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

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