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Description found in Archives

Lyman Poore Duff fonds [textual record, graphic material]. 



Place of creation


2.88 m of textual records.
202 photographs : b&w.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of correspondence (general, 1894-1955, and family, 1880-1955), subject files relating to his personal life, the I'm Alone case, the Alaska Boundary, Church Property and Railway Commissions, Supreme Court and Privy Council decisions, personal financial files, bench books from the Supreme Court of British Columbia, 1904-1906, and the Supreme Court of Canada, 1910-1919, and honourary awards or degrees. There is also a series of personal records related to his sister Emma Lorne Duff who was kindergarten teacher and a writer of stories for children. Included in the fonds are photographs, ca. 1902-ca. 1947, depicting views of Whitehourse, Yukon, 1902; and portraits of Sir Lyman P. Duff, family, and friends.

Textual records
90: Open
from 1 to 23
90: Open
Graphic (photo)
90: Open
from 24 to 25
90: Open
Archival reference no.
Former archival reference no.

Terms of use

Photographs: No donor restrictions. Copyright: Expired. Credit: Name of photographer / National Archives of Canada / Copy negative no.

Textual records: The finding aid, prepared in 1979 by G.G. Cumming and revised by Lucie Paquet in 2008, is a brief file list for containers 1-23. MSS0111 (Electronic)

Textual records: Finding aid; MSS0111 (Electronic)

Biography / Administrative history

Lyman Poore Duff was born in Meaford, Ontario, on January 7, 1865. He was educated at the University of Toronto (B.A., with first-class honours in mathematics and metaphysics, 1887; LL.B., 1889), and at Osgoode Law School. From 1890 to 1895 he taught mathematics at Barrie Collegiate Institute. He was called to the bar of Ontario in 1893, later to the bar of British Columbia, and was created Q.C. in 1901. He praticed law at Fergus, Ontario, and in Victoria, British Columbia (1895-1904). During that time, he represented the province in the Deadman's Island trial (1901); became counsel at prosecution of enquiry into the Columbian and Western land subsidy (1903), and was one of the counsel, with the Honourable Edward Blake and Christopher Robinson, representing Canada before the Alaska Boundary International Commission (1903).

He was appointed a puisne judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in 1904. He became justice of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1906, and chief justice of Canada in 1933. He retired from the bench in 1944. His greatest contribution to the country was his decision in 1940 upholding the power of the Dominion government to abolish appeals to the Privy Council in London unilaterally. The Privy Council agreed with Duff, though the legislation for that purpose did not become effective until 1 January 1949. He thereby can be credited with establishing a wholly indigenous court system. He heard and wrote judgements upon nearly all the constitutional cases of the beginning of the XXth century.

Lyman Poore Duff served on a variety of royal commissions including the following: the Commission to Inquire into and Investigate into and Report upon Certain Contracts Made by the Committee Known as the Shell Committee, and upon such Other Matters Relating to the Acts or Proceedings of the Said Shell Committee as May be Referred to the Said Committee by Order in Council (1915-1916); the Royal Commission to Inquire into Railways and Transportation in Canada (1917-1932) in which Duff was to large extent the author of the report (popularly known as the Duff Commission); and the Royal Commission to Inquire into and Report upon the Organization, Authorization and Dispatch of the Canadian Expeditionary Force to the Crown Colony of Hong Kong (1940-1942). In 1933, he arbitrated the international controversy arising out of the sinking of the British ship, I'm Alone. Lyman Poore Duff was knighted in 1934.

Lyman Poore Duff died in Ottawa on April 1955. He received honorary degrees of LL.D. from University of Toronto, McGill University, the University of Montreal, Queen's University, Dalhousie University, the University of British Columbia, Université Laval, the University of Pennnsylvania, and Columbia University.

See: David Ricardo Williams, Duff: A Life in the Law, Vancouver : University of British Columbia Press in association with the Osgoode Society, 1984. See also an article written by Richard Gosse entitled "Random thoughts of a would-be judicial biographer" in University of Toronto Law Journal, No. 19, 1969.

Additional information

Documents received in 1969 from Richard Gosse of Vancouver, B.C., in 1989 from the Supreme Court of Canada, and from the University of Victoria Libraries in 1998.

No further accruals are expected.

Subject heading

1. Judges - Canada - Correspondence, 1880-1955 I'm Alone, 1903-1955.
2. Law - Canada - Cases, 1903-1955 Alaska Boundary Commission, 1903-1955.
3. Church property, 1903-1955 Canada. Supreme Court, 1903-1955.
4. Canada. Privy Council, 1903-1955.


Other system control no.

Related control no.

1. 1970-045 NPC
2. 117-020113-X
3. 1998-01199-2
4. R2419