Celebrated Canadian civil rights lawyer Clayton Ruby dead at 80

Distinguished Canadian civil rights lawyer and giant of the legal profession Clayton Ruby has died at the age of 80.

Ruby, who received the Order of Canada in 2005, died Tuesday, CBC News has confirmed. 

His law firm Ruby Shiller Enenajor DiGiuseppe tweeted that Ruby died peacefully, surrounded by his family. 

“Clay was a dedicated advocate for human rights, a champion of the underdog and a loving friend. Our thoughts are with his family and our entire firm mourns the loss of our leader and mentor.”

In his entry on the Governor General’s Order of Canada website, Ruby is described as “a prominent criminal lawyer whose reputation extends across the country [who] devoted his career to the promotion of justice.”

Ruby volunteered his time to a host of human rights organizations including PEN Canada, Human Rights Watch and the Sierra Legal Defence Fund.

During his celebrated career, Ruby took on some of the country’s most notable cases, including the wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin, who was accused of killing nine-year-old Christine Jessop in 1984 before being cleared.

Speaking to CBC News in 2020 when police identified Jessop’s killer, Ruby spoke about the “tragedy” of wrongful convictions.

“You never recover. It’s never the same as it was before,” he said.

WATCH | Clayton Ruby reacts to police identifying Christine Jessop’s actual killer:

Guy Paul Morin’s former lawyer reacts to police identifying Christine Jessop’s actual killer

The National’s Adrienne Arsenault talks to Clayton Ruby who was the defence lawyer for Guy Paul Morin, the man wrongfully convicted of killing Christine Jessop, about police learning the identity of her murderer.

We tend to trust prosecutors who say, ‘Convict this man, we have enough evidence to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt … We trust authority and I think this case made it clear to people that there are mistakes and 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.”

Ruby was also a member of the patron’s council for the medically-assisted death advocacy organization Dying with Dignity.

In 1994, he represented former NDP MP Sven Robinson who was present at what was then the unlawful medically-assisted death of Sue Rodriguez, but who was ultimately not charged.

In a tweet Wednesday, Robinson said he was “heartbroken” at the news of Ruby’s death. 

“Giant in the legal profession, pillar of the progressive community, and a fine and decent man, a mensch,” he wrote. 

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