BAIRD, Vaughan Lawson
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It is with deep regret that we announce the passing of Vaughan Lawson Baird, CM, QC, LLD, on Saturday, August 17, at his beloved home of Bel-Ami in Ste-Agathe, Manitoba. Vaughan was just shy of his 86th birthday. He is survived by his sister, Elsie Hughes, nieces and nephews Barbara Menard, Kathryn Desai, Hugh and Michael Munro, Joanne Boyne, James Baird, Janis, Shawn and Jeffrey Hughes, and Susan Cunningham, and the many grandnephews and nieces who were an increasing source of delight for him in his later years. He was predeceased by sister Barbara Munro, brothers Samuel Lawson, James Harold and Jack Douglas, and niece Irene Baird Fast.
The youngest son of Nova Scotia emigrants Samuel Garnet Baird and Elsie Katherine Lawson, Vaughan was born in Winnipeg and earned a BA at the University of Manitoba in 1949, and a law degree at Dalhousie University in 1952. His life-long passion for art, history, politics, and the French language was no doubt nourished by his post-graduate studies in French Civilization at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1987, his academic distinctions were crowned by an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Winnipeg.
Vaughan's 31 years as a partner in the law firm of Newman MacLean were bracketed by practice with Pitblado Hoskin at the start of his career, and Baker Zivot and Pullan Guld, respectively, towards the end. Appointed Queen's Counsel in 1966, one of his most signal achievements as a lawyer was the successful challenge of the constitutionality of Manitoba's English-only legislation in Bilodeau v. AGM, a multi-year struggle that began in May 1980 and wound its way to a June 1984 hearing in the Supreme Court of Canada alongside the Reference re Manitoba Language Rights. He subsequently argued before the Supreme Court at an additional special hearing of the Reference in 1991.
Further underscoring Vaughan's commitment to constitutional language rights was his pride in having served as a defence attorney in a separate matter that was the first French- only trial to be heard in Manitoba in some 90 years.
The combative - some would say "pugnacious" - spirit that served Vaughan so well as a lawyer and litigator also served him well in sports, where he distinguished himself during his university years in swimming, diving and boxing. However good an athlete he may have been, it was as a sports administrator, fundraiser and official that Vaughan made his most enduring mark. His particular devotion to diving led him to establish, in 1968, the Canadian Amateur Diving Association, now known as Diving Canada, of which he was at the time of his death the Honorary President. At the same time that he asserted diving's independence from swimming, he helped to unite those two disciplines with water polo and synchronized swimming under the umbrella of the Aquatic Federation of Canada.
Vaughan's role as a chef de mission for Canada's national diving team took him throughout Europe and the Soviet Union. A member of the Canadian Olympic Association and board member of the Commonwealth Games Association of Canada, the Amateur Swimming Union of the Americas (ASUA) and the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA), Vaughan also judged diving at the Olympic, Commonwealth, and Pan American Games and various World competitions from 1964 to 1990.
As a member of two of the committees planning the 1967 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, Vaughan waged a year-long campaign to obtain federal funding to put a roof over Pan Am Pool. His local contributions to sport also included his involvement in the founding of the Manitoba Sports Federation, which evolved into Sport Manitoba, and the creation of a sports lottery organization that, under his guidance, eventually grew into the Western Canada Lottery Corporation.
Always a great lover and patron of the arts, Vaughan was especially fond of painting and sculpture, and buildings and parks all over Winnipeg have been embellished with works that he donated. A perfect union of his predilections for art, aquatic sports and history was formed when, at the request of Mayor Stephen Juba, he founded the Aquatic Hall of Fame and Museum of Canada in the context of the 1967 Pan Am Games. The curation and upkeep of the hall's rich collection of aquatics-related art and memorabilia was one of his most cherished projects, and he continued to tend to it through to his final days.
An incurable optimist imbued with an infectious joie de vivre, Vaughan generally met life's adversities with a shrug of the shoulders and one of his favourite sayings: C'est la vie. When it came to matters of principle, however, no one was more tenacious. As an active member and executive of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, he was a leading proponent of the One Member, One Vote approach to electing party leaders and was gratified to see his efforts rewarded by the slow but steady march in that direction by his and other political parties in Canada and Britain.
A three-time recipient of the Queen's Jubilee Medal who was decorated by the Government of Peru for his 23-year service as an Honorary Consul, Vaughan earned many more honours and awards over the course of his lifetime, most of them acknowledging his contributions to sport. He was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 1984 and appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 1992.
Although Vaughan had no descendants of his own, he served as the chronicler of the Baird family history and his greatest gift to the family's far-flung members was maintaining and, in some cases, restoring their connections.
The family would like to extend special thanks to Thérèse and Albert Dorge of Ste-Agathe and, above all, Kathryn Desai of Winnipeg, for their care and attention to Vaughan over the years.
A private celebration of Vaughan's life for family and close friends will be held at his home on the river in which he swam his entire life. For further information, please contact Wojcik's Funeral Chapel and Crematorium at 204-586-8668.
Published in National Post on Aug. 31, 2013