On July 9, 2020, Robert Andrew James (“Rob”) Muir passed away suddenly at his home in Toronto at the young age of 56. Rob Muir was a case management Master in Ontario, appointed to the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario on September 25, 2009. He was the first openly gay Master ever appointed in Canada, a model of professionalism and mentorship whose legacy will live on in the many members of the legal community who benefitted from his leadership and support.
Called to the Bar in 1990, Muir had been a partner at Blaney McMurty LLP since 1996 prior to his appointment to the bench. He practiced in commercial litigation, with some experience in class action proceedings.
An active member of the Canadian and Ontario Bar Associations, in particular the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Committee (SOGIC), Muir was dedicated to addressing the needs of LGBT members of the profession for years. He also served as an executive member of the Law Practice Management Section at the OBA for a time, and was a member of the Toronto Lawyers’ Association and Advocates Society.
After Muir’s passing, I reached out to a number of contacts within SOGIC and throughout the profession to hear about his impact and influence. Doug Elliott, one of the founders of SOGIC National and a partner at Cambridge LLP, remembered him as the ideal choice as a Master at the Superior Court. He spoke to me over the phone about his impressions at the time of Rob’s appointment.
“I remember when Rob was appointed I was surprised because he was the first openly gay Master ever,” Elliott recollects. “I thought he was perfect for the role. Polite, thoughtful, caring. Old-fashioned, kind of gentleman-like. Always quite matter-of-fact about being gay.”
He earned a reputation for thoroughness and fairness. “I appeared in front of him on a number of occasions,” says Elliott. “He was always extremely well prepared. Even when I didn’t succeed, I never felt ill treated. No one, I think, ever left his courtroom feeling unfairly treated.”
Milé Komlen, a chair of OBA’s SOGIC Executive for seven years, also fondly remembers Muir’s influence as he was going through his own “coming out” process as a member of the legal profession. He reached out to me tell one of his favourite stories about Muir, and describe the impact he had on him and other young gay lawyers who were struggling with coming out during a time when being “out on bay street” was not nearly so accepted.
“I met Rob when I first started attending SOGIC executive meetings,” Komlen recalls. “As a senior partner at his firm, Rob became an identifiable beacon to those who were still struggling with their sexual identity at work. He was a tireless supporter during all my years at SOGIC, attending every event and social gathering.”
His career success was a source of great encouragement to many. “His appointment as a Master was a thrill to us all," says Komlen. “There was a real sense of celebration at such a pivotal moment when we were striving to achieve visibility and legitimacy within the profession.