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Emmett Hall

Born in St-Colomban, Quebec, Emmett Matthew Hall (1898–1995) was a lawyer, jurist and civil libertarian. In 1910, he moved with his family to Saskatchewan. He received his law degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 1919, was called to the bar in 1922, became Chief Justice of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench in 1957, Chief Justice of Saskatchewan in 1961, and Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1962. In 1961, Hall was appointed by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker to chair a Royal Commission on Health Services, whose task was “to study the existing and projected health needs of and health resources of Canada; and to study methods of ensuring the highest standards of health care for all citizens of Canada” (Malcolm G. Taylor, Health Insurance and Canadian Public Policy: The Seven Decisions That Created the Canadian Health Insurance System and Their Outcomes [Montréal and Kingston: McGill–Queen’s University Press, 1987], p. 335).

Photo: Mr. Justice Emmett Hall

Mr. Justice Emmett Hall, the Prime Minister’s law school friend and Chief Justice of Saskatchewan, was appointed chair of the Royal Commission on Health Services in 1961.
© Library and Archives Canada, PA-112573. Photographer: Duncan Cameron.

The commission’s report, released in 1964, stated: “Health services must not be denied to certain individuals simply because the latter make no contribution to the economic development of Canada or because he cannot pay for such services. Important as economics is we must also take into account the human and spiritual aspects involved” (Walter Stewart, The Life and Political Times of Tommy Douglas [Toronto: McArthur & Company, 2003], p. 232). Tom Kent, Prime Minister Lester Pearson’s Principal Secretary, appreciated the impact of the commission’s report, because it “took much of the wind out of the opponents of medicare” (Tom Kent, A Public Purpose [Montréal and Kingston: McGill–Queen’s University Press, 1988], p. 364). Hall is widely regarded as a founding father of medicare.

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    Date Created: March 31, 2010 | Last Updated: April 21, 2010