Former chief justice of B.C. Lance Finch died Sunday after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 82.
Finch served more than three decades as a judge in the province’s highest courts, including twelve years as chief justice of British Columbia.
He was appointed to the Order of British Columbia in 2017. Two years earlier, he was appointed Queen’s Counsel.
“Lance Finch was a role model for how to be and do the difficult business of judging,” the order’s website said. “His judicial decisions are admired for their thoughtfulness, lucidity and intellectual rigour and have influenced the Canadian legal landscape.”
“Heartbroken to receive word of the passing of the Hon. Lance Finch, former Chief justice who served our province with greatest integrity & sagacity,” B.C. Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin said on Twitter. “It was my honour to invest him in the Order of British Columbia. What a lovely man he was!”
“As a judicial leader he was strong, steady and humble,” B.C. Provincial Court tweeted. “He always commanded the respect of the legal profession in our province and his legacy of significant jurisprudence is acknowledged across Canada."
Finch was appointed to the B.C. Supreme Court in 1983, the year after the Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into force. Prior to that, he had a thriving litigation practice.
He has been recognized for his decisions in the area of aboriginal rights and title in section 35 of the 1982 Constitution Act.
“He spoke passionately and courageously on the legal system’s need to address with a sense of humility the narratives and laws of indigenous people,” the orders site said. “He was a forceful advocate for access to justice, which he sought to construe as an essential public service, akin to education and healthcare.”
Under his watch, the Court of Appeal modernized its case tracking system to enhance access to justice. And, his work outlined the responsibilities of the executive and judicial branches.
Finch was a member of the Canadian Judicial Council, the work of which includes dealing with allegations of judicial misconduct for which he had special responsibility.
Council chairman Chief Justice of Canada Richard Wagner said Finch was a valued council member, championing issues relating to judicial independence and judicial education.
“Chief Justice Finch was a strong, wise and respected member of the council and a fair and committed jurist,” Wagner said. "He will be deeply missed.”
Finch was also president of the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law.
Upon his retirement, Finch became a founding trustee of Pro Bono Canada, which helps deliver free legal services annually to more than 36,000 low income Canadians.
He received an honorary doctorate of laws from the University of British Columbia, Thompson Rivers University, and the University of Victoria.
Finch is survived by wife Judy, three children and seven grandchildren.