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VOL. 80 PART 4 JULY 2022
John at times could be gruff and critical because not only did he hold
himself to those high standards, but also he expected them from others,
even his children.
One of John’s heroes was Clarence Darrow. John gave me a book from
his library, The People and Clarence Darrow. What was said of Darrow is what
rings true for John: “He loved his fellow man. We who have known him and
clasped his hand and heard his voice and looked into his smiling face, we
who knew his kindness and acts of charity, we who knew his human heart
knew all that.”
In a tribute to John in the Vancouver Sun, an anonymous contributor
wrote: “A memorial tree was planted in memory of John Dugald McAlpine.”
I like to believe that that tree was an oak.
Comments from Howard Mickelson, Q.C.:
In my time with the “Great Man”, I was his junior, confidant, colleague
(often times punching bag) and friend.
I was part of some of his greatest battles, including R. v. Sherpa, Mooney
v. Orr and Van Mol v. Ashmore. There are not enough adjectives to describe
his approach to litigation and his single-minded pursuit of victory, but they
include dogged, fearless, shameless, gracious, terrifying and meticulous. It
was typical for John to task his juniors to search the four corners of the
globe to find the most obscure fact or case to advance his argument.
Despite the sometimes brutal commitment of time and intellectual
energy he demanded of his colleagues and juniors, there was always time
for the lesson learned (the “why”, the “what”), and the magical moments of
his boisterous guffaws, unexpected and spontaneous giggles. Despite his
gruelling work ethic, he always had time for his family—a glint in his eye
when speaking about his beloved Sarah, and immense pride in the evolving
education and accomplishments of his children and grandchildren.
He loved to travel despite his physical disabilities. John utilized his arm
braces to support his legs and propel himself forward. He travelled back to
Nepal, where he was carried to a summit by Sherpas with whom he had
become friends. He cruised down the Zambezi River and rode horses at his
ranch in the Chilcotin. No matter his litigation time pressures, John always
took the time for physio, to exercise, to go to the theatre and to read books.
By the time I came to know him, John had developed the reputation of
being a fearless advocate in the courts. He spoke with gusto and passion,
invoking literature, little-known Law Reform Commission reports and case
law from jurisdictions around the world. He relentlessly challenged the
courts to do what he firmly believed was “right and just”. He did not make
submissions; instead, he implored and demanded.