Horace Krever heroics you might not have heard about | John L. Hill

By John L. Hill

Law360 Canada (May 10, 2023, 12:17 PM EDT) --
John Hill
John L. Hill
The former lawyer, law professor and judge, Horace Krever died in Toronto on April 30, 2023. He was 94.

Most people will remember his appointment in the 1970s as heading a royal commission inquiry into the Confidentiality of Health Information and establishing an individual right to privacy regarding health information. But perhaps many more people are appreciative of his work on the Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada, often simply called the Krever Commission. He pointed out how inept testing resulted in about 2,000 transmissions of HIV between 1980 and 1985 and how 30,000 blood transfusions resulted in patients contracting hepatitis C.

My own reflections on Horace Krever are much less significant than his work in protecting the nation’s health. In 1973, Horace Krever was a bencher and sat on the Bar Admission Course Advisory Committee. The committee was made up of staff, benchers and representatives of Ontario’s law schools enrolled in the course.

I recall that the two benchers (Horace Krever and Sam Grange) were never condescending to the student members of the committee. I was the Queen’s Law rep and felt it my duty to voice the concerns of my fellow students. Nothing seemed too petty for the benchers to consider.

In those days, marks on the bar admission exams determined the order in which students were called to the bar. Moreover, the law society publicized the names of the newly minted lawyers in the Toronto newspapers ranked in order of their position with the student having the highest average called first, and the lowest average called last.

Towards the end of the term, I proposed that henceforth students would be called to the bar in alphabetical order, not in accordance with grades. The committee accepted the proposal, but it was questionable if the law society would approve the change in time for the upcoming call ceremony.

The argument was that the family and friends of the top-ranked student would be honoured, but one can only imagine what it would be like for the families of those called last.

Fortunately, Grange and Krever took up the fight and the benchers met and changed the order of call. Ours was the first graduating class to be called in alphabetical order.

Sam Grange and Horace Krever were considered giants in the legal community long before their elevation to the bench and the important work they did thereafter. But it was the compassion that Krever showed to those of us about to enter practice that signalled the compassion he would later bestow on sufferers of HIV and Hep C. I deeply regret his passing.

John L. Hill practised and taught prison law until his retirement. He holds a J.D. from Queen’s and LL.M. in constitutional law from Osgoode Hall. He is also the author of Pine Box Parole: Terry Fitzsimmons and the Quest to End Solitary Confinement (Durvile & UpRoute Books), which was published Sept. 1. Contact him at johnlornehill@hotmail.com.

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