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Canada’s 150th: Celebrating Leaside’s colourful Senator Royce Frith

Senator Frith

Senator Frith

This year as we mark the 150th anniversary of our country, we should also celebrate the part that Leasiders have played in it. Long-time residents, particularly those who live in North Leaside, will remember when one of their neighbours, Royce Frith, later Senator Royce Frith, served as a Councillor and then as Deputy Reeve of the Town of Leaside during the early 1950s. After the Town Solicitor, Stan Shatz, was appointed as a Justice of the Ontario Supreme Court, Royce and his law firm, Magwood, Frith, Pocock and Casey, were appointed as the new Town of Leaside Solicitors.

In addition to graduating from the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall Law School, Frith had received a Dipl. D’études supérieures (droit) from the University of Ottawa. This degree in French and the fact that he was a prominent member of the Liberal Party of Canada resulted in his appointment by Prime Minister Lester Pearson as a member of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism in the 1960s.

Then in 1977 Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau appointed him to the Canadian Senate where he later served as Senate Leader of the Opposition. It was in that position that he led the Liberal Senate filibuster against the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Before his appointment to the Senate, Royce Frith performed on radio and could sing as well as play several musical instruments. During the Liberal Senate GST filibuster, he put those talents to good use by playing the kazoo to disrupt the government speakers. This filibuster forced Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to use an obscure section of our constitution to appoint extra senators to ensure the passage of the legislation.

Later, Prime Minister Jean Chretien appointed him as Canada’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom where again he used his flair for public performance to rally British public opinion in support of Canada’s fishing war with Spain. Frith also ensured the retention of Canada House in Trafalgar Square as the site of the Canadian High Commission after the government considered abandoning the location to save money.

In 1996, he resumed his law practice in Vancouver at the prestigious firm Ladner Downs. He passed away there in 2005 at 81 without returning to his old stomping grounds in Leaside where he began his career of public service. 

Alan Redway is the former East York mayor and federal cabinet minister.