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Ronald Martland, only the second Albertan ever to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, served on the court for 24 years prior to his retirement in February 1982 at the mandatory age of 75.
Born in Liverpool, England in 1909, he came to Edmonton with his parents in 1911. His father was for many years an architect for the City of Edmonton. After attending public and high school in Edmonton, he attended the University of Alberta, where he obtained a B.A. degree in 1926 and an LL.B. degree in 1928. During his years in the Faculty of Law, he obtained first class standing every year, won the Carswell Prize for leading his class, and on graduation won Chief Justice Harvey’s Gold Medal.
In his final year, he was selected as the Rhodes Scholar from Alberta and spent the next three years at Hertford College, Oxford, obtaining a B.A. degree (first class) in 1930 and a B.C.L. degree (first class) in 1931. At the same time, he became the first Canadian to be awarded the Vinerian Law Prize, the highest academic award granted in the Oxford Faculty of Law. While at Oxford, he also found time to play on the University hockey team.
On returning to Edmonton, he was articled to the late H. R. Milner, K.C. and was called to the Bar of Alberta in 1932.
During the ensuing years, he became one of the leading counsels in Alberta and participated in a number of the leading cases in the province. These led to appearances before the Supreme Court of Canada and the Privy Council in Britain, which until 1949 was the highest court of appeal for Canada. During his years of practice in Alberta, he took an active part in the affairs of the Law Society of Alberta serving as a bencher from 1948 to 1958. He was also appointed an honorary bencher.
Mr. Martland was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada in January 1958, and his length of service matches that of many of the longest-serving Justices. During his term, he participated in more than 1700 cases, wrote the judgment of the court or the majority judgment in some 230 cases, concurring judgments in more than 70 cases, and dissenting judgments in more than 40 cases.
Mr. Martland was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1982. He received Honorary Degrees from the University of Alberta and the University of King’s College, Nova Scotia.
He was an honorary professor of law at the Universities of Alberta and Calgary and was an honorary fellow of Hertford College, Oxford.
Mr. Martland was an active member of the Anglican Church of Canada and during his days in Edmonton served as Chancellor of the Anglican Diocese of Athabasca. Later, while a member of the Supreme Court, he served as Chancellor of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa.