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James McKay

The Honourable James McKay

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1914 - 1918   Justice of the Supreme Court of Saskatchewan
1918 - 1921   Justice of the Saskatchewan Court of King's Bench
1921 - 1932   Justice of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal

James McKay was born on July 12, 1862 in Manitoba to parents William McKay, a Chief Factor with the Hudson’s Bay Company, and Mary Cook. His pioneering family came to Canada in the early 1700s, and his ethnic origins were Highland Scottish and Native Canadian. Mr. McKay attended the University of Manitoba, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Classics. He went on to article with a law firm in Winnipeg. He temporarily left his articles to serve as a soldier during the Riel Rebellion of 1885. He was involved in battles at Fish Creek and Batoche. At one point, he organized 50 volunteers who surrounded Almighty Voice until Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrived on the scene.

Mr. McKay was called to the Manitoba bar in 1886. He practiced for one year in Winnipeg before relocating to Prince Albert. There, Mr. McKay became the first Territorial lawyer to receive a Q.C. designation. In 1896, he ran as a Conservative in the general election against Wilfred Laurier, losing by only a few votes. In 1911, Mr. McKay ran again and won the Prince Albert constituency. He was popular and respected and had additional political clout in rural areas due to his Aboriginal ancestry.

In 1914, Mr. McKay was appointed to the Supreme Court of Saskatchewan. When the court restructured in 1918, he became a member of the Court of King’s Bench. In 1921, he was appointed to the Court of Appeal. Justice McKay was also a member of the Board of Governors of the University of Saskatchewan.

Justice McKay was the first judge of Aboriginal ancestry to be appointed to the Court.

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