Clayton Ruby, the Canadian civil rights lawyer who for decades took on some of the country’s most notable and high-profile cases, was remembered Wednesday as a force in the legal world who changed lives through his advocacy and left an irreversible mark on the justice system. .
Ruby, 80, died Tuesday afternoon surrounded by her family, her law firm announced on Wednesday. In a statement, Ruby Shiller Enenajor DiGiuseppe said she mourned the loss of her leader and mentor, a “dedicated defender of human rights, a champion of the oppressed and a loving friend”.
Joy Cheskes remembers working with Ruby for two years in the mid-2000s as he fought on her behalf and on behalf of several others to keep the Ontario government from releasing confidential adoption records.
The Toronto attorney’s office had offered to take on the case and filed a constitutional challenge to a new provincial law that would have retroactively released records so birth parents and adoptees could access information about each other. others.
While she was initially nervous about meeting him, Ruby was “so calm and he had an air of confidence about him that gave me confidence,” Cheskes said in an interview from Stratford, Ont. , Wednesday.
“We were just walking blind and so to have the lion of the legal world take care of this for us, it was really remarkable.”
At some point in the process, Cheskes asked the lawyer a key question: did he think they would win? “Clayton said, ‘I can’t say. All I know is we’re on the safe side,” she said.
The law was overturned in 2007 days after it took effect, ensuring Cheskes’ privacy was protected, she said.
“He was a very important person to so many people,” she said. “He was a lawyer who worked for ordinary people’s rights and he changed people’s lives.”
Ruby’s partner Stephanie DiGiuseppe said Ruby “loved life, he loved people.”
“He understood justice and he fought for it. He made the world a better place,” she said in a tweet. “Clay was funny, kind and completely original. We won’t see his equal again. Rest in peace, dear friend.”
Other members of the legal, policy and advocacy communities also expressed their grief and paid tribute to Ruby’s vast legacy.
Ruby was a “true giant of the Canadian bar,” Federal Justice Minister David Lametti said on Twitter.
“His decades of principled advocacy have left an indelible mark on our justice system and on Canadian society. My sincere condolences to his loved ones on his passing.”
York University, where Ruby was an alumnus, sent its condolences to her family and friends.
“Known for his activism as a civil rights advocate, he exemplified the commitment to driving positive change,” school president and vice-chancellor Rhonda Lenton wrote in a statement.
Ruby, who received the Order of Canada in 2005, has been involved in several high profile cases during her decades-long career.
Among those he represented were abortion rights advocate Dr Henry Morgentaler, as well as Guy Paul Morin, who was wrongfully convicted in the murder of Christine Jessop before being exonerated in 1995.
In Toronto, Ruby was embroiled in a conflict of interest case that sought to have then-Mayor Rob Ford removed from office.
He also represented the surviving Dionne quintuplets in negotiating a settlement with the Ontario government, which had taken them from their cash-strapped parents in the 1930s and exposed them to tourists in a sort of attraction in front of the family house.
The sisters received a $4 million settlement from the Ontario government in the 1990s after raising concerns about alleged mismanagement of a trust fund that had been set up to secure their future.
Also in the 1990s, Ruby represented former MP Svend Robinson, who was present in 1994 during the then-illegal medically assisted death of right-to-die lawyer Sue Rodriguez. Ultimately, Robinson was not charged in the case.
Robinson said in a tweet on Wednesday that he was “heartbroken” by Ruby’s death, calling him a “dear friend” and a “giant of the legal profession, pillar of the progressive community, and a good and honest man. , a mensch”.