Canada has lost one of its outstanding constitutional experts. Barry L. Strayer passed away peacefully at the Montfort Hospital in Ottawa after a lengthy illness. Among the friends, family and colleagues who mourn the loss of this clever, witty man are his beautiful and supportive wife Eleanor, his daughter Alison (Jean-Philippe Cresceri), his sons Jonathan (Donna Bartolini) and Colin (Tammy Tanner), and his brother Richard in Saskatoon. He is predeceased by brothers Gordon and Allan.
After a distinguished academic career that included scholarships at Oxford and Harvard, Barry returned to his home province of Saskatchewan to teach, specializing in constitutional law. In 1967 he was invited to Ottawa for a one-year assignment to help revise the constitution. That one year extended to 15 years during which time Barry played an instrumental role in establishing the legal framework for the patriation of the Constitution of Canada, and was one of the principal writers of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He worked alongside Prime Minister Trudeau through to 1982 when the constitution was finally patriated and the Charter adopted into law.
In 1983 Barry was appointed a judge of the Federal Court of Canada, and in 1994 a judge of the Federal Court of Appeal. He also served in a part-time capacity as Chief Justice of the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada from 1994 and, as such, served as a member of the Canadian Judicial Council. He retired from these posts in 2004.
Throughout his professional life Barry was engaged in constitutional and public law issues and wrote on public law subjects. He had three books published: Judicial Review of Legislation in Canada, The Canadian Constitution and the Courts, and Canada’s Constitutional Revolution. In 2008 he was named an Officer Of the Order of Canada, the citation referring to him as a “renowned expert in constitutional law”.
Barry was also called upon for his expertise outside Canada: he drafted a constitution for the Republic of the Seychelles to restore constitutional government after a coup d’etat; advised the Government of Hong Kong on the drafting and adoption of a Bill of Rights in preparation for the transfer of sovereignty to the People’s Republic of China; and assisted the Canadian Bar Association in helping the Nepal Bar Association in the writing of a new constitution.
He enjoyed summers of golfing and sailing at the cottage on the Gatineau River, especially in the company of family and friends. He had an abiding interest in India, where he traveled several times after an early formative voyage on a World University Service seminar in 1953. His greatest recreation was reading, mainly non-fiction works of history and biography. Like Eleanor, he had a love of language and a knack for recitation with a varied repertoire.
A memorial service will be held at Beechwood Cemetery Monday Dec. 12, 2022 at 1:30 p.m. Donations in Barry’s memory to the Canadian National Institute of the Blind, the Alzheimer Society of Canada or a charity of your choice would be appreciated.
The family wishes to thank the staff and care team at the Rockcliffe Retirement Residence, the medical team at the Montfort hospital and Dr. Heather Galbraith for the exceptional care and comfort they provided Barry in the past months.
May remembering him give you happiness and inspiration. My condolences.
Mes sincères condoléances aux membres de la famille. Au début des années 1980, alors que j'étais un jeune avocat au cabinet de Michel Robert , qui représentait le gouvernement du Canada dans le dossier du rapatriement , mon mentor me parlait déjà avec admiration du fin juriste constitutionnel et conseiller qu'était Barry Strayer. J'allais finalement avoir la chance de le côtoyer pendant quelques années suite à ma nomination comme juge de la Cour fédérale. C' était un homme d'une intelligence vive que je respectais profondément. Il fait partie de ces hommes ayant une vision noble du Canada , qui ont inspiré toute une génération, et dont la plupart nous ont quitté malheureusement.
My sympathies to Barry's wonderful family. When Barry was the constitutional adviser to the Prime Minister and first ADM of the Public Law Branch from 1978 to 1983, I had the privilege of being his executive assistant. Among many other things, I am especially grateful for the role he played in my coming of age as a constitutional lawyer. I know from personal experience that Canada’s most renowned constitutional lawyers, Governors General, Lieutenants Governor, Prime Ministers and Premiers and indeed from what I could see, all of Canada’s greatest constitutionalists and of course everyone in the Justice Department looked up to him with the utmost respect for his knowledge, kindness, dry humour, integrity, good judgement and well-rounded personality. His legacy speaks for itself and I feel blessed to have been among those who had the opportunity to work closely with him and even more fully and fondly appreciate the man.
Great obit. Thinking of you all. xox
Michael L Phelan
I had the privilege of appearing before Barry in his role as a judge and as a Competition Tribunal judicial member. Just trying to keep up with him made on a better counsel. Trying to emulate him as a judge was a true mission impossible. He was one of our judicial greats.
My sincere sympathies to the family. He is in my thoughts and prayers
On loan to Justice, I worked with Barry on a special project and admired him greatly for his wisdom, talent, and humanity. My deepest sympathy to the family for his loss.
We are so sorry for your loss. Sending much love.
Barry had a brilliant mind, a razor-sharp wit, a gracious and gentle demeanour, and was a generous and kind person with a somewhat goofy smile. I met him during the "constitutional wars" of the 70s and 80s as an official of the Blakeney Saskatchwan government, in the 90s as Co-Director of Research with the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and into the 2000s as an academic, not to to mention the decades of curling with the Saskatchewan Mafia. He was a gift to Canada; his family is rightfully proud, and we are profoundly sad but grateful.
Robin and Graham Hardman
Our thoughts are with you as we send our deepest sympathies to Eleanor and the family. We will greatly miss Barry's warmth, wit, wisdom and kindness.
Louis and Mimi Cabri
So sorry about Barry's passing away. Have many recollections from being a good neighbour. Condolences to Eleanor, Allison, Jonathan, and Colin.