Biography of Isaac Pitblado



At the time of Isaac Pitblado’s death, the Hon. Richard S. Bowles, the President of the Law Society of Manitoba, said about him:

The Law Society has lost its most respected and beloved member.  Canada has lost one of its most able and distinguished sons.

When he died at the age of 97 in 1964, Isaac Pitblado had been 74 years at the Bar.

The man who for so many years had been acknowledged as the Dean of the legal profession in Canada was born in 1867 at Glenelg in Nova Scotia.  When his father, the Rev. Charles Bruce Pitblado, accepted a position at St. Andrew’s Church in Winnipeg, young Isaac was forced to interrupt his studies at Dalhousie University and move with his parents to Winnipeg.

He resumed his studies at Manitoba College, graduating with a B.A. (Hons.) in classics in 1886.  That same year he entered the law office of Aikins, Culver and Company and became articled to J.A.M. Aikins in 1887.  In 1889, Isaac Pitblado received his LL.B. from the University of Manitoba and the follow­ing year he was called to the Manitoba Bar and admitted to practice as a solicitor.  It was in 1903 that he joined forces with Colin H. Campbell, Henry Platt Grundy and A.E. Hoskin to form a partnership under the firm name Pitblado and Hoskin.

Isaac Pitblado’s reputation as a great legal mind grew partly from his deep involvement with the important issues of freight rates and grain marketing.  He was first retained on a freight rates matter by the City of Winnipeg in 1912.  Thirty-five years later, Mr. Pitblado appeared as senior counsel for the C.N.R. and the C.P.R., who were applying to the Board of Railway Commissioners for a freight rate increase. He was 80 years old at the time.  Grand as his perform­ance was in that hearing, it was by no means his last hurrah.  In 1951, at the age of 84, he represented the Winnipeg Electric Company at legislat­ive hearings to fight the Company’s planned takeover by the Mani­toba Government.  Despite an eloquent and impas­sioned four and one half-hour submission by Mr. Pitblado, the takeover was ultimately enacted.

Among some of his other cases, he acted as counsel for the Presbyterian Church in the formation of the United Church of Canada and he successfully defended the Hon. John Bracken, Premier of Manitoba, before a Royal Commission created to investigate charges that Mr. Bracken had accepted bribes in the development of a hydro-electric project in Manitoba.

Isaac Pitblado was first elected a Bencher of the Law Society of Manitoba in 1901 and was a Life Bencher when he died in 1964.  He was the second Manitoba lawyer ever to be President of the Canadian Bar Association and he also served as President of the Commission for Uniformity of Laws for seven years.  As well, he was Chairman of the Board of Governors of the University of Manitoba from 1917 until 1924.

In 1960, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of his call to the Bar, the Manitoba Bar Association, the Manitoba Law School and The Law Society of Manitoba honoured him by establishing an annual series of continuing legal education lectures to be called the Isaac Pitblado Lectures.

At the time of his death, the Benchers of the Law Society recorded the following resolution:

We, the Benchers of the Law Society of Mani­toba … representing the lawyers of Manitoba record our deep and heartfelt sorrow on the occasion of the death of Isaac Pitblado and our sense of the loss that the profession and the Province have sustained today.  It is not given to every lawyer to practise his profession actively for seventy-four years and to earn a reputation as an out­standing lawyer not only in his own Province but also in Canada and abroad.  During his long career he took an active and constructive part in helping to make decisions which shaped the course of Canadian history, thereby emerging as one of the greatest and most gifted of Canadians.  His interest and his helpful kindness to the younger members of the profession as each generation of students embarked on the practice of their profession was never failing and earned the gratitude of all. … He did not confine himself to the practice of law, but took an outstanding part in the political, financial and educational life of Canada.  For much of his life he was an ardent sportsman excelling in baseball, tennis, football, lacrosse, curling and golf.  To the last he sel­dom missed a duck and prairie chicken hunting season at his lodge on Lake Manitoba and for many years he was a member and supporter of the Game and Fisheries Association and Ducks Unlimited. …

This life was gentle and the elements

So mixed in him that Nature might stand up

And say to all the world

‘This was a man.’

The Isaac Pitblado Lectures

1960 Estate Planning

1961 Income Tax

1962 Preparation for Trial and Court Procedure

1963 Commercial Contracts

1964 Estate Practice, Wills and Trusts

1965 Company Law

1966 Commercial Insurance

1967 The Law of Land Development
1968 Federal Affairs                                   

1969 The Law Catches Up: Recent Legislative Changes

1970 The Law and The Minor

1971 Administrative Practice and Procedure

1972 The Income Tax Reform Act

1973 Advising The Small Business Man

1974 Symposium on Commercial Law

1975 Corporation Law – Today and Tomorrow

1976 The Law Evolves  (not published)

1977 Labour and Employment Law

1978 Commercial and Competition Law

1979 Family Law and Practice

1980 Municipal Planning and Expropriation Law and Practice

1981 Advocacy 
1982 Insurance Law                                   

1983 Rights and Remedies

1984 The Family Division of the Court of Queen’s Bench

1985 Real Estate Practice for the Mid-Eighties

1986 Alternative Dispute Resolution

1987 Evidence

1988-89 Recent Developments in the Law of Contract and Tort

1990 Public Interest v. Private Rights: Striking the Balance in Administrative Law

1991 Recent Developments in the Law of Damages

1992 Environmental Law Practice: The Challenge for the ’90’s

1993 Fiduciary Duties/Conflicts of Interest

1994 Current Issues in Health Law

1995 Information Technology and the Law

1996 The Expanding Frontiers of Liability and Responsibility

1997 Dispute Resolution: Systems in Transition

1998 Technology: Responding to the Legal Challenges

1999 Business Law & Litigation: Trend-Spotting for the 21st Century

2000 Competence and Capacity: New Directions

2001 Practising Law in an Aboriginal Reality

2002 The Charter: Twenty Years and Beyond

2003 Elder Law: Issues for an Aging Population

2004 Privacy – Another Snail in the Ginger Beer

2005 Going Global: Advising Clients Doing Business Beyond Borders

2006 Appellate Courts: Policy, Law and Practice

2007 Today’s Workplace: A Toolkit for Every Lawyer

2008 Legal Issues in a Greener World

2009 Practising Law in the 21st Century:  Evolution or Revolution

2010 Remedies – From Dollars to Sense?

2011 Back from the Brink: Insolvency in the New Era

2012 Legal Boundaries in a Global World