Remembering Roy Heenan (1935 – 2017)

The entire WUSC community would like to offer our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Mr. Roy Heenan, O.C. following his passing on February 3, 2017 at the age of 81.

Photo of Roy Heenan

Born in Mexico City, Roy lived in China for a few years as a young boy, before moving back to Mexico with his mother. At age 12, Roy moved to Canada with his family. Though his mother lived in Montreal, Roy spent his adolescence attending boarding school in Port Hope, Ontario, before eventually returning to Québec for his post-secondary education.

Roy’s involvement with WUSC dates back to 1956, when he participated in the International Seminar to Germany. The theme of the seminar was “Universities and Freedom”. Participating students examined whether or not universities had a responsibility to maintain freedom and how, if such responsibilities existed, the universities could achieve them. It included five study tours throughout Europe to provide students with the background information they needed for the Seminar. At the time, Roy was attending McGill University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in 1957, followed by a Bachelor of Civil Laws in 1960. He was called to the Bar of Québec in 1961 and was hailed as a “legal giant” in the field of labour law. In 2008, the Québec Bar Association named him an Emeritus Lawyer. McGill University also awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree that same year.

Roy was a founding partner of the law firm Heenan Blaikie in 1973 and was the Chairman from 1973-2012. He specialized in Canadian labour, employment, and administrative law. Unfortunately, in 2014, two years after Roy stepped down, Heenan Blaikie dissolved. “We needed visionary, charismatic leadership. We were unable to fill his shoes,” said Mr. Peter Gall, one of the lawyers from Heenan Blaikie[1]. Roy also taught for many years at McGill University, Queen’s University, University of Ottawa, and Université Laval, and spent many years on the Board of Trustees for Queen’s University. As testament to all the incredible work he did, Roy was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1999.

In addition to his incredible work in the field of law, Roy was very interested in and passionate about the arts. He was the chairman on the board of the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (1994-1998) and he was on the board of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. He was an avid collector of artwork and would often decorate his firm’s offices around the country with pieces that were primarily by Canadian artists.

Roy leaves his wife, Rae, their four children, and four grandchildren behind. Roy will surely be missed by all those who knew him.