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.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Gordon H.H. Read

Ron was a classmate and a friend. During the last decade we spent happy lunch hours together in Halifax when I was travelling between the South Shore and Truro. Of course, there were times when Ron had appointments at the hospital which prevented our getting together. One can only admire the way he faced such a devastating disease with courage and determination.

My memories of student days include afternoon teas at the Macdonald residence hosted by his mother, along with his sisters Mairi and Elizabeth. In addition to being a break from the routine of studying, they were occasions when we met and conversed with local politicians and other interesting people. After graduation Ron and I followed different paths.

When Catherine and I returned to Nova Scotia a few years ago, we renewed our contacts with Ron. My unique relationship with Ron arose from his admiration of my father, the late Mr. Justice John E. Read. Father was a judge on the International Court of Justice in The Hague. In addition to the fact that they were both from Nova Scotia, they had much in common. Both had exceptionally keen minds, both became a judge on an international court, each was Dean of the Dalhousie Law School, each excelled at communication and each held traditional family values.

In life, Ron was a blessing to his family, his friends, his classmates, his colleagues and to all others who benefited from his teaching, his advice and his wise decisions. All of us who have had the privilege of knowing him are saddened by his passing.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Annemarie Jacomy Millette

Ron a été pour plusieurs d’entre nous un modèle, une ‘lumière’ sur tous les plans, amitié comprise -- juriste remarquable, organisateur extraordinaire, excellent pédagogue, écrivain qui savait associer à ses travaux grands et petits, débutants et savants -- il laisse un grand vide. C’est un peu de chacun de nous qui disparaît avec lui. Je crois qu’il avait la foi du chrétien très solidement inscrite en lui et que d’une manière ou d’une autre nous nous retrouverons dans ‘l’absolu’.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Aldo Chircop

I was very happy to receive the memo inviting a contribution to commemorate Ron’s life.

I had the privilege of having Ron as one of my teachers in the early 1980s. He quickly became a role model for me in many ways. He had an infectious enthusiasm for international legal scholarship, had a wonderful way of encouraging students and faculty colleagues, received people very warmly and rejoiced at the achievements of others. It was always stimulating and fun to spend time with Ron. He influenced me in a profound and lasting manner.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Rambod Behboodi*

It is fitting perhaps that on this sad occasion, I should be writing from Geneva, the seat of the Human Rights Council, and only a few hundred kilometres from the European Court of Human Rights, of which Professor Macdonald was a long-serving Judge. Perhaps as important is the fact that in part inspired by him and his teaching, I have spent the last twelve years - nearly my entire professional experience as a lawyer - dedicated to the cause of international law, and to propagating and safeguarding the rule of law in relations between states.

"Inspire" is the right word to use, in its true, mystical sense, because international law is, at bottom, not a fact but a matter of faith. Faith in the future; faith in the civilising force of law; faith in humanity. I see this in my daily work; we see this in the daily news. The law is the law not because it is written somewhere upon a stone tablet (gathering moss in a forgotten trench or dust in a museum), but rather, because we wish it to be so, we will it to be so, and we daily affirm it in our discourse and our intercourse, as lawyers, citizens, professors, practitioners ...

And Ron had this faith, this abiding belief in the law and in international law, in heaps.

But it was faith with a concrete basis, aiming for concrete results. Not for Ron the abstractions - though he was not a stranger to them - nor the ideals, ever so dangerous, of the "perfectibility of man" or some such nonsense. So far as I could see as a pupil, his faith arose out of his study of real historical experiences. Each class, we did not discuss philosophies or philosophers, but men and women of action, and their actions, that drove home the value of the law to a civilised nation and a civilised international community. From this concrete basis - the law as personified and crystallised in specific human action - to concrete results.

It was a tumultuous time, a time of great fears and grand hopes, a time when history ended for some and a new world order began for others. But Ron never took his eyes off the eight ball: what does it mean, he asked and pushed and prodded, to "authorise" action under Chapter Seven? What is this constitutional structure, the UN system, that we have suddenly discovered to be functioning, supposed to be doing, and how? What does it mean to the soldier on the ground, to be "enforcing" international law? What does it mean to the men and women on whom bombs rain for forty-seven days as the enforcement is being implemented? What is the point of compromise, as some suggested, when it makes hash of the constitutional regime's Prime Directive, territorial integrity? What is the essence of enforcement, when it could be put in place by trampling under jackboots another principle, Peace?

I am not sure my answers pleased him then, or if those answers then please me now. Ron never flagged in encouraging me to press on, to seek answers, to apply the law in concrete cases, to find the path to the preservation of the rule of law ... a path we leave at our mortal peril, as we discover now, as I experience in my daily life.

To Ron Macdonald, professor, mentor, friend, ... and inspiration.

*Senior Legal Advisor/Conseiller juridique principal
Mission du Canada auprès de l'OMC/
Mission of Canada to the WTO

Charles Marvin

I first encountered Ron Macdonald in Ottawa at a joint conference of the Canadian Council of International Law and the Canada-United States Law Institute in the autumn of 1977. Ron's enthusiasm and then CCIL President Donat Pharand's arm-twisting got me rapidly involved as an Executive Board Member. Over the following years, I was more and more impressed with Ron's genuine concern about the world around him combined with the enormous diplomatic skill and finesse that he demonstrated in his interaction with others of us who displayed manifestly lesser degrees of those qualities.

Upon reflection, I believe that Ron's life experience at his first alma mater, St.F.X., where Rev. Dr. Coady's Antigonish Movement emphasized human rights and dignity in the context of social reform coming through education, and at the centre of his basic professional training, Dalhousie Law School, the Maker of Premiers (in the case of Ron, a premier gentleman), provided a solid grounding for the dynamic academic and organizational leader he was to become.

Although Ron and I did not see each other much in recent years (he having retired, and I having relocated to Atlanta, Georgia), I still remember with special gratitude his assistance to me in 1998, when he was preparing to step down from his judicial post on the European Court of Human Rights and I was organizing for the first time an overseas program in human rights law for American law students in Strasbourg.

Ron contributed so much to us all. May our remembrance of him remain steady and full in our minds and in our hearts.

Professor Errol Mendes

There is no greater contribution to the academy of knowledge than a mentor who guides new entrants into any field of human endeavour. For me, there was no greater mentor as a young professor of law starting his career than Ronald St. John Macdonald. When I started teaching international law at the University of Alberta in Edmonton at the very tender age of 23, I was feeling to say the least isolated and a little doubtful that I had made the right choice. From the very beginning, Ron was there to give me encouragement whenever I came to CCCIL conferences and he made me feel part of a Canada wide support network of international law professors. With his encouragement, I persisted and would not be where I am today, if it were not for that critical mentorship. His work as mentor to the new entrants into the field he so loved and so excelled in is just one aspect of a great sprit who showed everybody that any field of human knowledge requires not only a collection of single enquiring and ambitious minds, but also a bond of friendship, solidarity and cooperation that transcends individual and institutional goals in the pursuit of the progress of all humankind. Ronald, I salute your great sprit.

Michel Pharand

My father, Donat Pharand, introduced me to his old Dalhousie University classmate when I was a teenager. I met Ron a number of times over the years and, fortunately, got to know him better while living in Toronto in 1991.

I was surprised to discover that, for someone who devoted his life to the exacting study of the law, he was very well-read and knew all about Joseph Conrad, whose novels he greatly admired. Most striking of all were his consideration and his stately, gentlemanly demeanour. He possessed (in the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald describing Jay Gatsby) a smile "with a quality of eternal reassurance in it that concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favour." When Ron spoke to you, it was as if you were the only person in the room.

The last time I saw Ron was a few years ago in Ottawa, at a celebration for my father's eightieth birthday, where he gave a tribute whose wit and eloquence moved us all. This is how I will remember him: charming, articulate, and tremendously vibrant.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Donat Pharand

It is impossible to even begin to do justice to this pioneer of international law in Canada in these few words, but I would like to touch upon some of his extraordinary achievements and qualities as a scholar and publicist, as a teacher and consultant, as a European judge and, simply, as a person.

Ron, the scholar and publicist, took the first steps toward his academic career by completing a B.A. at St. Francis Xavier, Antigonish, in 1949, and an LL.B. at Dalhousie in 1952. He then went on to complete two LL.M. degrees: one at London University in 1954, the other, at Harvard in 1955. During his 50 years of scholarly work, Ron published more than 75 substantial articles exploring various aspects of international and constitutional law. His focus was mainly on human rights and international organizations, particularly the United Nations and the need for its reform.

Ron believed that there was a need “to promote the idea that law is liberating instead of constraining” and that “law makes possible the kind of society we want to live in”. He applied that vision to the international community, and he pressed for the adoption of a process which could lead to an eventual global constitution. It is remarkable that Ron never ceased to publish, even when he was dean, and he strongly encouraged his professors to publish as well.

In addition to his prolific personal writings, Ron was the founding editor of four law journals and the general editor of some seven voluminous books. One of these was a 972-page volume entitled Canadian Perspectives on International Law and Organization which he organized and co-edited with his colleagues Gerald Morris and Douglas Johnston in 1974. As a teacher for over 35 years at Osgoode Hall, Western Ontario, University of Toronto and Dalhousie, and dean for twelve of those years at the last two universities, Ron never ceased to make teaching his priority along with his writings. Along with his teaching, Ron was a consultant to foreign governments, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Department of External Affairs. He was even Canada’s representative on the Sixth (Legal) Committee of the General Assembly of the UN for some five sessions, in the 1960s and 70s. His numerous consultancies with External Affairs were all the more significant that the Department was still rather reluctant at that time to seek outside legal advice.

As if the above record were not impressive enough, it was perhaps as a judge on the European Court of Human Rights that Ron might have made his most memorable contribution. At the request of Lichtenstein, he became the candidate of that country and was elected to the court where he quickly became known as the Canadian judge. During his tenure of eighteen years (1980-1998), he heard a great variety of cases and developed a reputation for taking a reflective and flexible approach. In particular, he supported the doctrine of “margin of appreciation”, which permits a country to take reasonable account of its own culture and values in the implementation of its human rights obligations.

With this adaptable approach in mind, it is not surprising that Ron paid special attention to human rights in China. Having supervised the graduate work of numerous Chinese students at Dalhousie in the field of human rights, several of his former students became professors of international law in China and one, Bai Guimei, is now Deputy Director of the Research Center for Human Rights at Peking University, Beijing. She is presently pursuing a project with the University of Ottawa on various forms of discrimination, particularly in relation to women. Ron firmly believed that, in our global village, we should stress our common humanity rather than our diversity, particularly in the area of human rights.

As a person, Ron was a profoundly good human being, genuinely interested in others. Endowed with an exceptional intellect and sound judgment, he always showed the greatest respect and tolerance for the views of others. In the fifty-seven years I knew him, I do not recall once his having used disparaging words when disagreeing with someone else. Indeed, it might be said that he carried his politeness and diplomacy to a fault. But this was his nature and hallmark: gracious, charming, unassuming, generous in his judgment of others and quick to recognize their contribution.

Among Ron’s innumerable accomplishments, perhaps the most important and enduring for the international law community in Canada was his foundation of the Canadian Council on International Law. He was not only its founding President, but the Council was his vision and it remains his lasting legacy. Beginning with a modest membership of 35 in 1972, consisting mainly of academics and a few government lawyers, the Council now maintains an average of over 200 regular members and about 150 student members. Aware, however, that the Council had difficulty making ends meet, Ron proposed that a special dinner be held on the occasion of its 35th anniversary. At that dinner, the contribution of the Council to the study of the legal aspects of Canada’s international problems would be highlighted and suggestions to improve the Council’s financial situation would be discussed. My earnest hope is that Ron’s proposal will be implemented, in spite of the view of some that it was somewhat grandiose. We owe it to Ron to give it our best effort.

Described as a citizen of the world, Ronald St. John Macdonald was a Companion of the Order of Canada, a Queen’s Counsel, a member of the Institut de droit international, an honorary professor of law at Peking University, a former President of the World Academy of Arts and Sciences, the recipient of the Ramon John Hnatyshyn Medal for Law awarded by the Canadian Bar Association, the holder of four honorary degrees of doctor of laws awarded by the universities of McGill, Dalhousie, Carleton and St. Francis Xavier, and a recipient of the John E. Read Gold Medal awarded by the Canadian Council on International Law. Ron devoted his whole life to the law and never married. He will be profoundly missed by his two loving sisters, Dr. Mairi Macdonald, of Halifax, and Dr. Elizabeth Podnieks, of Toronto, and by his colleagues, former students and friends.

May his legacy be a model and his memory a blessing.

Note: A more complete version of this tribute will appear in the next issue of Ocean Yearbook.