By Jenneth Hogan
On this day, in 1903, Winnipeg judge Albert Clements Killam was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. He was the first judge from Western Canada appointed to this court.
Born and raised in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, he earned his BA from the University of Toronto and graduated in 1872, with honors. After articling with the firm of Crooks, Kingsmill, and Cattanach of Toronto, he was called to the Ontario bar on February 5, 1877. He began practice that year, forming the firm of Horne and Killam, in Windsor. This would be the launch of a long and distinguished career for Killam.
Making his move to Winnipeg in 1879, Killam quickly became an active member of the Winnipeg legal community and was called to the Manitoba bar on February 15 of that year. He built quite the reputation, soon known as “one of the ablest lawyers in Winnipeg.” In 1881 he became an examiner of the Law Society of Manitoba, and he served as a bencher of the society from 1882 to 1885.
In 1883, he was elected as a liberal to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba for the riding of Winnipeg South, winning by 63 votes. While in the assembly he became a vocal member of the opposition and showed intense interest in all legal matters coming before the house. He was appointed qc by the governor general on May 9, 1884. Following the sudden death of justice Robert Smith of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench in January, 1885, Killam was named Smith’s replacement. The choice was widely acclaimed by the Manitoba bar and community. Bringing with him vast knowledge of the law and an untiring patience, he rapidly developed into an excellent, well-respected judge.
In 1899, he was named Chief Justice of Manitoba and was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1903. He resigned in 1905 to become Chief Commissioner of the Board of Railway Commissioners. He was a founding member of the Manitoba Historical Society, in 1879, and President of the Manitoba Club from 1900 to 1902. Killam was often referred to as a “slave to duty,” always taking on a heavy workload, which may have contributed to his sudden death from pneumonia in 1908. The passing of Killam was widely referred to as a “national loss”. Killam, Alberta is named in his honour.
Dictionary of Canadian Biography: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/killam_albert_clements_13E.html