Emmett Matthew Hall

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The Honourable Mr. Justice Emmett Hall

Emmett Matthew Hall, CC, QC (November 9, 1898 – November 11, 1995) was a Canadian jurist and civil liberties advocate and is considered one of the fathers of the Canadian system of Medicare.

Life and career[edit]

Hall was born in Quebec but moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1910 when his family took over a dairy farm. He received his law degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 1919 and practised as a defence lawyer in a number of significant cases for a number of years before being appointed to the bench.

In 1927 and at 29 years of age, Emmett Hall would give his first appearance in the Supreme Court of Canada as a defense attorney in Schofield v. Glenn and Babb; defending wheat farmers from liability if their stock was compromised by free range livestock. Emmett Hall would win his case for his clients when the decision was made that his clients had made a reasonable effort to prevent their stock from being eaten by livestock.

Hall, a devout Catholic, would also act as the defence attorney in the 1928 Maloney v. Dealtry libel trial. The plaintiff was a prominent member of the Ku Klux Klan who came to Saskatchewan to promote the Klan in preparation for the upcoming 1929 Saskatchewan general election which had shown signs of religious tension being a decisive factor. The plaintiff accused the defendant of seditious libel for comments made in a publication he printed and which, the plaintiff’s counsel would argue, were seditious because they had caused a public fracas. Hall would go on to lose the case and the defendant was fined $200 and prohibited from publishing such material in the future. The Ku Klux Klan would burn an effigy of Hall in response to his participation in the case.

In July 1935, Hall, along with a fellow Saskatoon lawyer, P.G. Makaroff, would defend the cases of many of the On-to-Ottawa trekkers against the charges pressed against them by the federal government for their part in the Regina riot of July 1935 where plain clothes police officer Charles Miller was killed in the line of duty.

In 1935 Emmett Hall would be appointed to King’s Counsel.

He became chief justice of the Court of Queen's Bench for Saskatchewan in 1957 and chief justice of Saskatchewan in 1961. In 1962 he became a puisne justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and served on the high court until his retirement in 1973.

Hall chaired a royal commission on the national health system in 1964 that recommended the nationwide adoption of Saskatchewan's model of public health insurance. His recommendations led to the establishment of Canada's national medicare system. He also chaired numerous other royal commissions into education, court structure and grain handling, most notably the 1968 Committee on Aims and Objectives of Education which issued the Hall-Dennis Report which recommended adapting education to the stages of child development.

In 1967 his was the sole dissent in the Supreme Court 8 to 1 judgment upholding the 1959 conviction of Steven Truscott.

In 1974 he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Further reading[edit]

  • Vaughan, Frederick; Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History (2004). Aggressive in Pursuit: The Life of Justice Emmett Hall. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-3957-X. 

External links[edit]


Legal offices
Preceded by
William Melville Martin
Chief Justice of Saskatchewan
1961–1962
Succeeded by
E. M. Culliton
Preceded by
Charles Locke
Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada
November 23, 1962 – March 1, 1973
Succeeded by
Brian Dickson/
Jean Beetz/
Louis-Philippe de Grandpré
Academic offices
Preceded by
George Drew
Chancellor of the University of Guelph
1971–1977
Succeeded by
Pauline McGibbon
Preceded by
John Diefenbaker
Chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan
1979–1986
Succeeded by
Sylvia Fedoruk