Remembering Emeritus Professor Armand de Mestral (1941–2023)

Armand de Mestral
Published: 20 June 2023

The community of the McGill Faculty of Law was saddened to learn that Armand de Mestral, C.M., passed away on 16 June 2023, aged 81. 

He earned degrees from Harvard (A.B. magna cum laude, 1963; LL.M., 1968) and McGill (B.C.L., 1966), and become an advocate of the Barreau du Québec in 1967. Returning to his family’s Swiss roots, he worked for a time in Switzerland for what is now the International Maritime Organization. Practice in the Department of Justice in Ottawa further deepened his expertise in maritime law. He returned to the Faculty of Law as a professor in 1976. Over the course of a lengthy academic career, he taught constitutional law, law of the sea, public international law, international trade law, international arbitration, European Community law, and public international air law. He retired and became emeritus professor in 2010, although – as proof of his love of teaching and of students – he kept a post-retirement appointment and taught until stopped by the combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and his health challenges. He published books and articles, in English and French, on international trade law, on Canadian comparative and constitutional law, and on international law. 

A sterling institutional citizen, he served as director of the Institute of Comparative Law from 1984–89 and as acting director of the Institute of Air and Space Law from 1998–2002. He was associate editor for the Canadian Yearbook of International Law from 1990–2011. 

He was given honorary doctorates by Université de Lyon (1995) and Kwansei Gakuin in Japan (2002). In 2003, he received a Jean Monnet Chair in the Law of International Economic Integration – which was fitting, given how influenced Armand was by the belief of the chair’s namesake that trade and economic integration would help to protect human rights, liberal democracy, and peace. In 2007, he was made member of the Order of Canada. Appointed a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in 2014, he was appointed to Canada’s Chapter 19 (Trade Remedies) Roster for the North American Free Trade Agreement a ten-year mandate in 2018. That same year, he was appointed to the Chapter 24 (Trade and Environment) Roster for the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. 

A longtime supporter of the Canadian Red Cross Society, he served as its president from 1999–2001, at a moment of challenges and transition for the organization. He was always patient, wise, and non-judgmental in his approach to the ethical issues raised in that capacity. Having for a time studied at Whitgift School in England, Armand loved and often quoted a passage from scripture that the school’s founder, John Whitgift, archbishop of Canterbury, had reputedly glossed in a sermon before Elizabeth I: “Be subject to rule and ready in every good work.” 

Armand was an exemplary colleague and mentor, supervising an extraordinary number of graduate students and being the first to agree to sit on a doctoral defense. Perfectly bilingual himself, he was deeply attached to bilingualism, to the Faculty of Law as a plural and respectful community, and to our integrated program’s global vocation. Although not a scholar of private law, he “talked up” McGill and our vision of legal education, which he believed to be avant-garde and smart, wherever he went. Even in official retirement, Armand followed matters within the Faculty of Law and university, frequently sharing news stories and his views – praise or gentle criticism, as the case may be – with the tenant of the Dean’s Office. 

His friends in the Faculty of Law community will miss Armand greatly, whether they met him recently or, as in one case, sat next to him on their first day of law school six decades ago. We will remember him as an exceptional man in many ways, an unusual combination of gentle and strong. An unassuming gentleman, he was intellectually curious and a person of the utmost integrity, trustworthiness, and kindness. He and his wife, Rosalind Pepall, raised their sons in a loving home characterized by art and culture. Colleagues remember him walking to and from the Faculty of Law to his house in Westmount, summer or winter, rain or shine.  

The Faculty of Law extends its deepest condolences to his beloved Ros; to his sons, Philippe and Charles; and to his grandchildren. We also express condolences to the many others who knew and loved Armand de Mestral, as we did, and who will miss him, as we will. 

Details of a memorial to be held in September will be shared in due course. 

Robert Leckey, Ad. E. 
Dean and Samuel Gale Professor 
20 June 2023

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