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Fighter for religious freedoms passes away

|Written By Glenn Kauth

A veteran Ontario lawyer with a long record of fighting for religious freedoms died last week.

Glen How

At age 89, Glen How died on Dec. 30. He had still practised up until recently, his law firm, W. Glen How and Associates LLP, said in a news release last week.

How, a lawyer based in Georgetown, Ont., was perhaps best known for his work on behalf of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He himself had become a Jehovah’s Witness in 1941, two years before he was called to the Ontario bar. He then went on to advocate for the group in a series of cases, work that helped elevate him to the Order of Canada in 2001.

During the 1940s and 1950s, he defended cases in the Quebec where Premier Maurice Duplessis had declared a “War without Mercy” against Jehovah’s Witnesses. A series of these cases, including R. v. Boucher, Saumur v. Quebec (City), and Lamb v. Benoit, reached the Supreme Court of Canada.

“Consistently and courageously, for more than 50 years, he has fought legal battles to advance civil liberties.

The landmark cases he argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of Jehovah’s Witnesses enshrined all Canadians’ right to freedom of speech, assembly, and religious expression, and helped pave the way for the Canadian Bill of Rights and Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” an announcement from Governor General  about How’s appointment stated at the time.

How practised for more than 60 years and, as the Governor General’s announcement pointed out, his work took him across Canada and the United States - often “for minimal compensation” - in defence of clients.

His cases included battles for the rights of parents to share their religious beliefs with their children as well as a key decision, Malette v. Shulman, which dealt with the rights of adult patients to determine their treatment, his law firm said.

In 1997, How’s work earned him the Award for Courageous Advocacy from the American College of Trial Lawyers, the only Canadian to receive the award. In 1998, the Law Society of Upper Canada awarded How its Law Society Medal for Outstanding Service. In 1999, he received the Certificate of Recognition of 50 years admittance to the Quebec Bar.

He is survived by his wife Linda, his brother John How, and his stepson Paul Biegel.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Jan. 10, at 7 p.m. at the Assembly Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, located at 2594 Bovaird Drive W., Brampton.

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