 1990 to 1995. In 1985 Estey chaired the Commission of Inquiry into the Collapse of the Canadian Commercial Bank and Northland Bank, and his report absolved the government of blame. In 1990, Estey was appointed to the Order of Canada by Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn. Justice Estey served on the Supreme Court for eleven years, and had the distinction of writing the Supreme Court’s first ruling under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1984. He also headed numerous government inquires and was named a companion to the Order of Canada. Justice Estey retired on April 22, 1988 and died on January 25, 2002.

Daria Coneghan