Fonds UAA-2013-051 - Human Rights Institute of Canada fonds

Letter from Prime Minister J Chretien Financial Statements of the HRI April 1988 Private Objects of Proposed Human Rights Institute Letter to RD Viets on incorporating the Human Rights Institute of Canada Supporting documents for patent: Details of Activities to be Carried on by the Organization or As... Timeline of Human Rights Institute meetings Human Rights Institute of Canada by-laws Origins of the Human Rights Institute of Canada Letter of support from Senator Yvette Rousseau Memo on Human Rights Institute logo Final logo design Some of the Institute's Achievements Annual Meeting announcement Human Rights Institute newsletter Persons Case II summary Getting Involved in the Knowledge Project Human Rights Institute newsletter on bilingualism HRI newsletter on French language and the federal government Federal Discrimination against Metis Women Honours Without Freedom Volunteers needed urgently to stop illegal Ottawa bilingualism press release Persons Case Anniversary press release Persons Case II "Hang them first, hear them later" press release Governments Fed False Information to Elected Members, Human Rights Institute Charges press release Press release on the Expropriation of Nanoose Bay Human Rights Institute of Canada Annual Meeting Minutes of Proceeding Letter on Crown Prosecutor of Japan Kinko Saito's visit to Canada Memo to John Turner on transitioning to the Anti-Dumping Tribunal Letter from Prime Minister PE Trudeau Anti-dumping Tribunal members Memo on gendered language and the exclusion of women Marguerite Ritchie Curriculum Vitae Letter to Prime Minister J Chretien on the Montreal Massacre and Persons Case II Certificate of Service Certificate of Residence for the Institute of Air and Space Law at McGill University Masters of Law Degree from McGill University Law Society of Alberta enrollement Marguerite Ritchie's high school transcript Marguerite Ritchie Marguerite Ritchie portrait Marguerite Ritchie at the Department of Justice Marguerite Ritchie graduation portrait Marguerite Ritchie Marguerite Ritchie's profile in Canada's Who's Who 2011 Queen's Council certificate Marguerite Ritchie being awarded the Governor General's Persons Case award Governor General's Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case winners 1997 Status of Women Canada press release on the Persons Case Award Invitation to the celebration for the Order of Canada Letter inviting Marguerite Ritchie to the Order of Canada Marguerite Ritchie in The Hague as part of the Canadian Delegation of the International Conferenc... Letter from Governor General Michaelle Jean Research request to Library and Archives Canada Research request to Library and Archives Canada newspaper clippings citation Letter to the Canadian Museum of Civilization on language use in brochures Letter to the Canadian Treasury Board on Provincial raxes collected from federal employees pensions Letter from the Minister of Justice on Canadian Unity Letter to Prime Minister J Chretien on the promotion of French Letter from Prime Minister J Chretien on bilingualism Memo on Official Languages Letter from the Office of the Prime Minister on Persons Case II and Senate appointments Letter to Prime Minister B. Mulroney on the Meech Lake Accord Memo on Prime Minister PE Trudeau's reaction to Persons Case II Letter to Prime Minister PE Trudeau on Persons Case II Letter from Senator Marjory LeBreton Letter to Senator Marjory LeBreton on Ottawa bilingualism by-law "Who Speaks for Canada?" newsletter Human Rights Institute of Canada File Inventory
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Human Rights Institute of Canada fonds

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  • 1974-2013 (Creation)
    Human Rights Institute of Canada
    Includes research dating from 1800 as well as research collected by ME Ritchie starting in the 1940s.
  • 1928-2012 (Creation)
    Ritchie, Dr. Marguerite E.
    Includes research dating from 1878.

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Physical description

4200 cm of textual records
289 photographs
ca. 18 graphic materials
4 VHS tapes
2 cm cartographic, bound (maps, plans, charts)
2 cartographic (floor plans)
1 audio cassette tape

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Marguerite Ritchie, BA, LL.B, LL.M, hon. LL.D, was a bilingual, Ottawa-based, Edmonton-born and educated lawyer interested in human rights, women’s rights, constitutional and international law. After completing over three decades of work for the federal government in the Department of Justice and Anti-Dumping Tribunal, she founded the Human Rights Institute of Canada to provide legal research to the public on key political and human rights issues. Marguerite Ritchie has been awarded various honours for her work, including a federal Queen’s Council, the Order of Canada, and an honorary degree from her alma mater, the University of Alberta.

Marguerite Elizabeth Winnifred Ritchie was born May 20, 1919. She went by Betty Ritchie for much of her youth. She was born to Allan Issac Ritchie and Marguerite Blanche Ritchie (nee Baxter). She had two brothers, musician Norman A. Ritchie (d. 1941) and pilot Robert Hume Ritchie (d. 2012), both of whom were in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. Marguerite Ritchie never married or had children. She occasionally published under the pen name E.M. O’Connor. ME Ritchie was an aunt to her brother Robert’s son and daughter and was a part-time caretaker for her elderly parents who were divorced by that time.

Marguerite Ritchie was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta. She attended one year of law school at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, before returning to Alberta to finish her schooling. She moved to Ottawa, Ontario, in 1944. Marguerite Ritchie lived in Calgary, Alberta, during the Western Bread Case (1949-1951) and in Montreal, Quebec, attending the McGill University Law School (1954-1955). With the above exceptions, she has lived in Ottawa for most of her adult life until her death in April 2016.

ME Ritchie was educated predominately in Edmonton. She graduated from Strathcona High School in 1938 with the highest grades in the province of Alberta, thereby winning the Tegler Scholarship for three years of university tuition. She did exceptionally well in Latin and history classes. In 1938, Marguerite started at the University of Alberta, studying history and law. After winning a national scholarship to attend a year of law school at another university, Marguerite chose to take her first year of law school at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She graduated from the University of Alberta in 1943 with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and a Bachelor of Law (LL.B.). Marguerite articled at a law firm in Edmonton before being invited to the Alberta Bar in 1944. She subsequently moved to Ottawa, Ontario, to work for the federal government. The Department of Justice sent Marguerite to the Institute of International Air Law at McGill University for a year of study to become an expert in international air law. Marguerite also became the Department of Justice expert in international law and laws of the United Nations as well as earning her a Masters in Law (LL.M.) in 1958. Marguerite wrote two theses for this program, the first being a comprehensive survey on international air law to date, which was rejected for being too broad. She then wrote a thesis on hijacking of airplanes, or skyjacking, which influenced Canadian air law and presented at various international conferences on air law. Marguerite Ritchie received an honorary doctorate of laws from the University of Alberta in 1975 for her commitments and contributions to human rights and women’s issues. Since then, she has used the title “Dr.”

Marguerite Ritchie joined the Department of Justice in 1944. Despite being a member of the Alberta Bar, women were not permitted to be hired as lawyers in the Department of Justice at the time. Working as an assistant, ME Ritchie contributed case-winning legal research to major government legal cases. As a result of her successes, she was hired as counsel for the Combines Investigation branch of the Department of Justice in 1947. Part of her Combines Investigation work included the Western Bread Case, during which she was relocated to Calgary for two and a half years. Shortly after her return to Ottawa she was promoted to advisory counsel for the Department of Justice proper, being the first woman to hold the position. As Senior Advisory Counsel, she contributed to cases such as the Off-shore Mineral Rights case. The Department of Justice sought to make her its resident expert on international law, a new field at the time, and sent her to McGill University to attend a master’s program. Her areas of focus were international law, constitutional law, international air law, domestic law, human rights, and the status of women. She eventually left the Department of Justice when she felt it was no longer concerned strictly with the letter of the law and advocating fairness, but instead had become too political.

Outside of her work at the Department of Justice, ME Ritchie contributed pro bono legal advice to the Elizabeth Fry Society of Ottawa in the early 1950s as its first legal advisor. For a decade from the 1950s to the 1960s, Marguerite was on the executive of the University Women’s Club of Ottawa where she served as Vice-President from 1955 to 1958 and President from 1958 to 1960. ME Ritchie acted as a legal advisor for the Royal Commission on the Status of Women. Along with her volunteer work for women’s organizations, Marguerite also published various articles on women’s rights. These included the magazine article “How Canada Wastes its Woman Power” in 1960 about women not putting their education to use and Canada thereby losing a significant portion of educated adults who where not employed, as well as the legal articles “Alice Through the Statutes” in 1975 and “The Language of Oppression: Alice Talks Back” in 1977. Both appeared in the McGill Law Journal. The Alice articles traced legal double standards that disadvantaged women and otherwise excluded women by referring only to men in legislation.

Marguerite Ritchie’s work was recognized by the Department of Justice when she became the first woman to be awarded a federal Queen’s Counsel in 1963, opening the door to this prestigious honour for other women. She was also awarded the Centennial Medal in 1967 for her service.

In 1972 Marguerite Ritchie accepted an appointment to the Vice-Chair of the Anti-Dumping Tribunal to restore trust in the tribunal’s work amid scandals. The Anti-Dumping Tribunal regulated imports to Canada to make sure products met Canadian standards. While Vice-Chair, Marguerite worked under three Chairmen. At the beginning of her term, she thought she would only be on the tribunal for a few years before moving on to the proposed Human Rights Commission, which Marguerite had pushed for throughout the 1960s at the Department of Justice. The Business and Professional Women’s Club supported Marguerite to be appointed as Canada’s first Human Rights Commissioner. After government delays, the Business and Professional Women’s Club said they would create their own Human Rights Commission. When this plan fell through, Marguerite decided to open the Human Rights Institute of Canada. The Human Rights Institute of Canada was founded in 1974 and officially announced its establishment during her acceptance speech when she received an honorary Doctorate of Laws (LL.D.) on May 28, 1975, from the University of Alberta for her work in human rights, women’s rights, and international law. She worked at the Human Rights Institute of Canada part time until she left the Anti-Dumping Tribunal in September of 1979 after which she volunteered her expertise full time to the Institute. Her departure from the Anti-Dumping Tribunal was at the end of her term contract. However, her last few years at the tribunal were fraught with conflict as Marguerite Ritchie felt that being passed over for appointment to the Chair was gender discrimination. Marguerite retired from the federal government after leaving her position at the Anti-Dumping Tribunal and turned down an appointment to a judgeship that would have made her the first woman to be a federal court judge in Canada.

Before and during her time at the Human Rights Institute of Canada, Marguerite developed friendships with others working for women’s rights, including Mary Two-Axe Earley, Hilda Cryderman, and Senator Muriel McQueen Fergusson. ME Ritchie was inspired by the work of women’s organizations and the anti-discrimination activism at the time, as well as influencing some of these activists. Her main focuses at the Human Rights Institute of Canada were women’s rights, rights for aboriginal women, the constitution and proposed constitutional accords, Israel and anti-Semitism, and English language rights.

Marguerite Ritchie was awarded the Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case in 1997 and the Order of Canada in 2000 for her work in human rights and for women’s rights.

In the presentation of Marguerite Ritchie to the Chancellor of the University of Alberta when she was awarded an honorary doctorate, she was described as being “…concerned about the real people to whom the law applies, and who has in all her work looking at the law not as an end in itself but as a means of bringing justice to others” (University of Alberta Archives Accession 2013-51, file 1745). Marguerite Ritchie was passionate, driven, focused, meticulous, dedicated, quick witted, intelligent, persuasive, loyal to her friends, and steadfast in her convictions.

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Administrative history

The Human Rights Institute of Canada was inCorporate bodyd in 1974 to help Canadians make governments accountable to the people of Canada. The Institute is established in Ottawa, Ontario and often goes through court challenges to respond to human rights violations.

Custodial history

The University of Alberta Archives agreed to accession this fonds in 2003. The Human Rights Institute of Canada (HRI) fonds remained in the custody of the Institute until donation. This fonds was donated in various transfers comprising of three accessions in 2003, 2005, and 2007. Part of the fonds was subsequently returned to the HRI for listing, re-housing, and further appraisal. In 2013 the materials were returned to the UAA along with new materials that had not been previously donated. Due to these extenuating circumstances, the older accessions were rolled together into a single 2013 accession. The original accession number has been recorded where applicable. Published books donated as part of this accession have been added to the library collection.

Scope and content

The Human Rights Institute of Canada fonds contains the records of the Human Rights Institute of Canada and its founder and president, Marguerite Ritchie. The Human Rights Institute of Canada is an independent, not for profit, non-partisan research group which conducts and promotes research into issues that impede equality for Canadians, as per the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with a specific focus on women’s equality. This Institute was founded by Ottawa based lawyer, Marguerite Ritchie, a former lawyer for the Department of Justice and Vice-Chair of the Anti-Dumping Tribunal. The fundamental premise of the Institute was to provide expert legal research to the Canadian people in the same way that the Department of Justice gives legal advice to the Government of Canada. As founder and President, Marguerite Ritchie set the tone for the Institute and this fonds also contains her papers from before she founded the Human Rights Institute of Canada.

The materials in this fonds date from 1934 to 2013. Materials from the Human Rights Institute of Canada are from 1973 to 2013, while legal research materials date back to the 1700s. The fonds pertains predominately to Canada, with some research on the United States of America (USA), Europe, the Soviet Union (USSR), the Middle East, and Africa. With the exception of United Nations conferences and research on Israel, most of the research on other nations and regions is for a point of comparison for rights, equality, and politics.

The fonds contains three types of materials: those of Marguerite Ritchie from her personal life and career before she founded the Human Rights Institute of Canada, those relating to the functioning of the institute, such as administrative records, and those relating to the work of the Institute produced mainly by President Marguerite Ritchie. Documents from the work of the Human Rights Institute of Canada is the largest portion of the fonds. Materials produced by the Institute were generated mostly by the projects it was involved with, including tracking issues over the course of years and its efforts to publicise its research in the media and the government. This fonds does not contain working papers of volunteers. Function based Institute records document the Human Rights Institute of Canada’s founding, its procedures, funding, support, and organisation. Materials of founder Marguerite Ritchie contain research from her work at the Department of Justice and the Anti-Dumping Tribunal, Anti-Dumping Tribunal procedures, her personal experiences facing sexism and gender discrimination while working for the federal government. It also includes her personal research on women’s issues which she began while working for the Department of Justice and which became a life-long passion.

The Human Rights Institute of Canada addresses issues of women’s equality, human rights, the United Nations and international law, Canadian laws and equality, the functioning of government, equality in the justice system, the relationship between the federal governments and the provinces, and funding and support for the Institute. Major projects the Institute worked on to address these issues include Persons Case II, Senate reform, the Meech Lake Accord and Charlottetown Accord, status equality for aboriginal women, the Expropriation of Nanoose Bay, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the high arctic relocations, the Royal Commission on the Status of Women and following the development of the status of women, Quebec separatism, and the Official Languages Act and bilingualism. The most common document types are newspaper clippings, memorandum, correspondence, press releases, reports, legislation, House of Commons and Senate debates, committee minutes and proceedings from Parliament, promotional materials, and government publications. Newspaper clippings are mostly annotated with citations and marginalia. The fonds also contains a significant number of Dialogue magazines; Marguerite Ritchie was a long time contributor to this magazine, which publishes reader contributed articles on political and social issues from a variety of perspectives.

Notes area

Physical condition

Generally good.
Some newspaper clippings had been glued to blank pages and the glue is no longer adhesive.
Some items have mild to moderate damage along edges and folds.
Some oversize materials.

Immediate source of acquisition

Fonds transferred to the University of Alberta Archives by Dr. Marguerite E. Ritchie.


The Human Rights Institute of Canada fonds is arranged into eight series and 80 subseries by subject matter. The subseries are based on “subject titles” which had been assigned by the Human Rights Institute of Canada. The series were created by the archivist. The series are:
1) Women’s Rights;
2) Human Rights Institute of Canada administration;
3) Courts;
4) Aboriginal Rights;
5) ME Ritchie Personal;
6) Jews, Israel, Anti-Semitism;
7) Government of Canada;
8) Dialogue Magazine.

Language of material

  • English
  • French

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Language and script note

Materials are predominantly English. Also contains a moderate amount of French language documents, including bilingual publications and reports, as well as two files containing Inuktitut (multi-lingual publications) and one file containing Arabic.

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Restrictions on access

The fonds is open to research. Some subseries require an archivist’s permission due to privacy concerns for third parties.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

The UAA holds Marguerite Ritchie’s copyright for per personal papers and for the Human Rights Institute of Canada documents. All other copyright remains with creators.

Finding aids

The UAA holds a file listing inventory of this fonds created by the Human Rights Institute of Canada.

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This fonds was donated in accessions 2003-50 (884 files currently in 74 boxes), 2005-50 (427 files currently in 40 boxes), and 2007-93 (195 files currently in 17 boxes), with the remaining 908 files in 79 boxes being donated in 2013. See the Custodial History for more details. This fonds consists of 210 boxes labelled ‘1’ through ‘228.’ The 18 box numbers that were eliminated to accommodate sequential file numbering were: 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, 38, 39, 47, 52, 56, 59, 60, 66, 68, 72, 77, 79, and 82.

General note

The Human Rights Institute of Canada fonds is a unique archive that has documented the state of human rights and equality in Canada for four decades. It traces legal inequality from pre-confederation until the late 20th century, focusing on the rights of women. The research compiled here along, with documentation of how human rights efforts have been received by the government, social organizations, and unions, provides insight into Canada’s human rights record and the way the Canadian Government has approached equal rights over the last half century. This fonds contains ample materials reflective of how human rights activists and advocates in Canada have approached human rights issues, including their successes and failures. Researchers, including faculty and students, interested in the state of human rights, women’s equality, aboriginal rights, or language rights in Canada would benefit from referencing this fonds.

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Written by Krista Jamieson, 2015

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  • English

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