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, KStJ, 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 in 1888 in the village of Plainfield, Nova Scotia in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, the son of John Duncan and Bessie (Murray) MacKay. He was educated at the Pictou Academy, the Royal Military College (1909), Saint Francis Xavier University (BA 1912) and Dalhousie University (LL.B. 1922).


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.

Known as J. Keiller MacKay, he was called to the Nova Scotia bar in 1922 and the Ontario bar in 1923. He was a senior partner of a 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 the Supreme Court of Ontario in 1935 and to the Ontario Court of Appeal in 1950.

As a judge on the Supreme Court of Ontario, MacKay issued a landmark decision in 1945 overturning an anti-semitic restrictive land covenant in Toronto. 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", 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". 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".

MacKay served as the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario from 1957 to 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.[1] 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.

He was married to Katherine 'Kay' Jean MacLeod and had three sons. He died in Toronto in 1970 and is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto (section Q-154).

The gravestone of MacKay (section Q-154) in Mount Pleasant Cemetery


In addition to his distinguished military service during the First World War; his involvement in the founding of the Royal Canadian Legion; his judicial ruling overturning anti-semitic restrictive land covenants; and his democratization of the annual Lieutenant-Governor's levee, J. Keiller MacKay's legacy includes the following:

  • The "Keiller MacKay Park" at North Bay, Ontario, includes 52 homes for senior citizens.
  • The "Keiller MacKay Room" in the Bloomfield Centre of Saint Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, which opened in 1973, features a life-size portrait of Keiller MacKay in full Highland dress.
  • Major C. I. N. MacLeod, the St. Francis Xavier University's piper, composed a musical tribute for MacKay.
  • The Lieutenant Colonel The Honourable J. Keiller MacKay Memorial Trophy, which is awarded for Canadian Armed Forces Regular and Reserve Marching Formations, was named in his honour.[2]


Keiller Mackay

John Lorinc, "Racism in Toronto's Real-Estate Fine Print", Toronto Star, Sunday, December 31, 2017.


  • 4237 Dr. Adrian Preston & Peter Dennis (Edited) "Swords and Covenants" Rowman And Littlefield, London. Croom Helm. 1976.
  • H16511 Dr. Richard Arthur Preston "To Serve Canada: A History of the Royal Military College of Canada" 1997 Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1969.
  • H16511 Dr. Richard Arthur Preston "Canada's RMC - A History of Royal Military College" Second Edition 1982
  • H16511 Dr. Richard Preston "R.M.C. and Kingston: The effect of imperial and military influences on a Canadian community" 1968 Kingston, Ontario.
  • H1877 R. Guy C. Smith (editor) "As You Were! Ex-Cadets Remember". In 2 Volumes. Volume I: 1876-1918. Volume II: 1919-1984. RMC. Kingston, Ontario. The R.M.C. Club of Canada. 1984