During WWI, lawyers from across Canada gave up their practices, and law students from across Canada put their aspirations of becoming lawyers on pause, to enlist for service overseas with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Over 550 of those lawyers and law students were killed or died of wounds or causes attributed to their service. Many others came back either physically or mentally scarred.
The situation was no different in Saskatchewan than it was in the rest of Canada. By December of 1918, no fewer than 77 lawyers and 158 law students from Saskatchewan had enlisted for service overseas. At least 14 of these lawyers and 38 of these law students were killed in action or died of wounds or causes attributed to their service.
The law students from Saskatchewan that enlisted included a future Prime Minister of Canada, a gifted amateur cartoonist and one of the most gifted hockey players of the day. Many of them were born in what became the Province of Saskatchewan, but others had come to the West to make a new life for themselves. All of them had dreams of becoming members of the legal profession that were put aside so that they could serve.
One hundred years ago this year, the war was over and the first of the cadre of law students from across Canada who had gone overseas in WWI and returned were admitted to the legal profession. As joyous an occasion as it was for them and their families, it is likely that as they were being admitted and beginning their careers, they paused and thought of their friends and colleagues who were not so fortunate as to have survived the War to see their own dreams of becoming lawyers fulfilled.
Had the 38 Saskatchewan law students that were lost in WWI lived, they would almost certainly have been admitted to the profession beginning in 1919. The Law Society of Saskatchewan supported the war effort, for example, counting service with the CEF as service under articles and waiving examinations for law students who enlisted. In honour of their sacrifice and the sacrifice of their families, the Benchers of the Law Society of Saskatchewan will grant honorary memberships to each of the 38 students-at-law and law students next year to those who were killed or who died of wounds or causes attributed to their service in WWI.
The youngest of the law students being admitted was 18 years old when he died. Two were in their (very) early 30’s. The rest were in their 20’s, some barely. Many are buried in graveyards scattered across England, France and Belgium, but 14 of them have no known graves and are, along with tens of thousands of other Canadians, memorialized on the Vimy Memorial and the Menin Gate. All of them left behind families who loved them and felt the pain of their loss.
The Law Society of Saskatchewan wishes to recognize and thank author E. Patrick Shea, LSM, CS for approaching the Society with the idea to honour the law students from Saskatchewan, including those who were lost in WWI. Mr. Shea conducted research on his own and has arranged for similar projects in other law societies. This project wouldn’t have been possible without him. Mr. Shea did not charge anything for his work. As a former officer in the Canadian Forces reserves, he did it as a labour of love.
Mr. Shea is a partner in the Gowling WLG’s Toronto office, practising in the area of commercial law with a focus on the areas of bankruptcy and insolvency. He is also a licensed pilot and a former officer in the Canadian Forces reserves. He is the secretary for the 48th Highlanders of Canada’s Regimental Senate, the RCAF Foundation and the Rangers’ Foundation. Mr. Shea has been awarded two Minister of Veteran’s Affairs Commendations for his work to commemorate veterans of WWI and WWII.