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"OSH" 2007 Obituary


O'SHAUGHNESSY o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2007-07-27 published
Judge caused a revolution in Ontario family and youth laws
Wronged by his kindergarten teacher, he never forgot the inequity and, as an adult, developed a keen desire to set things right. 'He was greatly offended at injustice'
By Noreen SHANAHAN, Special to The Globe and Mail, Page S8
In 1966, Ross FAIR was the youngest man to become a judge in the Ontario Provincial Court. He was just 39. Appointed to the family and criminal divisions, he made his greatest impact in family and youth law reform by influencing Queen's Park's decision to take a long look at the antiquated Deserted Wives and Children Maintenance Act and the Juvenile Delinquents Act. The result was the Family Law Act and the Young Offenders Act.
Ross Harold FAIR grew up in St. Catharines, Ontario, where he was the youngest of five boys. His father Willard worked in insurance, but it was the work of his mother Helen, a legal secretary, that inspired him to choose law as a career.
His sense of injustice developed early in life. Left-handed by nature, he was sent home from kindergarten with a note saying he had been suspended until he started using his right hand, at which point he'd be "welcomed back." The lesson came hard and forever introduced him to ideas about injustice.
Questions of fairness returned less than 10 years later, after the outbreak of the Second World War. Just 14, he watched, perplexed, as Friends and their older brothers headed off to fight. In the end, two-thirds of his classmates joined the military, and a startling percentage of them died in battle. One high-school friend went Absent Without Leave and hid out in the FAIRs' basement, causing much grief for Ross's mother, who was torn between handing him over and keeping him hidden. Another friend joined up reluctantly, certain he'd never make it home. He was right. He was shot dead in Holland.
For his part, Ross was troubled less by the prospect of war. As a teenager, he had spent his summers at a military camp in Petawawa, Ontario - a fairly typical experience for a boy during the early 1940s. He eventually lied about his age and joined the navy at 17 to be stationed at St-Hyacinthe, Quebec, as a wireless operator.
After the war, he completed high school in Hamilton in a program designed for veterans (he graduated alongside Lincoln Alexander, who later became Ontario's 24th lieutenant-governor), then studied political science and economics at Victoria College, University of Toronto. In 1948, he entered Osgoode Hall law school, which at the time entailed going to classes in the morning and then articling for a law firm in the afternoon. His first job was working for lawyer Fred Gardiner, who went on to become chairman of Metropolitan Toronto and the namesake of Toronto's Gardiner Expressway. Between the mundane work of serving documents and searching land titles, the student had the chance to sit in on some of Mr. Gardiner's criminal cases.
"You would hear the clacking in the cells down below and these people, some of them in handcuffs and some of them with ankle chains, stumbled up… And they could be a sorry sight; some of them would have been arrested just a few hours before," he once recalled. "They would come up and get in the prisoner's dock, and Fred would say: 'Well, that is a sorry lot we have got to work with today. It is getting so bad you can't tell the prisoners from the lawyers.' "
In 1952, he was called to the bar. He married his childhood sweetheart, Jean WESTELL, the same year and moved to St. Catharines to join a law firm. But while he enjoyed the feeling of belonging that came with being back in his hometown, there were, as he later put it, "too many in-laws and too many outlaws." Six years later, the family moved to Kitchener, Ontario, and a new law firm where, after the death of his father, he persuaded his mother to return to work as a legal secretary.
In Kitchener, he became more involved in family law and with juvenile offenders, but did not like what he found. What's more, he let his disapproval be known. "We were the poor country cousins of the judicial system," he recalled years later. "Back in the early sixties, the family court was being treated as if they were ashamed of it, and the kids didn't have a chance… we were meeting in basement halls and legion halls and they had no facilities."
While the shift away from criminal law came as a surprise to his colleagues, Judge FAIR found the drama behind family law cases to be irresistible. "In those days, most lawyers wouldn't be caught dead in family court -- myself included -- until I began to see what a disaster was going on, and what a hardship it was for people who were there," he told the Provincial Judges Oral History Project in 1995.
At Easter in 1966, he learned he was to be the new magistrate and juvenile and family court judge for the County of Waterloo. The news came as a complete surprise. He and his wife were spending the holiday weekend in New York when he heard the news in a call from his law partner. In retrospect, he came to believe that his appointment had occurred as a result of his criticism of the system.
In 1977, he was named senior judge for Central-Western Ontario, the same year he was chosen as Kitchener's citizen of the year, primarily because of his work as an advocate for families. His greatest influence was in pretrial mediation services and in reducing confrontational settlements so that families suffered less dislocation. He also hatched community solutions for young people who found themselves in trouble with the law, all the while refusing to be silent about the injustices he discovered. In fact, he fairly shrieked.
"I was screaming about inadequate resources, screaming about the terrible way the damned spousal assault cases were being dealt with, and support locally," he told the history project. "Screaming about the crown attorneys and everybody else not doing anything but paying lip service, screaming about the government putting us in basements and in terrible digs all over the place, and screaming about the training schools situation."
Meanwhile, he sometimes sidestepped policy in favour of his own more expedient solutions. For instance, a man who found himself tangled up in bureaucratic technicalities over a custody payment arrived in court, along with his ex-wife. The couple agreed that nothing was owed but that the man's employer continued to garnishee wages. Judge FAIR immediately picked up his telephone and called the company's accounting office.
"He sorted it out in 20 minutes," said his colleague, Justice Ken PEDLAR of Ontario Superior Court. "He told them: 'The man is paid up and his wife confirms it. I don't want any more pay to come off his cheque.' He was greatly offended at injustice, which is fundamentally about the abuse of power. He tried to correct it whenever he could, with great insight and understanding of the human condition."
Over the years, Judge FAIR went public with his beliefs about the system and spread the word as president of the Ontario Family Law Judges Association and with Big Brothers. He also spoke at high schools, and met with students in social-work programs to alert them to flaws in the judicial system.
"He went from the dark ages to enlightenment in an environment where it's always difficult. From youth being delinquent to youth needing a chance, and he was a leader in that group," said Michael O'SHAUGHNESSY, a Brockville lawyer who appeared before Judge FAIR many times.
In 1985, Judge FAIR and his family moved to Kingston to work as one of two family court judges in the Kingston and Brockville areas. To the end, he championed mediation as an effective courtroom tool for families. He retired in 1993 but continued to work per diem. In 2003, he had the satisfaction of seeing the Ontario laws that he had worked so hard to put in place become further improved and overhauled as the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Ross Harold FAIR was born October 25, 1925 in Peterborough, Ontario He died June 22, 2007, in Kingston. He was 81. He is survived by his wife Jean and by daughters Janet and Judy. He also leaves grandchildren Bayley and Zack.

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O'SHAUGHNESSY o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2007-11-23 published
With the stoicism and humility that characterized his heroic battle, peacefully at age 60 years, on Wednesday November 21, 2007 at Toronto General Hospital. Patrick was the beloved husband of Margaret and loving father of Thomas of Toronto. Predeceased by his darling mother Jeanne, father Gerald and brother Jack (Jo-Anne FIRLOTTE) and remembered fondly by Peggy (Boyd) of Bancroft, Mike (Linda) of Thunder Bay, Susan (Bruce) of Calgary, the Lesa family, and his many Friends, including those on Shuylers Island with whom he spent much time perfecting his golf swing. Patrick's life will also be richly celebrated by all of his colleagues in the Ministry of Transportation and DM Wills Consulting Engineers where he was dedicated to a rewarding career of public service. Family and Friends are invited to join in a celebration of Patrick's life at 11: 00 a.m. on Wednesday, November 28 at Saint_John's Anglican Church, Bancroft. Reception to follow. Donations (in lieu of flowers) may be made in Patrick's memory to Toronto General Hospital Medical/Surgical Intensive Care Unit - Funeral arrangements entrusted to Baragar Funeral Home, Bancroft.

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