Ian Binnie

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The Honourable Mr. Justice
William Ian Corneil Binnie
Justice Ian Binnie.png
70th Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada
In office
January 8, 1998 – October 21, 2011
Nominated by Jean Chrétien
Preceded by John Sopinka
Succeeded by Andromache Karakatsanis / Michael J. Moldaver
Personal details
Born (1939-04-14) April 14, 1939 (age 76)
Montreal, Quebec

William Ian Corneil Binnie CC (born April 14, 1939) is a former puisne justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, serving from 1998 to 2011.[1] Of the justices appointed to the Supreme Court in recent years, he is one of the few to have never sat as a judge prior to his appointment. He was described by the Toronto Star as "one of the strongest hands on the court."[2]

Personal life and career as lawyer[edit]

Binnie was born in Montreal, Quebec. He graduated from McGill University in 1960, where he was a member of the Kappa Alpha Society and the Scarlet Key Honor Society, and went on the study law at Cambridge University (graduating with an LL.B in 1963 and an LL.M in 1988) and the University of Toronto (LL.B in 1965). He was called to the Ontario bar in 1967 and practiced private law at Wright & McTaggart and its successor firms until 1982, at which point he went to work as Associate Deputy Minister of Justice for the Government of Canada. In 1986, he went on to practice at McCarthy Tétrault, until he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1998, replacing Justice John Sopinka. Just as with his predecessor, Binnie had never sat as a judge before his appointment to the Supreme Court.

Prior to his appointment, he had argued numerous cases in front of the Court. For example, he was lead counsel for the defendant in the notable case of R. v. Wholesale Travel Inc.

In May 2011, Binnie announced his plans to retire as early as August 30, 2011, unless there was a delay in the appointment of his replacement.[3][4] He continued until Michael Moldaver and Andromache Karakatsanis were sworn in on October 27, 2011, replacing him and Louise Charron, who had left the court on August 30, 2011.

On November 16, 2011, the New Zealand Justice Minister Simon Power announced that Binnie had been selected to review the David Bain case and Bain's request for compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment.[5]

In April 2012, Binnie joined Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin, a Toronto litigation boutique, as counsel.[6] He also joined Arbitration Place as Resident Arbitrator, presiding over both Canadian and international arbitrations.[7]

David Bain compensation claim[edit]

In 2011, Binnie was asked by New Zealand Minister of Justice Simon Power to investigate a compensation claim made by David Bain, who spent 13 years in prison for murdering his family, but was eventually acquitted in a retrial. The case made frequent headlines in New Zealand and divided public opinion because of the drawn-out nature of the appeals process, which went all the way to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London.

After a 12-month investigation,[8] Binnie concluded that original police investigation was incompetent, declared Bain to be innocent on the 'balance of probabilities' and recommended he should be paid compensation. The new Justice Minister Judith Collins rejected the findings of the report,[9] saying it lacked robust reasoning and showed a misunderstanding New Zealand law.[10] This led to a public spat between the New Zealand Minister of Justice and Justice Binnie, who accused Judith Collins of politicising the process.[11] Collins said the government would be getting a second opinion on compensation without letting Bain's legal team know what was in it,[12] a decision Bain supporters slammed as a double standard.[13] Binnie criticised Collins for refusing to give a copy of the report to Bain's legal team and for leaking details of his report to the media.[14]

Colleagues in Canada rallied to his defence. The President of the Canadian Bar Association, Robert Brun, QC, said Binnie "is held in the highest esteem by both the legal community and the judiciary for his integrity, skill, and experience. He is praised for his honesty and intellect, and his reputation extends well beyond Canada's borders."[15]

Former High Court Justice Dr Robert Fisher QC was commissioned to do a peer review and stated in his findings that the report is well organised and comprehensive but that Binnie went beyond his mandate and authority and had made fundamental errors of principle. That Binnie had criticized named individuals in his report without giving them the opportunity to respond. Robert Fisher also commented that in assessing misconduct by authorities Binnie had made fundamental errors in principle. "[16][17]

Former Australian High Court Justice Ian Callinan has been commissioned by the New Zealand Government to conduct a fresh enquiry."[18]


Due to Binnie's background in business and corporate law, he has typically written many of the judgments in those areas of law.

Binnie nonetheless felt in R. v. Sinclair that a 2010 majority of the court was too favourable to the Crown against the right of the accused to counsel under Section 10(b) of the Charter.[19][20] In R. v. Tessling, Binnie wrote a judgment to circumscribe the Section 8 Charter rights of individuals, in sharp contradistinction to Kyllo v. United States.

R. v. Marshall are two decisions given by the Supreme Court of Canada on a single case regarding a treaty right to fish. Alex Cameron, Crown counsel for the government of Nova Scotia wrote the book "Power without Law" which is highly critical of the judgement written by Justice Binnie.[21] In the book the Supreme court is accused of Judicial Activism.

R. v. Stone The accused had admitted that he had stabbed his wife 47 times and fled to Mexico but turned himself in to the police a few weeks later. Stone had previously tried to run his wife over with his Pickup truck. Justice Binnie dissented from the majority verdict of guilty claiming the accused was not guilty by reason of automatism. Binnie believed with automatism the onus is on the prosecution's ability to prove its case and that the accused should not bear the burden of proving automatism on the balance of probabilities.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Supreme Court of Canada (April 12, 2011), The Honourable Mr. Justice William Ian Corneil Binnie, retrieved May 22, 2011 [dead link]
  2. ^ MacCharles, Tonda (October 17, 2011). "Supreme Court appointments highlight a secret process". The Star (Toronto). 
  3. ^ "2 Supreme Court of Canada justices to retire". CBC News. 2011-05-13. Retrieved 2011-05-13. 
  4. ^ "Supreme Court of Canada News Release (on retirement of Binnie and Charron)". LexUM in partnership with the Supreme Court of Canada. 2011-05-13. Retrieved 2011-05-13. 
  5. ^ http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1111/S00320/canadian-judge-to-assess-bains-claim-for-compensation.htm
  6. ^ "The Supreme Court's retired, but hardly retiring, Ian Binnie". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). June 15, 2012. 
  7. ^ http://business.financialpost.com/2012/04/10/ian-binnie-joins-lenczner-slaght-arbitration-place/
  8. ^ http://www.justice.govt.nz/media/in-focus/topic-library/David-Bain-reports/justice-binnie
  9. ^ "Bain judge hits back at Collins". 3 News NZ. December 12, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Bain report lacking – Collins". 3 News NZ. December 11, 2012. 
  11. ^ Binnie hits back at Bain report critics NZ Herald 12 December 2012
  12. ^ "Govt to get second opinion on Bain". 3 News NZ. December 11, 2012. 
  13. ^ "Govt accused of Bain double standard". 3 News NZ. December 12, 2012. 
  14. ^ "Ian Binnie's full statement". 3 News NZ. December 12, 2012. 
  15. ^ Bain breaks his silence NZ Herald
  16. ^ http://www.justice.govt.nz/media/in-focus/topic-library/David-Bain-reports/robert-fisher-qc/Robert-Fisher-Report.pdf/at_download/file
  17. ^ http://www.beehive.govt.nz/sites/all/files/Summary%20of%20key%20findings%20Hon%20Dr%20Robert%20Fisher%20QC.pdf
  18. ^ http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/72816167/No-word-on-new-David-Bain-report-from-Justice-Minister-Amy-Adams
  19. ^ canlii.org: R. v. Sinclair, 2010 SCC 35, (2010) 2 SCR 310
  20. ^ Kirk Makin: No right to counsel during interrogation: top court The Globe and Mail October 8, 2010
  21. ^ https://ojs.library.dal.ca/KNOWSL/article/view/4719
  22. ^ http://www.researchgate.net/publication/247495224_R_v_Stone_1999_2_SCR_290

External links[edit]