John Keiller MacKay

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John Keiller MacKay
Official Portrait of the 19th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, John Keiller MacKay, by Moshe Matus.jpg
19th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario
In office
December 30, 1957 – May 1, 1963
MonarchElizabeth II
Governor GeneralVincent Massey
Georges Vanier
PremierLeslie Frost
John Robarts
Preceded byLouis Orville Breithaupt
Succeeded byWilliam Earl Rowe
Personal details
Born(1888-07-11)July 11, 1888
Plainfield, Nova Scotia, Canada
DiedJune 12, 1970(1970-06-12) (aged 81)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Resting placeMt. Pleasant Cemetery
Military career
Commands held6th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery
Battles/warsBattle of the Somme
Battle of Vimy Ridge

Lieutenant-Colonel John Keiller MacKay OC DSO VD QC (July 11, 1888 – June 12, 1970) was a Canadian soldier, lawyer and jurist. MacKay served as the 19th lieutenant governor of Ontario from 1957 to 1963.

Early life and education[edit]

John Keiller MacKay was born on July 11, 1888,[1] in the village of Plainfield in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, the son of John Duncan and Bessie (Murray) MacKay. He was educated at the Pictou Academy,[citation needed] the Royal Military College (1909), Saint Francis Xavier University (BA 1912) and Dalhousie University (LL.B. 1922).[1]



During World War I, he served in, and later commanded, 6th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery (Non-Permanent Active Militia in the Canadian Army). He achieved the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and was mentioned in dispatches three times and wounded twice. MacKay won the Distinguished Service Order in 1916 at the Battle of the Somme and in 1918 was seriously wounded at Arras. He left the military after the war but was involved in the formation of the Royal Canadian Legion in 1925 and was its first National Vice-Chairman. He was a freemason and was initiated in 1925 to Ionic Lodge, #25 G.R.C.

Law and politics[edit]

Known as J. Keiller MacKay, he was called to the Nova Scotia bar in 1922 and the Ontario bar in 1923.[2] He was a senior partner the law firm, MacKay, Matheson & Martin in Toronto, and became a specialist in criminal law. He was appointed a King's Counsel in 1933. He was appointed to Ontario's High Court of Justice (now the Ontario Superior Court of Justice) in 1935.[2]

As a judge on the High Court, MacKay wrote the judgment in Re Drummond Wren, a landmark 1945 decision overturning an anti-Semitic restrictive covenant in Toronto.[3] A local labour organization, the Workers' Education Association (WEA), had purchased a property on O'Connor Drive, east of Broadview Avenue in Toronto, for the purpose of building a model "workingman's home",[4] offered as a potential solution to the city's shortage of affordable housing. After buying the property, the WEA discovered there was a restrictive covenant on the deed preventing the land from being sold to "Jews or persons of objectionable nationality". The WEA and the Canadian Jewish Congress launched a court action to strike down the restriction and in his decision, issued on October 31, 1945, Mackay declared the covenant illegal and "injurious to the public good".[4] Five years later, in March 1950, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario unanimously adopted legislation banning restrictive covenants, with Ontario Premier Leslie Frost declaring "There is no place in Ontario's way of life for restrictive covenants".[4]

MacKay was appointed to the Court of Appeal for Ontario in 1950 and remained on the court until 1957, when he was named the lieutenant governor of Ontario.[2] He served as lieutenant governor until 1963, and he opened the lieutenant governor's New Year's Levee to the general public for the first time.

In 1964, he was a founder of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, serving as honorary president.

In 1967, he was made an officer of the Order of Canada.[5] He was also a Knight of Grace of the Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem and was responsible for bringing the Military and Hospitaler Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem to Canada.

Personal life[edit]

He was married to Katherine "Kay" Jean MacLeod and had three sons. He died in Toronto on June 12, 1970,[1] and is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto (section Q-154).


  1. ^ a b c Wallace, W. Stewart; McKay, William Angus (1978). The Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography (4th ed.). Toronto: Macmillan of Canada. p. 520. ISBN 0-7705-1462-6. OCLC 4576673.
  2. ^ a b c Moore, Christopher (2014). The Court of Appeal for Ontario: Defining the Right of Appeal in Canada, 1792–2013. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p. 249. doi:10.3138/9781442622470. ISBN 978-1-4426-2247-0. JSTOR 10.3138/j.ctt1287q35.
  3. ^ McWhinney, Edward (1959). "The Supreme Court and the Bill of Rights—The Lessons of Comparative Jurisprudence". Canadian Bar Review. 37. 31n51. 1959 CanLIIDocs 22.
  4. ^ a b c Lorinc, John (December 28, 2017). "How restrictive contracts and bigotry lingered in Toronto real estate". Toronto Star. ISSN 0319-0781. Retrieved October 19, 2021.
  5. ^ "J. Keiller Mackay". Governor General of Canada. Retrieved October 19, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)