March 21, 1903 – February 12, 2007
Born in Antopol, Poland, Abraham Lieff came to Canada with his mother Esther Malka Pomerantz in late 1904. His father Bernard Lieff had arrived in Canada a year earlier to escape anti-Semitic persecution. The family eventually settled in Ottawa in 1905, where Lieff received his early education. He graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto in 1926 and was called to the Ontario bar that year. In 1929, he married Sadie Lazarovitz of Quebec City. She graduated from McGill University’s law school in Montreal in 1928, and was one of the first Jewish women to practise law in Canada.
In 1934, Lieff was appointed solicitor for the Ontario Agricultural Development Board, and in 1935 he was appointed assistant Crown Attorney, a position he held until 1937. While maintaining a private practice in Ottawa, he acted as counsel to the House of Commons’ committee on industrial relations in 1946, and beginning in 1955 acted as counsel to the Senate special committee on narcotic drug traffic. In 1963, he was appointed justice of the Supreme Court of Ontario — the first such Jewish appointment in the province. He retired from the bench in 1978 but continued to serve as commissioner of the Supreme Court of Ontario until 1990. He also served as deputy judge of the Federal Court of Canada. He instituted the pre-trial of contested family-law cases in the Supreme Court of Ontario in 1975 and organized the Family Law Division of the Supreme Court in 1976.
Lieff had always participated in the political, cultural and social life of his community. His affiliation with the Liberal Association of Canada began in 1926 and he served in various capacities within that organization until the late ’30s. In 1950, he was elected president of the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa. Among his many communal affiliations were le Cercle Universitaire d’Ottawa, the Rideauview Country Club, St. Vincent’s Hospital, the Ottawa Board of Trade, the Royal Arch Masons, The Boy Scouts Association, the John Howard Association of Ottawa, and the Ottawa Branch of the Big Brother Movement, which he helped organize.
A nationally recognized leader within the Canadian Zionist movement, Lieff’s interest in Israel began in 1922, when he worked in Ottawa’s first Keren Hayesod Campaign—the forerunner of today’s Jewish Federation Annual Campaign. Lieff went on to serve as chairman of the Canadian Committee of the North American Section of the Commission on the Reorganization of the World Zionist Organization in 1965-1966 and assisted with the incorporation of the Canada-Israel Foundation in 1965.
Moreover active in local Jewish communal affairs, in 1943 Lieff served as president of Ottawa B’nai Brith and was a founder the Ottawa Talmud Torah, West-End Branch; he served as president of the Ottawa Jewish Community Council from 1953 to 1955; and in 1964 Lieff began what would be 17 years of service as president of Agudath Israel Congregation. The Hon. Mr. Abraham H. Lieff is amongst the most respected judiciary figures in Canada and in 1978 was the Jewish National Fund of Canada Ottawa Negev Dinner honoree.
Featured Photo: Abraham Lieff, Toronto Star Syndicate, 1964, Ottawa Jewish Archives, 129-071.
Clipping: Justice Lieff accorded highest honor. (1989, May 19). Ottawa Jewish Bulletin, p. 1.