Memorable Manitobans: Robert George Brian Dickson (1916-1998)
Born at Yorkton, Saskatchewan on 25 May 1916, he attended the University of Manitoba Law School and in 1940 was called to the Manitoba Bar. During the Second World War he served with the Royal Canadian Artillery, losing a leg. After the war he lectured in law at the University of Manitoba and practised law at the firm of Aikins, MacAulay, Dickson, Hinch & McGavin, being made a Queen’s Counsel in 1953, until his appointment to the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench in 1963. He joined the Manitoba Court of Appeal in 1967 and the Canadian Supreme Court in 1973, serving as Chief Justice from 1984 to 1990. In the 1970s he, Bora Laskin, and Wishart Spence were a liberal force on the Supreme Court, often called “LSD” by the press. Dickson was a supporter of individual and collective rights, both before and after the Charter of Rights of 1982.
He was married to Barbara M. Sellers (1921-2009), daughter of Harry E. Sellers, and they had four children. He chaired several Royal Commissions, served as President of the Law Society of Manitoba (1962-1963), and was a member of the Advisory Board for the Winnipeg Foundation. In 1950 he headed the Red Cross relief operation during the catastrophic Winnipeg flood. He served as Chair of the University of Manitoba’s Board of Governors (1971-1973). In recognition of his community service, he was inducted into the Manitoba Order of the Buffalo Hunt (1961) and Order of Canada (1991), and he was awarded with honorary doctorates from the University of Manitoba (1973) and the University of Winnipeg (1991). He was a member of the Lakewood Country Club.
He died at his home in Dunrobin, Ontario on 17 October 1998.
“City woman first QC in Manitoba,” Winnipeg Free Press, 1 January 1953.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 19 October 1998, page 31.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
Obituary [Barbara M. Dickson], Winnipeg Free Press, 23 September 2009.
We thank James Arnett for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 25 December 2019