Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
McMurtry was a trial lawyer for seventeen years prior to winning a seat in the Ontario legislature in the 1975 Ontario election after being recruited as a candidate by Premier William Davis who was also a longtime friend and former team mate on the University of Toronto's football team. He served as Progressive Conservative Member of Provincial Parliament for the Toronto riding of Eglinton, and as Attorney-General in the Davis cabinet from 1975 until 1985. As Attorney-General, McMurtry played a major role in brokering the deal that achieved the patriation of the Canadian Constitution and the creation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. His lowest point was his role in the prosecution of nurse Susan Nelles, who was charged with the murder of a number of infants at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Nelles was ultimately exonerated and McMurtry was criticized for his ministry's role in her wrongful prosecution.
When Davis resigned as PC leader and premier in 1985, McMurtry sought the party's leadership at the February 1985 leadership convention. McMurtry's performance in candidates' debates, and his polling data showing him to be the choice of voters at large impressed the delegates, and McMurtry won a total of 300 delegates' votes - considerably more than he had been expected to win. It was not sufficient, however, to place better than fourth in a field of four, after Frank Miller, Dennis Timbrell and Larry Grossman.
McMurtry was generally considered to be from the progressive Red Tory wing of the party, and so it was not surprising when his campaign threw its support behind fellow Red Tory Grossman on the second ballot of the convention. McMurtry's support was enough to move Grossman into second place on the second ballot, ahead of the more centrist Timbrell. Timbrell's delegates were divided on the last ballot, allowing the conservative Miller to win the convention. He declined to serve in the Miller cabinet and did not run in the January 1985 Ontario election.
McMurtry did not seek the leadership at the November 1985 leadership convention, which was called following the party's loss of government to the rival Ontario Liberal Party and Miller's subsequent resignation.
From 1985 to 1988, McMurtry served as Canada's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. Upon his return to Canada he resumed his law practice as well as becoming chairman and CEO of the Canadian Football League.
In 1991 he was appointed Associate Chief Justice of the Superior Court (Trial Division) in Ontario and became Chief Justice of that court in 1994. In 1996 he became Chief Justice of Ontario heading the entire court system in the province and leading the Ontario Court of Appeal. That court gained notoriety in 2003 when it ruled that provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guaranteeing equality under the law requires the Province of Ontario to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples.
Roy McMurtry is married to Ria Jean Macrae with whom he has six children. He graduated from the University of Toronto in 1954 and received a law degree from Osgoode Hall law school in 1958. He paints as a hobby and has donated his artwork to charity auctions.
- McMurtry Art Exhibit Online exhibition of Roy McMurtry's paintings.
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