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  • Canadian Maverick: The Life and Times of Ivan C Rand
  • David Dyzenhaus
Canadian Maverick: The Life and Times of Ivan C Rand William Kaplan Toronto: University of Toronto Press / Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2009. Pp. 510 CAN$55.00

Judicial biography seems to be in fashion in Canada, a phenomenon that deserves an explanation, as the lives of judges, even those who reach the highest office, usually have no more inherent interest than do the lives of most of us, and very few who achieve the office have such a singular impact on the law that their jurisprudential contribution is worth a whole book. In his biography of Ivan Rand, William Kaplan does offer an explanation: 'The Charter of Rights and Freedoms changed everything. What judges say governs. Who they are and where they come from now matter a great deal. Naturally, people are curious about the men and women who populate the bench, especially about the membership of the Supreme Court of Canada' (xiv).

But of the several biographies of Canadian judges Kaplan briefly discusses, the majority are of judges whose careers did not include adjudication under the Charter and of course the same is true of Rand. Indeed, if what we are intrigued by is the phenomenon of judicial power, it would be much more pertinent to have studies that focused on judges as a group - their economic and social backgrounds, their political connections, the appointment process, and the kinds of career they chose in order to qualify themselves for not only judicial office but also office at the highest level. This last factor could perhaps explain why judges' lives are no more inherently interesting than are the lives of most of us, might even be less interesting, as Canadians who have aspirations to the highest judicial office might, like their American counterparts, cultivate lives of worthy but salutary boredom in order to be untainted by the kind of controversy that could impede appointment.

Moreover, judicial power is not the factor that chiefly interests Kaplan. Rather, his own somewhat caustic comments about other judicial biographies make it clear that his view is that for a judicial biography to be worth writing and reading, its subject must first have had an inherently interesting life - that is, not the typical lawyerly career - and must second have made a singular contribution to the law, which is why only Philip Girard's study of Bora Laskin gets Kaplan's wholehearted approval (xiv).

In picking Rand, Kaplan was, by these two criteria, making an excellent choice. Rand's legal career was unusual. He went from legal practice to provincial politics to a career as a railway counsel and then directly to [End Page 521] the Supreme Court in 1943, an institution which was 'badly in need of a new man' (97). And in chapter 4, 'The Framework of Freedom', Kaplan sets out the judgments that showed how well Rand met that need in crafting judgments that may be the finest modern statement of the claim that inherent in legal order are unwritten constitutional principles protective of freedom. Rand was then appointed to arbitrate a bitter labour dispute, which he did by devising a formula, the 'Rand Formula,' which Kaplan notes became the 'defining feature of Canadian labour law' (220). He then reluctantly took an appointment as Canada's representative on the United Nations Committee set up to report to the UN about the future of Palestine, and in which Rand, much captivated by Zionist politicking, played an influential role in producing the recommendation of partition. (Kaplan adroitly navigates his way through the minefield of giving an account sensitive to both sides of this intrinsically vexed story.) Rand's next job was to head a royal commission into the future of the troubled coal-mining industry of Nova Scotia, or rather Rand took that job after accepting the job of founding dean of the University of Western Ontario's Law Faculty, which meant that, in his first year in that position, he was largely absent; when he did take up his position, he proved to be an idiosyncratic academic administrator who tried to reproduce the Harvard Law Faculty of 1909...


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