The St. Thomas More Lawyer’s Guild of Ottawa

More info on who with Cornwall connections  knows who

The Thomas More Lawyer’s Guild, also known as the St. Thomas More Lawyers Guild, is an association of lawyers and judges. At one time the guild was comprised only of Roman Catholic judged and lawyers. In more recent years various guilds throughout North America have opened the doors to non-Catholics.

According to information on the net the Red Mass dates back to the 13th century and marks the opening of the Michaelmas term of the Courts in September. The name derives from the fact that members attend garbed in their red robes.

In various cities throughout North America the laity have protested vehemently when, for example, guest speakers were chosen for the Red Mass dinner who were known to publicly dissent from moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

There are guilds throughout North America. For example, the Thomas More Lawyers’ Guild of Toronto has existed since 1968 as a non profit association. According its’ website its function is “ to fulfill the mandate of sponsoring the annual Red Mass and contributing to the spiritual and intellectual well-being of its members. We sponsor a number of social and educational events throughout the year aimed at fostering spiritual growth and fellowship amongst our members, encouraging observance of high ethical standards, and supporting members in applying their faith to the challenges of professional and personal life.”

The Thomas More Lawyers Guild of Ottawa was founded in 1984. Known members of the Ottawa guild with Cornwall connections include:

(1) Justice Colin McKinnon (Founding member. Served as lawyer for the Cornwall Police Service and Claude Shaver. Assisted CPS in having Perry Dunlop charged under the Police Service Act for handing David Silmser’s victim statement to the Children’s Aid Society. Provided legal services to Claude Shaver both during and after Shaver’s tenure as Chief of the CPS. Took the bench at the sex abuse trial of Jacques Leduc – forced to recuse himself because of his Cornwall/Perry Dunlop conflicts of interest.)

(2) Father Frank Morrissey (Founding member. Former Dean of Canon Law at Ottawa’s Saint Paul University. Instrumental in assisting the CCCB develop its sex abuse guidelines. Friend of Father Charles MacDonald when Charlie was going through seminary. Taught Jacques Leduc after Leduc as a layman decided to study canon law, and, it seems accepted Leduc for studies despite the fact he, Leduc, was lacking the per-requisites in theology and/or philosophy for the studies.) Father Vaillancourt, now Chancellor of the diocese, told me in the company of others that he felt Leduc was given preferential treatment.

(3) David W. Scott (No relation to David Sheriff-Scott. Lawyer for former Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Launched legal action against James Bateman et al on behalf of Bishop Eugene Larocque and a number of his clergy. Filed the diocese’s application for standing and funding at the inquiry. Appeared in person at the Weave Shed to argue publication bans on the names of clergy and got an on-the-spot response from Justice Normand Glaude. And, word has it that it was the Apostolic Nuncio himself who contacted David W. Scott in the mid 90s to come to the aid of the diocese)

(4) Justice Denis J. Power. (Served as President of the guild at some point in time.  Power represented Jacques Leduc and/or the diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall in a Cornwall scandal related civil action. On 30 November 2006, as a judge of the Ontario Divisional Court, Power was apparently prepared to hear and rule on a diocesan application to stay and an application for a judicial review of a ruling by Justice Glaude. Glaude’s ruling had dismissed the diocese’s motion for a publication ban on the name of several clergy. When it was learned that Power was in conflict he was asked to step down. He allegedly did so unwillingly.  )

In the February 2002 President’s Message, pro tem Ottawa President Ronal Caza stated that the founding members were judges and lawyers of various faiths “who held in common a belief in the importance of a spiritual dimension in the life of the law exemplified by the life and death of Thomas More.”

According to Caza at that time (2002) the Ottawa guild had 35 members.

Past Presidents include: Adrien (Bud) T. Hewitt, Q.C., Garrett Cooligan, Q.C. William Green, Q.C., John Nelligan, Q.C., Denis Power, Q.C., Charles Beall

Guest Speakers at the Dinner following the Ottawa Red Masses have included His Eminence Gerald Emmett Cardinal Carter, (one of the influential Gang of Five) Ian Scott (then Attorney General of Ontario – brother of David W Scott. Good friend of former Attorney General Michael Bryant who commissioned the inquiry), Douglas Roche (former Roman Catholic journalist, ambassador for disarmament and Senator – with inquiry Advisory Panel member oversaw the abysmal ‘resolution’ of the sex abuse scandal at the Christian Brothers schools in Uxbridge and Alfred, Ontario, the latter geographically close to Cornwall.) .

The following online history of the Red Mass and guild in the nation’s capital lists several of the founding members. (Not included but definitely one of its founders is Canon lawyer Father Frank Morrissey OMI. )

The Red Mass in Ottawa


In 1984, three Justice lawyers, Paul Chumak, Roger Leclaire and Gene Eweschuk (now Justice Eweschuk) approached Colin McKinnon (now Justice McKinnon), Reilly Watson and Bill Riley towards founding a Thomas More Lawyers’ Guild in Ottawa. The six lawyers approached Adrien (Bud) T. Hewitt, Q.C., who became the founding president. With his usual authority and attention to detail, he gathered together a talented committee of twenty lawyers (many of whom are now judges of our courts) to organize the Guild’s first Red Mass. With the enthusiastic assistance of Archbishop Plourde, who invited his Eminence Cardinal Carter to be our first guest speaker, the first Red Mass, in Latin, sung in Gregorian Chant, was held at Notre Dame Basilica. The readings were done in Hebrew, English and French. The Papal Delegate, judges from all levels of the courts, the Minister of Justice, the Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada, lawyers, police officers, members of clergy of other faiths and the public attended. The Mass was tele-recorded by the CBC and been televised on numerous occasions.

Since that date, save for one year, the Red Mass has been held or on several occasions an Interfaith Service. It has become an important tradition for the Ottawa Bar which has always been known for its closeness and willingness to work together. It also marks out one day each year when communally judges and lawyers in Ottawa reflect on the deeper aspects of the law and its ancient traditions.