Harris, Sydney

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HARRIS, SYDNEY (1917– ), Canadian jurist, Jewish community leader. Harris was born in Toronto in 1917. He received his B.A. from the University of Toronto in 1939 and a law degree from Osgoode Law School in 1942. He was called to the Bar that same year. For 34 years Harris was a leading criminal lawyer appearing in courts at every level of the judicial system, including the Supreme Court of Canada. He was then appointed a judge in the Ontario Provincial Court. Among his more controversial cases was the 1978 trial of a gay Toronto newspaper charged with two different obscenity violations under the Canadian Criminal Code. In a decision still hailed as a major step in the struggle for gay rights and freedom of the press in Canada, Harris found the newspaper not guilty on both charges. After retiring from the bench in 1992, he served as a deputy judge, a member of the Ontario Assessment Review Board, and a member of the Council of Ontario Land Surveyors.

Harris was one of Canada's foremost postwar Canadian Jewish community leaders. As a member of the Canadian Jewish Congress for 60 years, Harris served as chair of Community Relations in the 1960s and as national president from 1974 to 1977. He was instrumental in lobbying the Canadian government on behalf of Soviet Jews and was a major proponent of hate propaganda legislation and active in the anti-Nazi campaign in Toronto in the 1960s. Harris also served as president of several other organizations, including the Jewish Vocational Service, Upper Canada Lodge of B'nai B'rith Canada, and the Canadian Council of Reform Congregations. In later years, he provided counsel to the leadership of the Canadian Jewish Congress. Harris was honored with the 1967 Confederation Centennial Medal and the 1973 Queen's Jubilee Medal.

[Frank Bialystok (2nd ed.)]

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Harris, Sydney

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