Monday, January 15, 2007

William A. Schabas*

Ron and I were at the beginning of a project together when he passed away. I think the last time I had seen him was in Halifax a few years ago, when I was doing some guest lecturing at Dalhousie. Phil Saunders organised a lunch, and we met at a local hotel, I think. Phil had warned me that Ron’s health wasn’t at its best, and that we would keep the meeting relatively short. It was delightful and cordial. Those of you who knew him well will recall how charming and gregarious he could be.

About a year ago, Ron wrote me to inquire if I might get involved with him in a project he wanted to develop concerning the human right to peace. Ron had done some writing on this already, and he sent me an offprint. He was interested in developing the whole idea further. He was pushing on an open door, as far as I was concerned. I wrote him an enthusiastic reply, with a detailed explanation of my views and how I thought we might develop things.

Ron, of course, was still in the 1970s as far as technology was concerned. So these exchanges took place by letter, and I presume he dictated his to a secretary. Rather than get back to me by e-mail (he probably didn’t even have an e-mail address), he phoned me one day at my office. Alas, I was not available then, and all I received was a recorded message. It is my last memory of him.

I knew all about him long before I first met him. The Canadian judge at the European Court of Human Rights! It was all very impressive. To think that when the Europeans went looking for a non-European to sit on their Court, they picked a Canadian. He was a fine judge, of course, participating in the defining case law of the Court, such as Soering v. United Kingdom, which concerned capital punishment and extradition. That judgment has set the tone for so much in the area of human rights. It is really the basis of all of the non-refoulement decisions now.

I remember him telling me of his disappointment at the result in Cruz Varas v. Sweden, which dealt with the binding force of provisional measures requests. He was in dissent on that one. It was very close, ten to nine, I think. A few years ago, the Court reversed itself, subscribing to the views of the minority in Cruz Varas.

We got to know each other at the big academic gatherings – the Canadian Council of International Law, of which he was a stalwart, and the American Society of International Law, which he attended pretty regularly too. I know that in later years he wasn’t in the best of health, but somehow he managed to make the meetings. He showed such friendship to younger colleagues. He was the great judge and the learned professor, but one always felt that he viewed you as an equal, and that he was interested in what you were doing and what you had to say.

A mentor? A role model? Something like that. He sure was a great friend and colleague.

*Professor William A. Schabas, OC
Director, Irish Centre for Human Rights
National University of Ireland, Galway

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stephen J. Toope*

I was greatly saddened by the news, earlier this year, of the passing of Ronald St. John Macdonald. For those of us who study or practise international law, Ron was a huge influence, one of the principal exponents of the field in this country, and who embodied the values of internationalism in everything he said and did. He was a scholar and a jurist par excellence, bringing his learning to the application of law, and leavening his scholarship with the wisdom and experience gained from his role over many years as a legal expert consulted by governments around the world.

As Canadians, we pride ourselves on our fair-mindedness, our spirit of tolerance, and our desire to see justice done: values which have contributed significantly to our reputation as peace makers and peace keepers around the world. That reputation was aided enormously by the work of Ron Macdonald, who not only helped to develop the laws around universal protection of human rights — he acted upon them, in his capacity as a judge on the European Court of Human Rights, as Canadian representative to the United Nations, and as a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

His achievements as a legal scholar were equally strongly grounded in his commitment to human rights, and through his many academic appointments in Canada and around the world he helped to develop a consciousness of the responsibility we all share to promote the values of a civil and humane society. At home Ron helped to found the Canadian Council on International Law, the body which has perhaps done more than any other to foster Canadian support for global collaboration in the cause of universal equity.

At the University of British Columbia we have made it our explicit goal to produce graduates who are “global citizens”. Judge Ronald St. John Macdonald was truly a global citizen, a man whose career was founded upon the principle propounded two thousand years ago by Seneca the Elder, that “It is a denial of justice not to stretch out a helping hand to the fallen; that is the common right of humanity”.

*President and Vice-Chancellor
The University of British Columbia

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Honourable Gerald La Forest and Dr. Mairi Macdonald, November 30, 2006

Colleen Swords*

With Ronald St. John Macdonald's passing, the international law community in Canada lost a very special member. He was an inspiration to all, not least those of us who work in government and benefited from his gentle prodding, his skilful challenges to our thinking and his ability to both inspire and energize. A call from him was always welcome. I will miss those calls.

*Assistant Deputy Minister for International Security and Political Director
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Valerie Hughes*

Tribute on behalf of the Canadian Council on International Law read by Professor Hugh Kindred at the celebration of Professor Macdonald's life held at Dalhousie University on November 30, 2006

The Canadian Council on International Law has lost more than just a great friend and supporter. We have lost our creator and founding President. Thirty-five years ago, in June 1972, Professor Macdonald, together with a small group of Canadian international law academics, approved a formal motion to establish the Canadian Council on International Law, now usually referred to as the CCIL. Professor Macdonald was elected the Council's first President. The specific objectives of the Council, as described in its Charter, include to bring together scholars of international law and organization engaged in teaching or research at Canadian universities, to encourage and conduct studies in international law with a view to its progressive development and codification, to contribute to the continuing development of a world community through the creative use of modern international law, and to foster the study of the legal aspects of Canada's international problems and to advocate their solution in accordance with existing or developing principles of international law. The striking similarity between the objectives of the Canadian Council on International Law and the special interests held dear by Professor Macdonald will not be lost on any of you. The Council is now several hundred members strong and is preparing to celebrate its 35th anniversary at a conference in Ottawa next October. At the most recent annual Conference of the CCIL, held last month in Ottawa shortly after Professor Macdonald passed away, we had an opportunity to honour our Founding President at a special session dedicated to him. Participants spoke about Professor Macdonald's impressive accomplishments and his endless energy and enthusiasm for international law. What was especially telling, however, were the stories of how Professor Macdonald had mentored and assisted so many, both in their studies and in their careers in international law. It seems the CCIL was only one of Professor Macdonald's many creations. For he seems to have fostered an entire generation of international lawyers in Canada and abroad.

We extend our sympathies to Professor Macdonald's family.

*President, Canadian Council on International Law

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ann Morrison

On Thursday, November 30, 2006, we will gather to remember and celebrate Ronald St. John Macdonald's life and accomplishments and I would like to share my memories of Ronald’s comings and goings in the law library.

In the early eighties, when I was a new reference librarian at the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto, I wondered who this very pleasant man was who would drop into the law library with a gift or two of books and enquire as to “how everything was going”. Ronald was a staunch library supporter and a lover of books and before the current Bora Laskin Library was built, he would shake his head and commiserate on the condition of the library and the collection and tell me to keep on “doing a good job”. On some dark days his visits were a ray of sunshine and he always had wonderful anecdotes to share about his adventures and enthusiasms in the legal and the wider world.

He took me to lunch at least once a year at the Prince Arthur Room at the Park Plaza which always took the form of his enquiring after my family, insisting on being brought up to date on the activities of my various offspring and then educating me as to who was sitting at the various tables around the dining room. Ronald new everyone and everyone new him!

After the new library was built, Ronald had an office upstairs on the third floor, and when he was in town, always arrived at the library about 8:15 a.m. eager to begin his work of the day – his enthusiasm was catching - and I would let him in, he would enquire as to how everything was going and bound upstairs to his office. He had an electric kettle, teapot and real china cups in that office, strictly against library policy! I knew he did and he knew I did but we never mentioned it. He would leave the odd teacup on the stacks outside the office, I would wash it up and put it back for use another day – he was absolutely delighted with the arrangement.

I left Toronto in 1998 and moved to Dalhousie Law Library and one month after I arrived, who should bound into the library but Ronnie, of course enquiring how everything was going, whether people were treating me properly and could he do anything to help! It certainly helped to make me feel at home and welcome in my unfamiliar surroundings. He promptly invited me to lunch at the Halifax Club, and although not in the best of health, spent the better part of an afternoon introducing me to the history of Halifax, the law school and imparting wonderful stories about his time here.

He was taken from us far too soon. I know he had many more stories to tell, interests to pursue and books to share. I will miss his cheerful visits, his enthusiasm and encouragement.

*Law Librarian, Dalhousie University

Chidi Oguamanam

When I moved to Halifax a couple of years ago, two close friends of Professor Macdonald's advised me to contact him on arrival. One actually visited Halifax shortly after my arrival and facilitated my personal contact with Ron. As was his custom, Ron invited us to lunch. That first encounter left an indelible memory of a charming, witty and compassionate gentleman who was in the business of touching so many lives in many positive ways. Over lunch, we started a conversation on many areas of Ron's academic interests in international law.

Later, I had the privilege of assisting him in a research project. Since then, we met as regularly as our schedules and Ron's ill-health permitted. Ron gave me many tips for career success as an academic; he shared with me stories from his experience as a budding scholar. He was always interested in knowing how my teaching and research commitments progressed. Despite his frail health, he never ceased to inquire if there was any way he could be of assistance to me. I always marveled after each inquiry! I figured that the inquiry should be the other way round. He was so gracious to have given me the opportunity to select some precious titles from his rich library of books. Although our acquaintance was for a short period, Ron's compassion, humility and infectious good nature are life-long impressions to be cherished.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

His Excellency Ambassador Liu Zhenmin*

With great shock and deep grief, I learned from Professor Li Zhaojie of the unfortunate passing of Professor Macdonald. This sad news brings me back to the days, about thirty years ago, when the teaching of international law at Peking University had just been reinstated. We, as the first group of post-graduate students of international law under the supervision of the late Professor Wang Tieya, had great fortune to listen to Professor Macdonald’s wonderful and inspiring lectures at Peking University. He was the first Western professor of international law to visit China after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, giving lectures on international law to Chinese university students. He played a pioneering role in helping us broaden our vision of the international legal system and in initiating academic exchanges in international legal studies between China and foreign countries. Although not every Chinese international law scholar was lucky enough to be his student, he is very much renowned to the entire Chinese international legal community for his tireless efforts to help improve the teaching, research and dissemination of international law in China. Professor Macdonald will be remembered for long as a great friend of the Chinese international legal community.

Looking around the world, many master scholars of international law have left us. We should always think of them. Their great achievements should always inspire us to work harder in the field of international law. Today, international law is playing an increasingly important role in promoting peace as well as the security, development and prosperity of mankind. One of the legacies Professor Macdonald has left us is his life-time commitment to an international community based on the rule of law. It is our professional and moral responsibility to carry on that commitment for the further development of international law and for a better world for mankind.

*Co-representative of the PRC to the United Nations and former Chief of the Department of Treaties and Law of the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs

David VanderZwaag

While one could speak for hours or even days about the academic and professional contributions of Professor Macdonald, I will always remember Ronald as a colleague who really cared. Cherished memories include:

· Experiencing Ron’s cheerful simile, chipper voice and enthusiastic handshake, “David, how is life my friend”, as he picked up his mail from the Weldon Building.

· Sipping on a glass of wine with Ron over lunch at his favourite bistro where discussions ranged from well-being of family members to one of his favourite topics – the need for a modernized UN Charter.

· Enjoying the many Christmas celebration parties Ronald and Mairi used to host at the Halifax Club and Halliburton House.

· Witnessing Ron’s continued institutional dedication to Dalhousie Law School, perhaps best displayed when he organized a luncheon with selected faculty and Dr. John Shijian Mo, a former Dalhousie graduate student and now Dean at the Faculty of International Law, China University of Political Science & Law, to discuss development of future faculty and student exchanges.

· Receiving advice on how the International Oceans Institute, launched by Ron’s close friend Dr. Elisabeth Mann Borgese, should be continued and strengthened.

· Watching Ron walk his dog along University Avenue and into the Law School foyer.

With Ron’s passing, the world not only lost a great advocate for human rights and social justice, those who knew Ronald lost a caring and supportive friend. For a person who easily could have been arrogant and boastful, Ron was just the opposite. He was humble and extremely gracious, making even the most lonely law student feel comfortable and accepted.