Mr Smith is a retired senior Canadian civil servant who made a substantial contribution to the international unification of law, in particular the work of the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (Unidroit) and the Hague Conference on Private International Law. He has also been a successful practicing lawyer and a visiting professor of law.
He graduated from Mt Allison University (B.A. 1952) and Dalhousie University (M.A. History 1955, LL.B. 1956). He pursued postgraduate studies at the Institute of Historical Research of the University of London (1952/3) and took part in the doctoral programme of the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva (1957/8). He was admitted to the Bars of Nova Scotia, Ontario and Alberta.
He had a distinguished career of almost 30 years in the Canadian Department of Justice, serving successively as Solicitor to the Treasury, Director of the Constitutional and International Law Section, Assistant Deputy Attorney-General, Civil Litigation, and Chief General Counsel. During this career he had a broad background in public law, in particular Government operations, the control of its actions and expenditure and the division of powers under the Canadian Constitution. He was made Q.C. in 1973.
During his time as Director of the Constitutional and International Law Section (he was in charge of international private law matters from 1969 for several years) he was responsible for Canada's initial involvement in both Unidroit and the Hague Conference.
The first Unidroit project for which Mr Smith was responsible in this capacity was that which resulted in the 1973 Washington Convention providing a Uniform Law on the Form of an International Will: he was notably responsible for organising promotion of the Convention with a view to its incorporation into provincial law, in particular the law of Manitoba, Newfoundland, Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
He was elected a member of the Unidroit Governing Council in 1983, serving a five-year term of office; he was subsequently appointed an Honorary member of the Council. It was in his capacity of Council member that he was responsible for the taking of two very significant steps in the history of Unidroit, first, in his proposal that the Government of Canada host the diplomatic Conference for the adoption of what became the 1988 Ottawa Conventions on International Financial Leasing and International Factoring (a Conference of which he was President) and, secondly, in the proposal that he made to the Council in 1988 that Unidroit examine the need for, and feasibility of a Convention on international aspects of security interests in mobile equipment, a proposal that led to one of Unidroit's most successful products, the Cape Town Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the various Protocols thereto.
Mr Smith also represented his Government in the intergovernmental negotiations within Unidroit of what became the 1989 Geneva Convention on Civil Liability for Damage caused during Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road, Rail and Inland Navigation Vessels.
He was active for many years in the Hague Conference as a representative of the Government of Canada. In particular, he chaired numerous meetings of that Organisation, including the Commission responsible for the development of the very successful 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. He also chaired various Special Commissions of the Hague Conference, including that entrusted with the task of developing a Convention on jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters, as also the first session of the diplomatic Conference on that subject. In 2004 the Queen of the Netherlands appointed him a Commander of the Order of Orange-Nassau, in recognition of his contribution to the work of the Hague Conference.
At the North American level, he was for many years co-Chairman of a joint American Bar Association / Canadian Bar Association working group which developed, inter alia, draft model legislation on transboundary pollution that was adopted by the uniform law bodies in the United States of America and Canada (in the latter as the Transboundary Pollution Reciprocal Access Act) for
enactment at the State and provincial level (and which has gone on to be adopted in several States and provinces). This draft model legislation essentially provided for access for the polluted to the administrative bodies and courts of the polluter and was a good example of practical model laws capable of benefitting individual litigants.
After retiring from the Department of Justice, Mr Smith practiced law for some years, as Special Counsel of Stikeman Elliot, in areas of public law and international law.
During his career he had an extensive litigation practice before the Supreme Court of Canada and the Trial and Appeals Division of the Federal Court. He appeared in many important and reported constitutional cases before the Supreme Court, in all appearing before it in some 50 cases, many as Senior Counsel. He also had extensive experience in administrative law and taxation cases before the Federal Court.
Mr Smith was in charge, from the perspective of the Government of Canada, of the litigation concerning the debts of the International Tin Council (I.T.C.) and was the principal negotiator on behalf of the States members of the I.T.C. in the settlement of its debt. The settlement of these massive claims was a signal success for which Mr Smith could in part be considered responsible, as the person who, against all the currents, advanced the idea that a settlement could be achieved notwithstanding litigation in a number of jurisdictions, including Canada, where a case in which he appeared went to the Supreme Court.
In his career Mr Smith has also acted as counsel in State-to-State international arbitrations and has accepted appointments in arbitration matters from the International Chamber of Commerce, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Secretariat of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the American Arbitration Association.
He has been Visiting Professor at the Université de Montréal and in the Law Faculty of Queen’s University, Kingston.