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Newton Rowell

The Hon.
Newton Rowell
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Durham
In office
Preceded by Charles Jonas Thornton
Succeeded by Fred Wellington Bowen
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for Oxford North
In office
Preceded by Andrew MacKay
Succeeded by John Alexander Calder
6th President of the Canadian Bar Association
In office
Preceded by Louis St. Laurent
Succeeded by Isaac Pitblado
6th President of the Ontario Bar Association
In office
Preceded by Wallace Nesbitt, K.C.
Succeeded by Dalton Lally McCarthy, K.C.
Personal details
Born Newton Wesley Rowell
(1867-11-01)November 1, 1867
London Township, Ontario
Died November 22, 1941(1941-11-22) (aged 74)
Toronto, Ontario
Political party Ontario Liberal Party
Unionist (federal)

Newton Wesley Rowell, PC (November 1, 1867 – November 22, 1941) was a Canadian lawyer and politician and leading lay figure in the Methodist church. Rowell led the Ontario Liberal Party from 1911 to 1917 and put forward a platform advocating temperance. Rowell's Liberals failed to oppose the Whitney government's passage of Regulation 17 which restricted the teaching of the French language in schools alienating the province's French-Canadian minority.

Life and career

He was born in London Township, Ontario. Rowell ran for the Canadian House of Commons in the 1900 federal election but was defeated in York East.

Returning to his law practice, he was made King's Counsel in 1902 and became senior partner in his law firm, Rowell, Reid, and Wood and had a prominent legal career.

He returned to politics in 1911. Though not a candidate, he was a prominent campaigner supporting the government of Sir Wilfrid Laurier during the 1911 federal election speaking across Ontario to promote both Laurier's plan for a Canadian navy and the trade reciprocity agreement negotiated between the federal government and the United States, against the opposition of prominent Liberal business leaders who feared free trade would be extended to manufacturing.

Later that year, he was chosen to lead the Ontario Liberal Party, despite not having a seat in the legislature, after incumbent leader Alexander Grant MacKay was forced to resign shortly before the beginning of that year's election campaign. He was elected to the legislature in the 1911 provincial election representing Oxford North and became Leader of the Opposition.

In 1917, Rowell, a supporter of Durham in the December 1917 federal election. Rowell attended meetings of the Imperial War Cabinet in London, England, along with other senior Canadian ministers. In 1919, he was given added responsibilities as Canada's first Minister of Health.

Rowell declined to join the government of Borden's successor, Arthur Meighen, in 1920 and did not run for re-election to parliament in 1921. After the war Rowell served as a Canadian delegate to the League of Nations and became involved in international affairs. He also helped lead the Methodists into a merger with Presbyterians to form the United Church of Canada.

As a lawyer he had one of the strongest litigation practices in Toronto, arguing many cases before the Supreme Court of Canada and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, including Edwards v. Canada (Attorney General). In 1903, he founded the firm that is now known as McMillan LLP. In 1929 he argued and won the Person's case, concerning whether women were eligible for appointment to the Senate of Canada. The Supreme Court of Canada said no, but Rowell took the case to the Privy Council in London and won. It was a foundation case for female equality in Canada. He served as President of the Ontario Bar Association from 1927 to 1930,[1] and as national President of the Canadian Bar Association from 1932 to 1934.[2] In 1936 he was appointed Chief Justice of Ontario.

He is also noted for being the first chair of the 1937 Rowell-Sirois Commission into Dominion-Provincial economic relations and for being a founding leader of the United Church of Canada.

Asked how to say his name, he told The Literary Digest it had ow as in now: row-ELL. (Charles Earle Funk, What's the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936.)

Rowell was the maternal grandfather of former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Hal Jackman and current Senator Nancy Ruth. His daughter Mary wed Harry Jackman in 1930.


  1. ^ Ontario Bar Association: History
  2. ^ Canadian Bar Association: Past CBA Presidents

External links

  • Newton Rowell – Parliament of Canada biography
  • Member's parliamentary history for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario
  • Entry from the Canadian Encyclopedia
  • "Newton Rowell".  
Party political offices
Preceded by
Alexander Grant MacKay
Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party
Succeeded by
William Proudfoot
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