Northern Justice: The Memoirs Of Mr. Justice William G. Morrow

edited by William Morrow. Published with the University of Toronto Press, 1995.

One of the first Canadians to champion the legal and cultural cause of the North’s indigenous peoples, William George Morrow, the senior partner in an eminent Edmonton law firm, seized the opportunity to go to the North in 1960, and act as a volunteer defence counsel for $10.00 a day. Morrow took on the quest for greater justice on behalf of the northern Natives long before this had become part of our national conscience. In these memoirs, he describes his daily struggles – first as a lawyer, and later as a judge – with the question of how an alien law should be applied to Aboriginal culture.At the height of his career, Morrow was travelling more than fifty thousand kilometres a year over bleak, snow-swept terrain to set up makeshift courtrooms in remote communities. He once had to interview a client in the only room where he could be assured privacy – an outhouse. A zealous reformer and a brilliant legal strategist, he fought and won many difficult legal battles with the government. His many accomplishments included sentencing that took into account the shorter life expectancy of northern peoples; the provision of local prisons enabling prisoners to serve sentences in their own communities; greater tolerance of Native and Inuit cultural values in interpretation of the law; and the instigation of juries made up of men and women from the community of the accused.By the time of his death in 1980, Morrow had not only altered the legal landscape of Canada’s North but instilled in Canadians a greater sensitivity to Native issues. These memoirs by a pioneer of legal reform tell the story of early legal battles against institutionalized racism in our country.

Reviews of Northern Justice: The Memoirs Of Mr. Justice William G. Morrow

Above all [Morrow] illustrates through his accounts of the cases he tried, the spectacular metamorphosis the native people had to face as the influence of southern culture and justice increasingly impinged on their way of life.  Robert Leigh, Canadian Law Libraries, vol 21, 1996, p. 152.
It is important that the arrogance that the federal government so often displayed towards the North and its native people has been forthrightly document... The North and its native people were frequently in need of a champion. Bill Morrow was one.  Ben Tierney, The Beaver, vol 76, 1996, p. 45.

Reviews have also appeared in the following publications:

  • Karen Lajoie, Up Here, Vol 13, 1997, p. 57.
  • Jim Phillips, Canadian Historical Review, vol 78, 1997, p. 236.
  • Leonard J. Pollock, Alberta Law Review, Vol 35, 1996, p. 266.
  • Allan Manson, Queen’s Law Journal, Vol 22, 1996, p. 213.
  • Bruce Willis, Northern Review, 15/16, Winter 1996-Summer 1996, p. 162.