THE ADVOCATE 911
VOL. 78 PART 6 NOVEMBER 2020
Ken retired from the partnership of BLG at the end of 2014 but remained
as senior counsel, as his expertise and experience were much needed in
various ongoing Aboriginal title cases. Most of his time was devoted to a
characteristically exhaustive analysis of the Terms of Union of 1871 between
British Columbia and Canada, and the fiscal components of Confederation.
While performing his research, Ken came across newspaper stories and a
court decision involving a French fugitive named Ernest Lamirande, who
had embezzled a small fortune from a bank in Poitiers before fleeing to
North America and was ultimately arrested in 1866 in what is now Quebec.
Then in his mid-60s, Ken decided that he wanted to write a book about the
Lamirande affair in the context of the politics of Europe and North America
of the 1860s. He began to read widely in the area, adding to his formidable
book collection. The book that he had in mind was unlikely to be a “pop history”
in the vein of Pierre Berton; Ken was likely writing a much more complex
study, similar to those written by historians that he admired like Tony
Judt. Before his death, Ken asked a good friend from his university days,
Jack MacMillan, to take over the project.
On August 1, 2018, Ken left the BLG office without saying a word to others
and attended a hospital emergency room. He was in pain. Soon after, his
colleagues received the devastating news of a possible diagnosis of pancreatic
cancer. The terminal nature of the diagnosis was confirmed a month
later. David Camp recalls driving Ken to his medical appointment at that
time and how Ken was content to discuss his research for the Lamirande
book along the way:
In early September I had given him a lift to his doctor’s office so that he
could get the results of a biopsy. He was hoping the tumour on his pancreas
was benign or could be treated. On the way there he talked about
democracy in the 19th century and how each of the emerging democracies
went about limiting or expanding voting rights.
After his appointment we got back into the car, and a grim silence hung
in the air. “Well,” he said, “it’s malignant and there’s nothing they can do
Before I could find the words to respond, he started to speak again. “But
enough of that,” he said, “I hadn’t finished telling you about what was
happening in Italy, and the Pope’s encyclical of 1864, called the Syllabus
of Errors, and its denunciation of democracy!” And he carried on as if
nothing had happened.
This poignant memory is quite telling about Ken. He had always lived a
life of the mind. As stated by his son Mike, Ken had an unquenchable thirst
for knowledge and was “driven by a passion to learn, to help and to share”.
He is dearly missed.