HALL, EMMETT (1898-1995)
Born at St. Colomban, Quebec, on November 9, 1898, Emmett Matthew Hall moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, with his family at age twelve. Later, he studied law at the University of Saskatchewan (he was a classmate of John Diefenbaker), graduating at age twentyone. While Diefenbaker was prime minister, Hall was elevated to chief justice of Saskatchewan (1961) and to Canada's Supreme Court, where he served from 1962 until his retirement in 1973 at age seventy-five.
This record only partially defines the man, for Emmett Hall served Canada in a wide range of roles. By 1962, with Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas, he had developed a comprehensive plan for publicly supported medical care. Diefenbaker then asked him to chair a royal commission on health services, overcome resistance on the part of the medical profession, and design a system of universal health care for all of Canada. Hall's 1964–65 Report of the Royal Commission on Health Services was implemented in 1967 under Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson.
While Hall made his mark as the father of medicare, he also reported on primary and secondary school education in Ontario (1968), university organization and structure (1973), railway arbitration (1973), as well as grain handling and transportation (1974). Furthermore, he was a popular and involved chancellor at the University of Guelph (1971–77) and at the University of Saskatchewan (1980–86).
At the time of his death on November 12, 1995, at age ninety-six, Emmett Hall was recognized as an outstanding Canadian. When he retired from the Supreme Court, he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada (1974)–the highest honor bestowed by Canada–for his lifetime of service to the law, health services, and education. Hall's incomparable commitment and energy are apparent in the fact that so many of his contributions in health care and education came when he was seventy to eighty-five years old. Modern Canadian society, in large measure, is shaped by the vision of this one man.
See also POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT: Diefenbaker, John.
Linda M. Gerber University of Guelph