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freedman rothstein edited 1By MYRON LOVE
While our Jewish community has produced a great many judges in recent years, there are two who stand out – two who have gone where no other Jewish Winnipeggers have gone before.

They are: Mr. Justice Marshall Rothstein, the first Jewish Winnipegger to serve on Canada’s highest court – and Mr. Justice Samuel Freedman, the first Jewish president of the Manitoba Bar Association, the first Jewish bencher of the Law Society of Manitoba, the first Jewish Court of Queen’s Bench judge and the first – and to this point – only Chief Justice of the Manitoba Court of Appeal, Manitoba’s highest court.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Sam Freedman a couple of times in his retirement years and agree with the assessment of Jack London in a speech he gave on the occasion of the official opening on November 7, 2006, of the Jewish Heritage Centre exhibit, “Samuel Freedman: Man of Law”, curated by Susan Turner.
It wasn’t only in the field of law that Freedman broke barriers. As London recounted, and which  I reported in one of my articles, it was because of Freedman that the Manitoba Club ended its policy of banning Jewish membership. It was Freedman who insisted in 1966 – then acting Chief Justice of Manitoba – that the Law Society of Manitoba stop holding benchers meetings at the Manitoba Club until the club changed its policy concerning Jewish membership. The Club quickly complied.

Freedman’s bio in brief is that he was born in Ukraine in 1908 and arrived in Winnipeg with his parents three years later. He graduated from St. John’s High School and the University of Manitoba with a degree in Classics. He was also a champion debater in university.
On being called to the Bar, he first practiced law with Max Steinkopf’s firm, opening his own office in 1946 in partnership with the equally accomplished David Golden. He was appointed to the Court of King’s Bench in 1952.
Prior to his appointment as a judge, Freedman played a leadership role in the Jewish community, having served as president of the YMHA and chairman of the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University. After becoming a judge, he restricted his community efforts to the field of higher education. He remained active throughout his life with the CFHU, the culmination of which was having a Chair in Legal Advocacy named for hm at the Hebrew University.
He also enjoyed a long association with his alma mater. He joined the University of Manitoba Board of Governors in 1955 and served as president of the university from 1959-1968.

Freedman was much honoured in his lifetime – with honorary doctorates from the Universities of Manitoba and Winnipeg, induction into the Order of Canada, the Order of the Buffalo Hunt and the Winnipeg Citizens Hall of Fame and receipt of the Manitoba Golden Boy Award and the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal.
Martin Freedman (who himself served as a judge on the Manitoba Court of Appeal for 10 years), also speaking at the JHC exhibition opening, recalled his father’s “strength of character, gentle and courteous approach to all, his innate fairness, his sense of humour, his calmness, his patience and his self-effacing yet self-assured sense of himself, strength of character, his gentle and courteous approach to all, his sense of humour.”
And, in the words of Robert G. Clarke, writing in the Manitoba Law Journal, “Sam Freedman was near-legendary for the wisdom, balance, and integrity of his approach to law and justice. He had both a compassionate and a robust sense of the law. Many of his most important judgments were dissenting views that went against the grain of current thought but represented a sharp sense of social justice, of concern for the ordinary citizen, and often the underdog. In his work in general he maintained a keen sense of human frailty, often expressed in a wry, self-critical fashion. He was, according to one short biographical account, ‘the model of a patient, courteous, kindly, humane judge.’ ”
Similar words were used to describe Marshall Rothstein on the occasion of his appointment in 1992 to the Federal Court of Canada. In an article I wrote at the time, I noted that colleagues remarked on his dedication and long hours of work, his sense of humanity and fairness, his good-natured sense of humour, his analytical mind and his thorough preparation.
In a commentary written by the late Harold Buchwald in 2006 following Rothstein’s appointment to the Supreme Court, the writer described Rothstein as “one of those quintessentially decent people who exude courtesy and kindness in almost every gesture. Both unpretentious and quiet-spoken, he nevertheless inspired confidence and respect from clients, the judiciary, tribunals he appeared before, opposing counsel and associates alike.”
Buchwald added that Rothstein “wears his Jewishness with quiet confidence and dignity.”
I have known Marshall Rothstein all of my life. He is the youngest of my late mother’s first cousins.
Born in 1940, he grew up in south Winnipeg. Always a hard worker, he paid his way through university working summers on the passenger trains in the dining cars.
Having been called to the Bar in 1966, he practiced law primarily in the fields of transportation and competition law and was a partner with the Winnipeg law firm of Aikins, MacAulay & Thorvaldson. From 1970 to 1992, he was also a lecturer in transportation law at the University of Manitoba.
Among the highlights of his legal career prior to being appointed to the Bench were chairing a commission on compulsory retirement in Manitoba, a Ministerial Task Force on international air policy, a Manitoba transportation industry development advisory committee and serving as a member of an airports task force and Airports Transfer Advisory Board.
In his role on the court, he wrote close to 900 judgments covering a wide variety of fields.
Rothstein retired from the court in 2015 and relocated to Vancouver, where he lives with his wife, Sheila.
Last fall, he was appointed a companion of the Order of Canada.