Sydney Harris always seemed to be at the centre of things.
As a judge, Harris acquitted gay magazine Body Politic and three officers of Pink Triangle Press charged with possession and distribution of obscene materials in1978, sent NHL winger Dino Ciccarelli to jail for an on-ice attack on Maple Leafs defenceman Luke Richardson during a game in 1988 and, in 1983, dismissed charges against Toronto's Paul Magder Furs for opening on Sunday when Sabbath shopping wasn't legal.
As a civil libertarian, he championed Jewish causes as president of the Canadian Council of Reform Congregations and as national president of the Canadian Jewish Congress.
Harris was an advocate for legislation to broaden civil liberties and human rights, pushed for Criminal Code changes against hate literature and was a foe of neo-Nazi groups. He opposed religious education in public schools and spoke out against capital punishment.
He was a tireless supporter of civil rights in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s and met with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963.
Sydney Malcolm Harris died Saturday of kidney failure after a short illness at 91. He is to be buried today at Holy Blossom Memorial Park after a funeral service at Benjamin's Park Memorial Chapel at 11:30 a.m.
Harris, often outspoken on the bench, came under the eye of the Star's Rosie DiManno in 1989, as she wandered a downtown courthouse in search of column fodder.
"Judge Sydney Harris is an equal opportunity dispenser of crankiness," she wrote. "Both the Crown and the defence are getting whip-burn from his tongue lashings.
"Harris is known along the corridors here as a `legal' judge, as opposed to a hard-ass or a bleeding heart, an astute jurist whose decisions are rarely overturned on appeal. It is not unusual for this courtroom to hear upwards of 250 cases a day."
Harris spent more than 30 years as a lawyer, both for the federal government and in private practice. He was appointed to the Ontario Provincial Court in 1976.
After 16 years on the bench, Harris retired from criminal court in 1992, but later became a Small Claims Court judge, a member of the Ontario Assessment Review Board, referee for the Law Society of Upper Canada and an appointee of the Council for the Association of Ontario Land Surveyors.
In 1990, he drew the ire of Mavis Wilson, the minister responsible for women's issues, who criticized his suggestion that not all domestic assaults should lead to criminal prosecution.
At the end of a preliminary hearing for a man accused of sexually assaulting his wife, Harris said such violence couldn't be condoned, but added that some cases of domestic violence are the result of "momentary passion." Wilson said wife assault should be treated seriously. "Wife assault is a crime," she said. "There is no excuse."
Son Mark Harris said his father "created a loving family.
"He enjoyed a quality and quantity of all the good things a human being needs and aspires to," he said. "He had numerous professional successes, both in the law and in society, but his real passion was the simple pleasures of life.
"He loved the law and Canadian Jewry. He protected all of the Holocaust people and everybody who came to Canada, and made sure it was a better place to live."
Harris is survived by his wife, Enid, sons Mark and David, grandchildren Lindsay and Brett, and his sister, Thelma Rose.
Justice Harris is one of the few judges who was actually brave enough to question the politically correct, feminist correct policy of prosecuting every "domestic assault", read every "alleged domestic assault".
There are many good judges who deserve credit, and generally do not want any comment about them even positive. Good judges don't want publicity, bad judges are so afraid of it they use their power , flagrantly abuse their power to "get revenge". They make what is called Power and Sheffield orders after two Ottawa Judges who are famous for making anti-male draconian orders that habitually shock the legal profession. Now to pay some respect, to an Ontario Court of Justice Judge, in Ottawa, I'll leave his name out whose decision reads "
“in the case at bar, I can see no reason to disbelieve "the male accused" and can find a number of reasons to question "the female complainant's testimony” “the complainant did not seek medical help for her excruciating back pain for 81 days after the alleged assault”. “one cannot help but feel the allegation of assault may have been implemented to further the complainant’s position in the ongoing custody dispute”. “his actions fall within section 29(1) of the Criminal Code as he did not use anymore force than was necessary to defend his property. He is found not guilty. see the roscoe report at the Ottawa mens centre