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.
To Eleanor and family, my condolences on the passing of Barry, who was for me a wonderful mentor, colleague, friend and lunch companion for almost 60 years. I will miss him greatly.
Barry Strayer was a mentor to me when I joined the Federal Court in 1992 and was a valued colleague at the Federal Court of Appeal. We were both products of the prairies. My thoughts are with his family.
My heartfelt condolences to Barry’s family. When I was appointed to the Federal Court in 2002, Barry was one of the first to welcome me to the court. I often sought out his wisdom as I wrestled with difficult issues. His wonderful, kind guidance - always delivered with that magnetic smile and droll sense of humour - was very much appreciated. May memories of you Dad provide you with comfort.
Condolences to Eleanor and the family. Barry was a gem of a man, both professionally and as a friend and fellow curler. May his memory be a blessing for all who knew him.
May his memory be for a blessing
Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada
The Hon. Barry Strayer served as Chief Justice of the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada from December 7, 1994 to May 1, 2004. During that time he sat on 22 appeals and was the principal author of 14 decisions. His reputation and pursuit of excellence have greatly inspired the two Chief Justices who succeeded him at the Court. On behalf of the Court, I extend my condolences and heartfelt sympathy to Hon. Strayer's family. In order to serve Canadians in the capacity he did required significant sacrifice on the part of the whole family. I thank each of you for having shared your husband, father and grandfather with the Court. B. Richard Bell, Chief Justice, Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada
Like many sons and daughters of Saskatchewan of his generation, Barry deeply believed in the importance of public service, and excelled in his roles as scholar, constitutional advisor, and judge. His legal brilliance was matched only by his devastating wit and felicitous pen. It was always a special pleasure and a privilege to sit with Barry on a panel of the Federal Court of Appeal. His was a life well and truly lived. Deepest condolences to Eleanor and family.
Barry was a wonderful person and a great Canadian.We were fortunate to have him as a colleague.
Barry was a scholar and a gentleman.His contribution to the public service and to the judiciary was remarquable.He will notably be well remembered for his precious involvement in the patriation of the Constitution of Canada and in the writing of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom.My deepest sympathies to Eleanor and family.
The members and staff of the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada send their deepest condolences to you, Mrs. Strayer, your children and all members of the Strayer family. Hon. Strayer's contribution to the Court's jurisprudence continues to be a source of pride; and, the standard against which we measure our work. Que dieu vous bénisse. B. Richard Bell