University of Manitoba - University Governance - The Honourable James Wilson, LL.D., June 2, 1987
The Honourable James Wilson, LL.D., June 2, 1987
The Honourable James Edward Wilson
M.B.E., CD., B.A., LL.B.

I have the honour to present the Honourable James Edward Wilson, M.B.E., CD., B.A., LL.B.

A proud and loyal alumnus of this University in Arts and Law, he has given, in times of war and of peace, in professional and public matters, outstanding service and leadership in the tradition of responsible citizenship that is such a notable part of the story of this University and its graduates in the life of our community.

Mr. Justice Wilson - universally, "Jimmy", to the many whom he has known and helped - was born in Winnipeg and grew up in the City's West End, attending local schools before coming to the University, where he was a leading figure in The Manitoban and other student activities.

His studies at the Manitoba Law School were interrupted by six years' distinguished military service with the Royal Canadian Artillery, first in the United Kingdom and then as an officer in campaigns in North-west Europe. Later, from 1956 to 1960, he was commanding officer of The University of Manitoba COTC.

On returning to Winnipeg, he received his Bachelor of Laws degree and was called to the Bar in 1946. In 1956, he was made Queen's Counsel, and in 1965 he was appointed a puisne judge of the Court of Queen's Bench, which he now continues to serve as a very active supernumerary judge.

The community and public services of Mr. Justice Wilson are legion. At various times he has been involved in the work of the Y.M.C.A., the Community Welfare Planning Council, and the Dominion Drama Festival, and he is or has been a member and chairman of the Misericordia Hospital council, a governor of the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires Manitoba Division, chairman of the Westminster Foundation, president of the Manitoba Paraplegia Foundation, an officer of the Manitoba Medical Services Foundation, and a trustee of the Dafbe Foundation.

His outstanding contribution to the work of the Red Cross, begun in 1956 as honorary counsel to the Manitoba Division, has included two terms of service as President of the Canadian Red Cross Society and participation in various international activities and committees.

Particular mention should be made of the strong and continuing support given by Mr. Justice Wilson to education, in all its aspects. Before his appointment to the Bench, he was a member, and then chairman, of the Winnipeg School Board. He has been a lecturer in the Manitoba Law School, the Law Society's Bar Admission and continuing education programmes, and in courses of the Society of Industrial and Cost Accountants. He has been chairman of the Manitoba and Prairies Region selection committees of the Rhodes Scholarship Trust. Through the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice, he has taken an active part in judicial and professional education, and in 1983 he organized two particularly important and influential conferences on the then quite recently adopted Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the proceedings of which were a valuable contribution to the early scholarly literature on the new constitution. He believes, and demonstrates in his own work, the worth of the dictum of Sir Walter Scott's Counsellor Pleydell, "A lawyer without history or literature is a mechanic, or mere working mason; if he professes some knowledge of these, he may venture to call himself an architect."

The judgements that Mr. Justice Wilson has delivered from the Bench, incisive and gracefully written, reflecting a deep knowledge of the law and a creative and principled approach to the solution of problems, have added significantly to Canadian jurisprudence. He has made a notable contribution to the administration of the business of the courts. However, it is perhaps in his conduct of trials that his perceptiveness, humanity, and sense of fairness most clearly show forth; court observers say that to watch Mr. Justice Wilson working with a jury is to see our system working at its best.

Sir Francis Bacon said, to lawyers but in words that apply to everyone who has been privileged to receive the benefit and opportunity conferred by higher education, "I hold every man a debtor to his profession; from the which, as men of course do seek to receive countenance and profit, so ought they of duty to endeavour themselves by way of amends, to be a help and ornament thereto." To that obligation and trust, Jimmy Wilson has been outstandingly faithful.

Mr. Chancellor, it is my privilege to ask, in the name of the Senate of The University of Manitoba, that you now confer on James E. Wilson the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.