Leading Canadian civil rights lawyer and giant of the legal profession Clayton Ruby has died aged 80.
Ruby, who was awarded the Order of Canada in 2005, passed away on Tuesday. His law firm Ruby Shiller Enenajor DiGiuseppe said Ruby died peacefully surrounded by his family.
“Clay was a dedicated human rights advocate, champion of the underdog and a loving friend. Our thoughts are with his family and our entire company mourns the loss of our leader and mentor,” the company said in a tweet.
In his listing on the website of the Governor General’s Order of Canada, Ruby is described as “a prominent criminal defense attorney whose reputation stretches across the country. [who] devoted his career to promoting justice.”
Ruby has volunteered his time for many human rights organizations, including PEN Canada, Human Rights Watch and the Sierra Legal Defense Fund.
During his celebrated career, he took on some of the country’s most notable cases, including the wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin, who was accused of murdering nine-year-old Christine Jessop in 1984 before being acquitted.
When police identified Jessop’s killer in 2020, Ruby spoke to TBEN News about the “tragedy” of wrongful convictions.
“You never recover. It’s never the same as before,” he said.
VIEW | Clayton Ruby Responds to Police Identifying Christine Jessop’s Actual Killer:
We tend to trust prosecutors who say, ‘Convict this man, we have enough evidence to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt… We rely on authority and I think this case has made it clear to people that there are mistakes and that they can be huge. and inexplicable.
So there’s a more skeptical approach to prosecution claims and I think that’s a healthy thing. It makes us all safer.”
Among his other high-profile cases, Ruby also represented Michelle Douglas, a soldier who was discharged from the military in 1989 because of her sexual orientation. In 1992, shortly before her case was due to go to trial, the military abandoned its policy that prohibits LGBT Canadians from serving and settled the case.
Last year, Ruby spoke to TBEN News after Ontario’s chief pathologist determined the cause of Soleiman Faqiri’s death in an Ontario prison cell in 2016. To date, no guards have been charged in the case.
“It’s a failure of justice. And the Attorney General and the Solicitor General have a responsibility to correct it,” Ruby told TBEN News.
A lawsuit filed by the family against the county and seven individual prison employees is still pending in court.
Ruby also served on the patronage board for the medically assisted death advocacy organization Dying with Dignity.
In 1994, he represented former NDP MP Svend Robinson who attended what was then the unlawful medically assisted death of Sue Rodriguez but was ultimately not charged.
In a tweet Wednesday, Robinson said he was “heartbroken” by the news of Ruby’s death.
“Giant in the legal profession, pillar of the progressive community, and a fine and decent man, a human being,” he wrote.