By Bridget Wayland
In a special ceremony at Rideau Hall on September 5, 2012, McGill’s Faculty of Law presented the F.R. Scott Award for Distinguished Service to His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.D., Governor General of Canada.
The F.R. Scott Award is given to members of the McGill community who have made a significant contribution to law, as well as to the life of the Faculty of Law, and provided exceptional service and leadership to society. As Dean Daniel Jutras remarked upon bestowing the award to Johnston, “it is my hope that His Excellency will see this award for what it is: a manifestation of the affection and respect of McGill’s Faculty of Law community, and a permanent reminder that David Johnston is a cherished member of that community.”
Johnston’s ties to the Faculty, as to McGill, run deep. He served as the University’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor from 1979 to 1994, then moved up the hill to the Faculty of Law, where he served as a full-time professor for five years. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of laws from McGill in 2000, as he went on to serve as the fifth President of the University of Waterloo.
“As an academic,” observed Jutras, “he believes in learning and innovation, a deep commitment that has guided him through all the different phases of his professional life—as a law professor, a law Dean, a university principal and president, and now, as Canada’s Governor General.”
Indeed, as the 28th Governor General of Canada, Johnston will now serve as the official Visitor of the University. This position, which was established McGill’s Royal Charter in 1852, officially allows the Governor General to approve—or disallow—all statutes proposed by the University’s Board of Governors. In practical terms, it also allows the University the pleasure of his more frequent company.
Johnston has been a prominent figure in Canada for more than four decades, serving on a great number of provincial and federal associations, task forces and committees, including the Information Highway Advisory Council and the National Roundtable on Environment and the Economy. “His Excellency has brought to Rideau Hall all of the insight of his life as an academic and as a public servant,” said Jutras.
The F.R. Scott Award for Distinguished Service was created by the Faculty and its Advisory Board in 2004, and named in honour of Francis Reginald Scott, Canadian poet, intellectual, constitutional expert and former Dean of the Faculty of Law. Past winners are David O’Brien (2011), The Honorable James K-Hugessen (2009), The Honourable Mr. John H. Gomery and the Honourable Madam Justice Pierrette Rayle (2008), Professor William Tetley (2007), Mr. Justice Morris Fish (2006), The Honourable Frank Iacobucci (2006) and The Honourable Irwin Cotler (2005).