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Clayton Ruby, renowned Canadian civil rights lawyer, dies

Renowned Canadian civil rights lawyer Clayton Ruby took on some of the country's most groundbreaking and high-profile cases
Lawyer Clayton Ruby speaks at a press conference in Toronto Friday, February 11, 2011 to call for a criminal investigation into police actions during the G20 summit. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Renowned Canadian civil rights lawyer Clayton Ruby, who took on some of the country's most groundbreaking and high-profile cases, has died, his law firm confirmed Wednesday.

In a statement, Ruby Shiller Enenajor DiGiuseppe said Ruby died Tuesday afternoon surrounded by his family.

The Toronto firm said it is mourning the loss of its leader and mentor, a "dedicated advocate for human rights, a champion of the underdog and a loving friend."

Stephanie DiGiuseppe, a partner at the firm, said Ruby "loved life, he loved people."

"He understood justice and he fought for it. He made the world a better place," she said in a tweet. "Clay was funny, kind, and completely original. We will not see his like again. Rest in peace, dear friend."

Others in the legal, political and advocacy communities also expressed their grief and paid tribute to Ruby's extensive legacy.

Ruby was a "true giant of the Canadian bar," federal Justice Minister David Lametti said on Twitter.

"His decades of principled advocacy have left an indelible mark on our justice system and Canadian society. My sincere condolences to his loved ones on his passing."

Ruby was involved in several landmark cases in his decades-long career.

On behalf of a small group of adoptees and birth parents, he waged a constitutional challenge of a new Ontario law that would have retroactively unsealed confidential provincial adoption records, arguing it amounted to a serious breach of the privacy that had been promised under previous rules. 

As a result, the law was struck down in 2007 shortly after it took effect.

Earlier in his career, Ruby represented, among others, Guy Paul Morin, who was wrongfully convicted in the killing of Christine Jessop before being exonerated in 1995.

He also represented former MP Svend Robinson, who was present in 1994 at the then-illegal medically assisted death of right-to-die advocate Sue Rodriguez. In the end, Robinson was not charged in the case.

Robinson said in a tweet Wednesday that he is "heartbroken" by Ruby's death, calling him a "dear friend" and a "giant in the legal profession, pillar of the progressive community, and a fine and decent man, a mensch."

In Toronto, Ruby was involved in a conflict-of-interest case that sought to have then-mayor Rob Ford removed from office.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 3, 2022.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press