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There are several well-known individuals who have come from Yorkton over the years. Some have succeeded in business. Others have found success in sports, while some have found their way to becoming renown through a career like law. Such is the case with Brian Dickson.
Brian Dickson was born on May 25, 1916 in Yorkton to Thomas Dickson and Sarah Elizabeth Gibson. He would spend his formative years through The Great Depression, which helped to instill a strong work ethic within him. In his later years, he would move to Winnipeg with his family where he attended the University of Manitoba after he graduated from Ridley College in 1934. He would graduate from college in 1938, earning his first permanent job with the Great-West Life Assurance Company.
During the Second World War, he would be called to the bar in 1940, and would enlist and serve overseas with the armed force. In August of 1944, he fought in a battle near Falaise, where he was hit in the right leg by friendly fire. He survived but would lose his leg to amputation.
Upon his return to Winnipeg in 1945, he joined a law firm and became a successful corporate lawyer. He also became a lecturer at the Faculty of Law at the University of Manitoba, where he served until 1954. In 1963, he was appointed to the Queen’s Bench of Manitoba, and in 1967, was elevated at the Manitoba Court of Appeal.
He would remain there until March 26, 1973 when he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. Just over a decade later, he became the 15th Chief Justice of Canada, appointed by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. He was chosen over the more senior Roland Ritchie in a surprise move by the Liberal government.
He would serve on the Supreme Court for 17 years in total, before he retired on June 30, 1990. This also marked his retirement as Chief Justice of Canada. During his time on the Supreme Court, he was highly influential in a number of decisions, including ruling that the prohibition of abortion violated a woman’s security of person. He also had an important role in the initial interpretation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
He would pass away on Oct. 17, 1998 at the age of 82 at his home in Ottawa.
For his work with law in Canada, he would become a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1990, and the Faculty of Law library at the University of Ottawa is named in his honour. The library also contains several of his papers and personal effects.
From being a boy in Yorkton, to the highest court in the land, Dickson made his mark on Canada without a doubt.