Almost 100 years ago, articling students from across Canada, students like Sonny Wilson and brothers David and Pete Swayze from Ontario, and John Diefenbaker from Saskatchewan, put down their pens and books and instead picked up rifles to join over 600,000 of their fellow Canadians abroad. These young men put aside their dreams and their futures to join a War being fought in places that few of them had ever seen.
As we know, John Diefenbaker returned and went on to great success in life. Many others like Wilson and the Swayze brothers were not as fortunate. 220 of the Canadian articling students that enlisted never returned. All we have left to remember those lost souls are names on monuments much like the Memorial in the Great Library at Osgoode Hall.
For many years, when the names of the Law Societies’ Fallen were read aloud at the annual Remembrance Day Ceremony, the students were referred as being “never called”– a haunting reminder of lives cut short by the tragedy of War. However, on November 10, 2014, the Law Society gave 58 fallen students honorary calls to the bar. As a result at future Remembrance Day Ceremonies those young men will be referred to as members of the profession and having received an honorary call in 2014. This Act of Remembrance brought 58 young men whose lives were interrupted almost 100 years ago into the profession and, in a small way, brought closure to their families. We gave those brave young men in death what the fates denied them in life....... calls to the bar.
The concept of remembering our WWI students may have been mine, but it was our collective project – as a profession – to honour these men for what they sacrificed. It allows us to recognize in a tangible way not only the loss suffered by their families, but the loss to the profession – and to the country – when they did not return to fulfill their aspirations of becoming lawyers.
I hope what we did in November of last year will be repeated in other provinces. My goal was to have all of the law societies memorialize their students in some way and I hope what we have done will set an example for the other law societies to following in the coming years.
Law Society Medal Acceptance Speech