William A. Tetley (1927-2014)

Full Professor

It is with sadness that we must announce the death of Professor William Tetley, C.M., Q.C., LL.L., who passed away, surrounded by his family, on July 1, 2014.

Obiturary on Legacy.com

PDF icon Tribute by the Group opposed to the Rotterdam Rules (Nov 2014)

PDF icon In memoriam: Professor William Aubrey Tetley, by Marko Pavliha


Town of Mount Royal High School (1943); the Royal Canadian Naval College (1945) where he was Chief Cadet Captain and upon graduation won the Nixon Memorial Sword and the Sellers Telescope; B.A. (Honours Economics) (McGill 1948); LL.L. (Laval 1951).

Naval Service

Served at sea as a Midshipman, 1945-1946 and in the Reserve as a Sub-Lieutenant and Lieutenant R.C.N. (R) (1946-1951).

Practice of Law:

Practised civil, commercial and maritime law from 1952 to 1970, and was a senior partner in Martineau, Walker, Allison, Beaulieu & Tetley (today Fasken Martineau). He was named Q.C. in 1968. In 1996, he became Counsel to Langlois Kronström Desjardins of Montreal.

Political Career:

Was City Councillor in Town of Mount Royal from 1965-1968 and as Library Commissioner, was instrumental in the planning and building of the Town of Mount Royal Library 1967, which won prizes in Expo year for the best building in Canada, the best public building in Canada and the best furnishings.

From 1968 to 1976 was the member for N.D.G. in the Quebec National Assembly and from 1970 to 1976 was a cabinet minister in the first Bourassa cabinet ("premier cru"), where his portfolios were: a) Revenue, b) Financial Institutions, Companies, Cooperatives and Consumer Protection, and c) Public Works & Supply.

As minister he brought down the first Consumer Protection Act, completely revised the Insurance Act, the Companies Act, the Trust Companies Act and over 50 other commercial and civil statutes and codes. He chaired The Interdepartmental Task Force on Foreign Investment, whose Report in 1976 was, and still is, the guide of the Quebec government on foreign investment in Quebec. His legislation on language called for bilingualism in consumer contracts and company names and although criticized at that time, is still present in today's legislation. His stand on bilingualism is now praised today, in Quebec, Canada and many bilingual nations.


He was a professor at the Faculty of Law from in 1976 to 2014. From 1984 to 1998 he taught a mini-course each year at Tulane University, New Orleans, U.S.A., going south each winter like a Canada goose. He has lectured at universities and conferences in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., the U.S.S.R., Belgium, France, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Slovenia, Croatia, Malta, Canary Isles, South Africa, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina and Brazil.


He was a book reviewer at the Montreal Gazette from 1952 to 1965 and is a periodic contributor to newspapers in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. He is author of over 150 forgotten articles and political promises, while his books have been translated into Russian, Japanese and Chinese and pirated in Taiwan. His latest international treatises are International Conflict of Laws - Common, Civil and Maritime, 1994; Maritime Liens and Claims, 2nd Ed., published in 1998; "Maritime Transportation", 2001, in the International Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, Hamburg, Germany; International Maritime and Admiralty Law, 2003; a Glossary of Maritime Law Terms, 2 Ed., 2004; The October Crisis, 1970: An Insider's View, 2006; and Marine Cargo Claims, 4 Ed., 2008, Vols. 1 & 2.

He was an associate editor of Lloyd's Maritime & Commercial Law Quarterly (London); Lloyd's Law Reports (London); Droit Maritime Français (Paris); European Transport Law (Antwerp); American Maritime Cases (Baltimore); the Journal of Maritime Law & Commerce (New York); the Tulane Maritime Law Journal (New Orleans); the University of San Francisco Maritime Law Journal (San Francisco); La Revue Scapel (Marseille); the Journal of International Maritime Law (London), and Baltic Maritime Law Quarterly.

Past Public Service

He was Chairman of the Board of International Branch YMCA, Montreal and an active Board member for 8 years. He was active for 13 years in the Boy Scouts as Wolf Cub leader and Council member and Honorary Counsel to the Quebec Provincial Council. He was a Sunday School teacher (1948-61), President of his Church Council (1961-63), President of La Société Pro Musica, a chamber music society (1988-1994). He was a Board Member and then Chairman of the Board of Governors of Frontier College (1985-87), Toronto (established in 1899, it deals with adult education and illiteracy across Canada). Past-President of l'Association des professeurs de droit du Québec. Member of the Board of the McCord Museum of Canadian History. Professor Tetley was also Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Association of Maritime Arbitrators of Canada (AMAC); Hon. Vice-President of the Comité Maritime International (CMI) (Brussels); Chairman of the Board of Governors of La Société Pro Musica Inc. (Montreal); and secretary and a member of the Acquisitions Committee of the McCord Museum, Montreal; Chairman, International Maritime Arbitration Organization (I.C.C.), Paris and an arbitrator for China Maritime Arbitration Commission (CMAC) (2008 to 2011).

Past Public Service - Maritime Law:

In 1986, he was named Chairman of a Committee of six persons, one from each continent, to settle a dispute between two United Nations organizations in London IMO & UNCTAD.

President of the Canadian Maritime Law Association (1981-1984); President of the Association of Average Adjusters of Canada (1986-87); President of the Association of Maritime Arbitrators of Canada (1990-1995); Member of the Executive Council of the Comité Maritime International (CMI), (1986-1990) and Vice-President (1990-1994).

In 1992, was named President of the task force on the maritime industry of Montreal (Table de Concertation sur l'Industrie Maritime de Montréal), composed of representatives of the Governments of Canada and Québec, of shipowners, ship operators, stevedores and of labour in general, of pilots and 40 other groups interested in the Port of Montreal. In August 1994, a unanimous report was brought down, to general acclaim and is the first such report in over fifty years to be acted upon.


In 1969, he was awarded the Boy Scouts of Canada Medal. In 1981, he won the "Lilar Prize" of Brussels, awarded every three years for international maritime law. In 1984, he was named an Honorary Member of the Maritime Law Association of the United States and is the second of four such persons to be so named in the Association's 105-year history. In 1987, he was named "The Distinguished Visiting Professor of Maritime and Commercial Law" at Tulane University, New Orleans. In 1994, he was named Hon. Life Vice-President of the Comité Maritime International (CMI) Brussels. In December 1995, he was named a member of the Order of Canada. In August 1996, he was named "Visiting Professor" of Dalian Maritime University, Dalian, P.R.China. In 1999, Tulane University named an annual lecture series in his honour entitled "The William Tetley Maritime Law Lectures". In 1997, he was named the first Honorary Member of the Slovenian Maritime Law Association. In 1999, he was named an Arbitrator of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre and in 2001 an Arbitrator of the China Maritime Arbitration Commission. On July 1, 2002, he was named an Honorary Member of the Croatian Maritime Law Association and in September 2002 was the first winner of the "Professor Pedrag Stankovic Award" of Croatia. Three fellowships ("The William Tetley Fellowships") were named after him in 2004 for Doctoral and Masters students at McGill Law Faculty. In June 2007, he received the F.R. Scott Award of Distinguished Contribution from McGill University's Faculty of Law and its Advisory Board to recognize his significant contribution to law and to the life of the Faculty, and his exceptional service and leadership to society. On November 27, 2009, Tetley's latest book - "Marine Cargo Claims" IV Ed., 2008 (2 Vols., 3288 pages) was named co-winner (with Bradley Crawford Q.C. and his book "The Law of Banking and Payment in Canada") of the Canadian Bar Association "Walter S. Owen Book Prize" (totaling $10,000). The prize was for the best book in law in the English language during the past two years in Canada and was presented jointly to Bradley Crawford and William Tetley at a ceremony on November 27, 2009 in Toronto, Canada.

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