Cape Breton University is proud to salute The Honourable Frank Iacobucci, CC, QC, LLD, LSM for his accomplished legal career and selfless service to the public sector, as well as his personal dedication to Aboriginal rights and First Nations reconciliation with the broader Canadian community.
Mr. Iacobucci was born to Italian immigrants in Vancouver just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. His parents were considered enemy aliens when he was a young child, which posed many significant challenges for the family. The son of a steel foundry worker, Mr. Iacobucci was discouraged from speaking his mother tongue, but learned a great deal about the values of hard work and frugality from his father and mother.
Those lessons stuck with Mr. Iacobucci throughout his lengthy and distinguished career in law, academia and public service.
However, those early difficulties with race and heritage, experienced before Canada officially embraced multiculturalism, played an undeniable role in Mr. Iacobucci’s later interest in trying to help solve the many societal challenges facing Canada’s Aboriginal peoples.
Despite being advised to avoid a career in law because of his last name, Mr. Iacobucci earned degrees from the University of British Columbia and Cambridge University.
He started working in 1964 as a Wall Street lawyer with a New York firm, where he enjoyed the intellectual challenges of corporate and securities law.
Three years later, Mr. Iacobucci took a professorship with the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto, where he spent 18 years teaching, rising to become the university’s Dean of Law, Vice-President, Internal Affairs and eventually, Vice-President and Provost.
During that period, he was also named a Counsel to the Estey Commission, inquiring into the steel industry, and was a member of the Ontario Securities Commission.
In 1985, Mr. Iacobucci was appointed Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General for Canada, and three years later became Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Canada. In 1991, he was named a Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.
While working for the federal government, Mr. Iacobucci was immersed in constitutional, criminal and human rights law. Aboriginal issues were naturally a large component of the job.
Because of that experience, combined with his work on the Supreme Court, the Government of Canada appointed Mr. Iacobucci in 2005 as its representative to lead negotiations that led to the settlement of thousands of individual cases and over 20 class actions resulting from the Indian residential schools legacy.
The following year, the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General named Mr. Iacobucci as a member of the Law Commission of Ontario, and the Ontario government appointed him as a facilitator for a Framework Agreement between Grassy Narrows First Nation and the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Mr. Iacobucci was also instrumental in other matters involving First Nations in Ontario, and wrote a report on the lack of representation of First Nations members on provincial juries.
In addition to serving as an arbitrator and mediator on numerous legal cases, Mr. Iacobucci also acted as an independent reviewer on Toronto Police Service encounters with mentally or emotionally disturbed citizens, and he continues to serve the public sector in various capacities long after retirement.
Mr. Iacobucci has received many honorary degrees from universities across Canada and one from the Università della Calabria in Cosenza, Italy. Along with numerous other awards, honours and recognition from organizations in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, he is also an Honorary Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and of St. John’s College, Cambridge.
In 2007, Mr. Iacobucci was appointed a Companion in the Order of Canada and two years later was presented with the Justice Medal for lifetime achievement from the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice.
He was honoured in 2010 with induction into Toronto’s Italian Walk of Fame, and received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Award in 2012.
Cape Breton University will confer the degree Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, on a man whose lengthy and distinguished career in private and public service has contributed greatly to justice for the disadvantaged, Frank Iacobucci.