Berger, Thomas R(odney) 1933-
BERGER, Thomas R(odney) 1933-
PERSONAL: Born March 23, 1933, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; son of Maurice Theodore and Nettie Elsie Perle (McDonald) Berger; married Beverley Ann Crosby, November 5, 1955; children: Erin Frances, David Bruce. Education: University of British Columbia, B.A., 1955, LL.B., 1956.
ADDRESSES: Home—1300-355 Burrard St., Vancouver, British Columbia V6C 2G8, Canada. Office—171 Water St., Suite 300, Vancouver, British Columbia V6B 1A7, Canada.
CAREER: Shulman, Tupper and Co., lawyer, 1957-62; Thomas R. Berger and Co., lawyer, 1963-71; Supreme Court of British Columbia, judge, 1971-83. University of British Columbia, honorary lecturer, 1979-82, adjunct professor of law, beginning 1983; Simon Fraser University, adjunct professor, beginning 1979; University of Victoria, sessional lecturer, 1982-83. Member of Parliament for Vancouver-Burrard, 1962-63; member of Legislative Assembly for Vancouver-Burrard, 1966-69; New Democratic Party of British Columbia, leader, 1969. Royal Commission on Family and Children's Law, chair, 1973-75; Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, commissioner, 1974-77; Indian and Inuit Health Consultation, commissioner, 1979-80; Alaska Native Review Commission, member, 1983-85. International Defense and Aid Fund for Southern Africa (Canada), president, beginning 1982; International Commission of Jurists, member of Canadian section. Member of board of directors, Frontier College, beginning 1975, and Vanier Institute of the Family, 1977-83.
MEMBER: Engineering Institute of Canada (honorary member).
Northern Frontier, Northern Homeland, Queen's Printer (London, England), 1977, revised edition, Douglas & McIntyre (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 1989.
Fragile Freedoms: Human Rights and Dissent in Canada, Clarke, Irwin (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1981.
Village Journey: The Report of the Alaska Native Review Commission, Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 1985.
A Long and Terrible Shadow: White Values, Native Rights in the Americas, 1492-1992, Douglas & McIntyre (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 1992.
Report of the Special Counsel Regarding Claims Arising Out of Sexual Abuse at Jericho Hill School, Queen's Printer for British Columbia (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 1995.
One Man's Justice: A Life in the Law (memoir), Douglas & MacIntyre (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 2003.
Contributor of articles to journals, including Queen's Quarterly, Canadian Literature, and University of Toronto Law Journal.
Berger's works have been translated into French.
SIDELIGHTS: When Thomas R. Berger was appointed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia in 1971, he was thirty-eight years old and the youngest judge in the twentieth century to sit on the province's highest court. Among the three royal commissions Berger headed during his career on the bench was the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, the report of which was published as Northern Frontier, Northern Homeland. Established in 1974 to determine the social, environmental, and economic impact of the proposed Arctic Gas pipeline, which was planned to run from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska down through the Mackenzie Valley in western Canada, the one-man commission attracted international attention. Berger recommended delaying construction of the pipeline for at least ten years; the Canadian government followed his advice. Northern Frontier, Northern Homeland, according to Isaac Bickerstaff in Quill and Quire, "quickly became the federal government's all-time bestselling publication." Bickerstaff added that, along with the hearings of the commission, the book "did much to arouse public sympathy for native land claims in the north."
Berger also headed the 1979 commission that investigated Indian and Inuit health-care programs. His 1981 demand for a statement of aboriginal rights in the new Canadian constitution helped to ensure their inclusion, although later Parliamentary provisions ended up diluting such rights. That same year, Berger's book Fragile Freedoms: Human Rights and Dissent in Canada was published. Fragile Freedoms "examines eight different episodes in which the rights, and sometimes even the existence, of a certain minority have been threatened by government indifference or hostility, usually with the tacit or open support of the majority," informed Paul Wilson in Books in Canada. An exploration of such topics as the expulsion and return of the Acadians, the denial of separate schools to French Canadians in Manitoba, and the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Quebec, Fragile Freedoms stirred considerable controversy in Canada and elicited diverse opinions from critics. Wilson found the volume "timely, lucid, and humane," whereas Saturday Night reviewer Robert Fulford dismissed the volume as "for the most part woolly-minded, unimaginative, and predictable."
In the New York Review of Books, Edgar Z. Friedenberg commented that Berger "has been perhaps the most effective and certainly the most respectable champion of the aboriginal peoples of Canada." Friedenberg also noted that, because of Berger's outspoken views, the justice became the target of attacks aimed at muzzling judicial activists. In 1983 Berger resigned from the bench, a move that enabled him to speak more freely on matters of human rights and fundamental freedoms. His 1992 book A Long and Terrible Shadow: White Values, Native Rights in the Americas, 1492-1992 was considered by a reviewer in Books in Canada to be "a profoundly intelligent and thoughtful study."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Books in Canada, January, 1982, Paul Wilson, review of Fragile Freedoms: Human Rights and Dissent in Canada, p. 18; February, 1992, review of A Long and Terrible Shadow: White Values, Native Rights in the Americas, 1492-1992, pp. 26-27; summer, 2003, John Pepall, review of One Man's Justice: A Life in the Law.
Canadian Forum, April, 1982, pp. 28-30.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), September 14, 1985, pp. 1-2.
New York Review of Books, November 4, 1982, article by Edgar Z. Friedenberg, pp. 37-38.
Quill and Quire, December, 1981, Isaac Bickerstaff, review of Northern Frontier, Northern Homeland. Saturday Night, September, 1982, Robert Fulford, review of Fragile Freedoms, pp. 2, 6.*