Month: September 2020

RIP JOHN TURNER: MY PERSONAL MEMOIR

When I first met John in 1961 I disliked him almost instantly. I was a 19-year-old McGill University student who knew everything that was worth knowing. He was a 32-year-old tax lawyer wearing a dark pinstripe three-piece suit. Sitting behind his large desk on the upper floors of a downtown Montréal office tower, to me he was  Mr. Establishment. 

John was also the President of the Young Liberals.  As a member of the McGill Liberal Club, my debating partner and I needed his permission to engage in a public debate with two Russian students touring universities across North America.  It was at the height of the Cold War, with Russia being the first country to send a cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, into space to orbit the Earth. For reasons he never explained, John just said “No, Liberals don’t debate Russians.”  End of discussion.  As I was also a McGill Debating Union member, my team did debate the Russians, but without the Liberal Club sponsorship.

Fast-forward some 28 years for our next meeting.  After 16 years of practising public interest law, in July 1989 I joined Miller Thomson, then a relatively small Toronto-based full-service law firm.  A few months later John Turner joined our firm as a rainmaker, to bring in business.  As I had no clients of my own at the time, I looked forward to John making some rain for me.  He did that very well, for me and the entire firm.

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