Ted Hughes (judge)

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Edward N. "Ted" Hughes is a Canadian retired judge. He is best known for overseeing prominent investigations in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, one of which led to the resignation of Premier Bill Vander Zalm.

Hughes's wife, Helen Hughes, has been a city councillor in Saskatoon and Victoria.[1]

Career before 1990[edit]

Hughes was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Saskatchewan near the end of World War II, and began practising law in Saskatoon in 1952.[2] He became a judge in 1962, and was promoted to the Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench in 1974.[1] He was an executor of John Diefenbaker's estate, after the former prime minister's death in 1979.[3]

Hughes stepped down from the bench in 1980, when he moved to British Columbia to become a legal advisor to the provincial Attorney-General. He was appointed as Deputy Attorney-General of British Columbia in 1983,[4] and chaired a series of public hearings into the government's cuts to legal aid in 1984.[5]

Career after 1990[edit]

British Columbia[edit]

Conflict-of-interest commissioner

Hughes was appointed as British Columbia's first Conflict-of-interest Commissioner in 1990. In 1991, British Columbia Premier Bill Vander Zalm was accused of inappropriate behaviour in the sale of his family's Fantasy Gardens theme park, which was purchased by Taiwanese billionaire Tan Yu in 1990. The sale was announced one day after Tan had met with provincial Finance Minister Mel Couvelier in Vander Zalm's office. The premier initially said that he was not involved in either the operation or sale of his family business, but when documents released in a separate court case indicated otherwise, he asked Hughes to investigate the matter. Opposition leader Mike Harcourt was consulted prior to Hughes's appointment, and gave his approval.[6]

Hughes' report found that Vander Zalm had mixed private business with public responsibilities on several occasions, and had violated provincial conflict-of-interest guidelines. He also indicated that Vander Zalm was apparently sincere, but mistaken, in believing that he had not violated guidelines in arranging Tan's meeting with Couvelier. Vander Zalm resigned as premier after the report was submitted.[7]

In 1992, Hughes ruled that Forestry Minister Dan Miller had put himself in a conflict by approving the sale of Westar Timber Ltd.'s forest assets in northwestern B.C. to Repap Enterprises Ltd. At the time, Miller was on a leave of absence from a subsidiary of Repap. He was suspended from cabinet for three months.[8] While Hughes's findings were not questioned, some journalists argued that the province's conflict-of-interest rules were defined too broadly after Vander Zalm's resignation, that the sale was a routine transfer, and that Miller did not stand to benefit personally.[9]

Hughes later investigated Mike Harcourt, who became premier after the 1991 provincial election, over a possible conflict-of-interest involving a former campaign advisor who had started a company called NOW Communications Inc.. The company specialized in social marketing, and received several contracts from the provincial government. Harcourt testified that he played no role in granting the contracts, and the matter ultimately came to nothing.[10]

Hughes briefly resigned as Conflict-of-Interest Commissioner in 1996, following what he described as pressure by Glen Clark, Harcourt's successor as premier. He was reinstated two days later.[11] He stepped down from the position in May 1997.[12]

Other matters

In September 1992, Hughes issued a report asserting that sexual discrimination against women pervaded every aspect of the provincial justice system, including hiring practices and the handling of sexual assault cases. He said that he was most disturbed by the testimony of sexual assault and family violence victims, and that he was surprised by the extent of violence in British Columbia society.[13]

Hughes chaired a Justice Reform Committee in 1997–98 that led to significant changes to British Columbia's judicial structure.[2] Hughes also served as chief federal negotiator in talks with ten indigenous groups on Vancouver Island in this period, and was a member of the British Columbia Press Council.[14]

In 1998, Hughes was appointed to take over an existing inquiry into whether Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers had acted improperly against protesters at the 1997 Asia-Pacific Summit. The inquiry, under the auspices of the RCMP Public Complaints Commission, had previously been led by a three-member panel, which itself became caught up in scandal and controversy. Although some believed the scope of the inquiry was too narrow, Hughes's appointment was welcomed by all parties.[15] After some delays, he issued his report in August 2001.[16][17] Hughes found evidence of widespread police incompetence, and wrote that RCMP actions sometimes provoked violence and deprived protesters of their constitutional rights. He concluded that "police performance did not meet an acceptable and expected standard of competence, professionalism and proficiency", and recommended a series of reforms.[18] Hughes also criticized Jean Carle, a member of the Prime Minister's Office, for "throwing his weight around" and attempting to interfere with security arrangements.[19] The report nonetheless vindicated Staff Sgt. Hugh Stewart, who had been widely criticized for his use of pepper spray against demonstrators. Hughes determined that Stewart made "some unfortunate decisions", but that he had been placed in a situation "that was unfair to him".[20] RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli accepted Hughes's finding that the RCMP made errors in planning for the summit.[21]

In 2005, the provincial government of Gordon Campbell appointed Hughes to examine British Columbia's method of reviewing child deaths, following the violent death of an aboriginal girl in foster care.[22] In his report, Hughes blamed a constant turnover in leadership, major policy shifts, and the Campbell government's budget cuts for undermining the system. He recommended the creation of a new, independent body to oversee provincial child welfare, and advised that the government pay particular attention to the needs of aboriginal communities.[23] Hughes added that if the government did not take steps to improve the situation, he would conduct a speaking tour of the province to shame it into action.[24] The following month, Attorney-General Wally Oppal tabled legislation to establish a new, independent watchdog organization for children's services.[25]

In early 2007, Hughes was appointed to a mediation panel looking into lawsuits filed by a group of Indo-Canadian veterinarians, who argued that they had been discriminated against.[26]

Hughes is currently leading a coalition against homelessness in Victoria. He spoke at a drop-in centre in 2008, informing homeless persons of their rights following a court decision that struck down a municipal bylaw against camping in public spaces.[27]


In 1991, Manitoba Justice Minister James McCrae appointed Hughes to lead an investigation into the unusual circumstances which led to lawyer Harvey Pollock being arrested on a dubious sexual assault charge. Pollock had previously acted as the lawyer for the family of J.J. Harper, an indigenous leader who had been killed in a confrontation with Winnipeg police. The case against Pollock quickly fell apart in court, and the woman whose statements led to the charge later clarified that she had never accused Pollock of sexual assault during her discussions with police. Pollock believed that he was the target of a police vendetta.[28] Hughes' report completely vindicated Pollock and led to the resignation of police chief Herb Stephen.[29]

A serious riot broke out at that Headingley Correctional Institution in 1996, leaving several guards and prisoners injured and the prison itself in ruins. Hughes was appointed to conduct an independent inquiry into the cause of the riot by Rosemary Vodrey, McCrae's successor as Justice Minister.[30] Hughes concluded that the prison had been a social powder keg prior to the riot and that morale among prison guards was extremely low. He noted that seventy to eighty per cent of inmates in Manitoba prisons were indigenous and called for a national initiative to target social inequality and other roots causes of crime.[31] In a subsequent interview, Hughes said that governments should give safety of person and property the same importance as education and health.[32]

Hughes led the inquiry into the death of Phoenix Sinclair. He made "62 recommendations for improving the child welfare system and is a call out to address 'deeply rooted' issues."[33] He also recommended changes to the provincial school curricula and to programs for supporting those on welfare, among others.[34] The province of Manitoba announced that it had or was planning to implement many of the suggested changes, and issued a formal apology, stating that "the child welfare system failed Phoenix Sinclair".[33]


In 1992, Saskatchewan Justice Minister Bob Mitchell appointed Hughes to lead a judicial review into the shooting death of Leo LaChance, a Cree trapper, by Carney Milton Nerland, a member of the Aryan Nations white supremacist group. Nerland was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter; many believed that the sentence was inappropriate, and that he should have been charged with murder. The inquiry was permitted to look beyond the shooting, and investigate the activities of racist groups in Saskatchewan.[35] Hughes's report concluded that racism had played a role in LeChance's death, but added that police and prosecutors had acted in good faith and that a murder charge probably would not have been sustained.[36] Alphonse Bird, chief of the Prince Albert Tribal Council welcomed the report's findings, but criticized the lack of recommendations.[37]

During the course of the inquiry, Hughes asked the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to name an informant who was described as holding a vested interest in the outcome of the inquiry. The RCMP declined, and speculation arose that the manslaughter plea-bargain was arranged to keep the police's spy network in place.[38] Reports later surfaced that Nerland was the informant.[39] The commission was not permitted to address this subject.[36]

The North and aboriginal conflict resolution[edit]

Hughes served as Conflict of Interest Commissioner for the Yukon and the Northwest Territories after 2001.[40]

In 2003, Hughes agreed to serve a two-year term as Chief Adjudicator for an Alternative Dispute Resolution process involving survivors of abuse in Canada's residential school abuse.[41] The program was formally launched in November 2003.[42]

Critical assessments[edit]

Globe and Mail columnist Robert Sheppard once described Hughes as having earned a reputation as "a scrupulously fair arbiter for all the tough political cases".[38] A political scientist at the University of Victoria wrote that he was sometimes considered to possess "the wisdom of a Solomon".[43] Most other assessments of Hughes agree with this position. One of the few public figures to have criticized Hughes is Bill Vander Zalm, who said in a 1996 interview he believed Hughes had an agenda against him.[44]

Hughes was appointed an Officer in the Order of Canada in 2002.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Tom Hawthorn, "Stepping up to the podium, two at a time", Globe and Mail, 25 May 2005, S3.
  2. ^ a b "Law Society gives special service award to Ted Hughes, Q.C.", Law Society of B.C., 3 November 2000, accessed 11 November 2008.
  3. ^ Norman Spector, "Chairman may exceed what Grits expected", Globe and Mail, 12 January 1999, A5.
  4. ^ Tonda MacCharles, "Judge named to head APEC probe", Toronto Star, 22 December 1998, A6; Ian Bailey, "APEC curse may have met match", Winnipeg Free Press, 23 December 1998, C11.
  5. ^ "Cuts in legal aid will prove costly, lawyers argue", Globe and Mail, 3 April 1984, BC1.
  6. ^ "Conflict probe set over B.C premier", Toronto Star, 16 February 1991, A8; Robert Matas, "Vander Zalm needn't give testimony on role in sale", Globe and Mail, 15 March 1991, A4; Robert Matas, "Agent reviews Vander Zalm deal", Globe and Mail, 18 March 1991, A1; Deborah Wilson, "Controversy dogged Premier", Globe and Mail, 30 March 1991, A5.
  7. ^ Robert Matas, "Report outlines strange thinking of Vander Zalm", Globe and Mail, 3 April 1991, A4.
  8. ^ "B.C. cabinet minister ousted over conflict", Toronto Star, 18 September 1992, A15.
  9. ^ John Schreiner, "Conflict definition has been stretched to the point where it's meaningless in B.C.", Financial Post, 18 March 1995, 21.
  10. ^ John Schreiner, "Conflict definition has been stretched to the point where it's meaningless in B.C.", Financial Post, 18 March 1995, 21; "Harcourt denies role in contracts", Winnipeg Free Press, 25 March 1995.
  11. ^ Craig McInnes and Miro Cernetig, "B.C. Premier backs down, reinstates conflict official", 30 March 1996, A5.
  12. ^ Patrick McKinley, "Conflict official named", Winnipeg Free Press, 10 May 1997, C6.
  13. ^ Deborah Wilson, "Report flays B.C. justice system", Globe and Mail, 12 September 1992, A1.
  14. ^ Norman Spector, "B.C. government dumps hot case on provincial press council", Globe and Mail, 10 November 1998, A13; Ian Bailey, "APEC inquiry head well-suited for job", Globe and Mail, 23 December 1998, A6.
  15. ^ Daniel Leblanc, "New APEC commissioner welcomed by all sides", Globe and Mail, 22 December 1998, A4.
  16. ^ "APEC – Commission Interim Report". Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  18. ^ Gay Abbate, "Mounties assailed for APEC bungling", Globe and Mail, 7 August 2001, A1.
  19. ^ Linda Diebel, "Carle a loyal hatchet man", Toronto Star, 3 March 2004, A1.
  20. ^ Michael Higgins, "'Sgt. Pepper' vindicated in judge's summary", National Post, 7 December 2001, A6.
  21. ^ "Mounties accept APEC blame", Winnipeg Free Press, 8 September 2001, A14.
  22. ^ Robert Matas, "Panel tapped to examine child death reviews", Globe and Mail, 3 November 2005, S4; Dirk Meissner, "B.C. appoints judge alone to review child protection system in province", Canadian Press, 18 November 2005, 6:10pm.
  23. ^ Dirk Meissner, "B.C.'s child protection system stretched beyond limits, judge wants reform", Canadian Press, 7 April 2006, 8:52pm.
  24. ^ Dirk Meissner, "Judge willing to shame B.C. government over child protection", Toronto Star, 8 April 2006, A20.
  25. ^ Dirk Meissner, "New law to create children's watchdog", Globe and Mail, 5 May 2006, S2. See also Vaughn Palmer, "Child, youth overseer gets the Ted Hughes stamp of approval", Vancouver Sun, 23 November 2006, A3.
  26. ^ Nicholas Read and Larry Pynn, "Ex-judge in talks to resolve veterinary dispute", Vancouver Sun, 5 December 2007, A1.
  27. ^ Justine Hunter, "'I'm trying not to gloat too much'", Globe and Mail, 18 October 2008, A1.
  28. ^ Timothy Appleby and David Roberts, "Inquiry to probe Harper lawyer's arrest", Globe and Mail, 3 May 1991, A1; ""He didn't rape me': Woman stunned by accusation lawyer sexually assaulted her", Kitchener-Waterloo Record, 25 June 1991, D9.
  29. ^ Bruce Owen, "Gunsmoke shrouds three dark years", Winnipeg Free Press, 21 September 1991.
  30. ^ David Roberts, "Jail guards in Manitoba return to work after walkout", Winnipeg Free Press, 8 May 1996, A4.
  31. ^ David Roberts, "Attack roots of crime, report on prison riot urges", Winnipeg Free Press, 10 December 1996, A10.
  32. ^ Alice Krueger, "Poor need help: judge", Winnipeg Free Press, 10 December 1996, A5.
  33. ^ a b "Manitoba sorry for failing to protect Phoenix Sinclair". CBC. 31 January 2014. 
  34. ^ Kusch, Larry (31 January 2014). "Sinclair inquiry report: more focus needed on long-term risks to children". Winnipeg Free Press. 
  35. ^ David Roberts, "Full-scale inquiry ordered into slaying", Globe and Mail, 4 April 1992, A5.
  36. ^ a b "The tragic death of Leo LeChance" [editorial], Globe and Mail, 23 November 1993, A26.
  37. ^ "Natives unsatisfied with inquiry report into racist slaying", Winnipeg Free Press, 23 November 1993.
  38. ^ a b Robert Sheppard, "What are the real limits of authority?", Globe and Mail, 27 August 1992, A15.
  39. ^ Judy Steed, "The miracle of Gateway Mall", Toronto Star, 9 October 1994, A14.
  40. ^ Bill Curry, "Experts divided on ethics of conflict solution", National Post, 12 March 2003, A7; Lori Culbert, "B.C. social worker quits over state of kids' care", Vancouver Sun, 3 November 2005, A1.
  41. ^ "Ted Hughes to head Indian Residential Schools adjudication process" [press release], Canada NewsWire, 27 June 2003; "Ted Hughes to oversee federal settlements with residential school students", Canadian Press, 27 June 2003, 5:16pm.
  42. ^ Campbell Clark, "Ottawa launches dispute settlement program", Globe and Mail, 7 November 2003, A10.
  43. ^ "New year offers fresh start for troubled APEC inquiry", Kitchener-Waterloo Record, 30 December 1998, B6.
  44. ^ Stuart McNish, "Who's laughing now?", Equity, 1 January 1996, p. 1.