Gerald Le Dain was a luminary figure in Canada’s progressive political history.
A respected lawyer and former Supreme Court Justice, he authored the Le Dain Commission, a groundbreaking study that recommended cannabis decriminalization in 1973. Unfortunately for Le Dain, the prohibitionists came after him. Hard. Through a series of dirty tactics, vicious personal attacks and backdoor political collusion, Le Dain became a pariah in Ottawa. And this Sunday, the CBC’s flagship weekend radio documentary program will uncover who was behind this miscarriage of justice, and why.
From the CBC: “This week, the CBC Radio program The Sunday Edition will broadcast a documentary that reveals a little-known and tragic story about Gerald Le Dain, an early hero in the movement to decriminalize marijuana.
Le Dain called for the decriminalization of pot in 1973, when his Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs filed its final report. The same document asked the federal government to treat drug addiction as a public health problem, rather a crime. The Le Dain report was far ahead of its time, praised as both courageous and ground-breaking. However, the Liberal government (under Trudeau Sr.) shelved it, and studiously ignored its findings.
Trudeau later nominated Le Dain, one of the top legal minds of the country, to the Supreme Court, where he served for four years. Then he decided to resign…abruptly. At least, that’s what people thought.
This week, in a radio documentary titled “One Judge Down,” The Sunday Edition will tell what really happened and why Gerald Le Dain’s career suddenly collapsed.
In fact, the Chief Justice at the time, Brian Dickson, demanded Le Dain’s resignation.
Many of those who knew about it at the time — judges, lawyers, law professors and family members — have kept quiet for almost thirty years. And many are highly critical of the way the Chief Justice treated Gerald Le Dain.
In our documentary, those closest to Le Dain are now speaking out on his behalf. They include Claire L’Heureux-Dubé, the last surviving Supreme Court justice from Le Dain’s era; Harry Arthurs, former President of York University; Justice Melvyn Green of the Ontario Court of Justice; David Butt, now a top criminal lawyer in Toronto who served as a Supreme Court clerk; McGill law prof Richard Janda, also a court clerk under Le Dain; and Caroline Burgess, one of Gerald Le Dain’s daughters.
Caroline’s mother, Cynthia Le Dain had asked Dickson for some time off for her husband. He’d been working diligently on writing judgments, and had fallen into a depression. Instead of granting a leave, Dickson decided that Le Dain’s days on the bench were over.
Yes, it was a different era and the stigma experienced by people suffering from mental health problems was greater then, however it is telling that others who knew Le Dain felt compassion for him and believed this story could have had a different, and much better, ending.
The producer of this story is Bonnie Brown, who has been an award-winning documentary and news producer for the CBC for about twenty years. She also has a law degree from McGill.
Her documentary will be published on our web site on the evening of January 12th and will air on The Sunday Edition January 14th.”