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.
Robert and Catherine Osler
Robert and Catherine Osler
We mourn the loss of a good friend from our time spent in the Chelsea and Glebe neighbourhoods. A man who could charm you with his witty after-dinner stories or while beating you in a game of golf. We share our grief with Eleanor and , Alison, Jonathon, Colin and their spouses.
I had the pleasure of appearing before Barry sitting as a judge and as a judicial member of the Competition Tribunal. He was so kind and helpful when I joined the Court To meet his standards for a layer was to make one a better counsel- to emulate him as a judge was a mission impossible. Barry was one of this country’s legal greats
Toutes mes condoléances à ta mère, tes deux frères et à toi, chère Alison. Quel grand homme il était, ton père. Je ne l’ai rencontré qu’une seule fois, j’ai été frappé par sa présence et la vivacité de ses beaux yeux bleus. Il y a la tristesse, mais également une certitude: il va continuer à vivre en chacun de vous.
Chère Alison, je t’offre mes condoléances ainsi qu’à ta maman et à tes deux frères. Ton père était un homme remarquable, un homme « hors de l’ordinaire. Je ne l’ai rencontré qu’une seule fois: sa forte présence et ses beaux yeux bleus m’ont impressionné. Au-delà de l’immense tristesse que vous vivez tous les quatre, il y a la consolation de savoir qu’il va continuer y ivre en vous, Klaudie
Canada has lost a great Canadian. His contributions to our democracy and justice system are significant. And these contributions did not stop at our national borders. I am forever grateful for Barry's contributions to the Canadian Bar Association's Developing Democracy in Nepal Project. We took great pride sharing one of Canada's leading constitutional reform lawyers cum jurist with lawmakers and lawyers in Nepal. Our colleagues in Nepal always recalled him with great fondness and admiration for the insights he brought to their constitution making process.
My sincere condolences Eleanor, Alison, Jonathan and Colin - Barry's was a life well lived and he will be missed by many.
As the son of Barry's oldest brother and as a birthright U.S. citizen, I had limited opportunity to spend time with my Canadian Uncle Barry. 'Notwithstanding' that, I can recall this illustration of his oft-mentioned droll sense of humor that came to me by way of my own father.
Years ago as Barry spoke to his three siblings of the work he had just written: "Canada's Constitutional Revolution" he allowed a little rhetorical prank, aiming to mimic the aggrandizing blurbs that book publishers put on book jackets. The thrust of it was something like:
Once you put <<this>> book down, it's difficult to pick back up!
I will never again have another chance to hear something like this from my Uncle Barry directly. Aunt Eleanor, cousins Alison, Johnathon and Colin there is nothing that can be said that makes your loss any easier to bear. But please know that your extended family mourns along with you.
It is almost six years since, as Chelsea nearby neighbours, we followed our good friends Barry and Eleanor into retirement residence living - and began to lose touch. Although the fault, if any, would be ours rather than theirs. We miss our golfing and social get-togethers a lot. Eleanor together with Alison, Jonathon, Colin and their partner will be foremost in our minds as we mourn the loss a man of great intellect and wit.