A Passion for Justice


This richly detailed biography illustrates how a determined Canadian seeking justice created an enduring legacy. Through vigorous battles, Jim McRuer’s passion for justice was translated into laws that daily touch and protect the lives of millions today.

James Chalmers McRuer was not easy to get along with or even much liked by many lawyers who dubbed him ’Vinegar Jim.’ Yet countless others saw him as heroic, inspirational, a man above and apart from his times.

His resolute focus on justice changed the lives of married women with no property rights, children without legal protection, aboriginals caught in the whipsaw of traditional hunting practices and imposed game laws, and prisoners locked away and forgotten. Environmental degradation and those causing it, murderers, stock fraud artists and Cold War spies all came within the ambit of J. C. McRuer’s sharp legal mind and passion for justice. Upon turning 75, McRuer embarked on his most important work of all, becoming Canada’s greatest law reformer and remaining active into his 90s.


A major, highly readable contribution to Canadian legal history.

A fascinating account of one of the greatest and oddest judges in Canadian legal history, Patrick Boyer's vast research has resulted in an important book.

A powerful, straightforward, superb biography on one of the more influential individuals in the history of Canadian law. Boyer vividly presents, in a highly readable fashion, a fascinating record of an extremely complex Canadian personality. Thanks to Patrick Boyer, we can all appreciate and understand the human dimension, the flaws of character, and the greatness of a very important, common sense jurist. I recommend this book to everyone interested in Canadian history, law, or letters.

This book ruined my sleep. I stayed up virtually all night and spent countless hours on planes doing nothing but reading A Passion for Justice.

In this engaging study of an outstanding jurist, Patrick Boyer demonstrates that McRuer's legacy derived as much from his famous inquiry into civil rights and his pioneering work as a law reformer as from his accomplishments on the bench.

Donald Creighton with his splendid two-volume study of John A. Macdonald clearly established that biography can enrich history. Patrick Boyer has now revealed that biography can enliven the study of law. Lawyers and law students owe a great debt of gratitude to Boyer for painstakingly producing this outstanding portrait of a great jurist and law reformer.

About the Author

J. Patrick Boyer

Posted by Kendra on October 21, 2014

J. Patrick Boyer

J. Patrick Boyer studied law at the International Court of Justice in The Netherlands, served as Canada’s Parliamentary Secretary for External Affairs, and works for democratic development overseas. The author of twenty-three books on Canadian history, law, politics, and governance, Patrick lives with wife, Elise, in Muskoka and Toronto.