Memorable Manitobans: Vaughan Lawson Baird (1927-2013)
Lawyer, community activist.
Born at Winnipeg in 1927, son of Nova Scotia emigrants Samuel Garnet Baird and Elsie Katherine Lawson, he was educated at the University of Winnipeg (BA 1949) and Dalhousie University (Law 1952), and did postgraduate studies in French Civilization at the Sorbonne in Paris.
During his university years, he participated in swimming, diving, and boxing. In later years, he was active in sports administration and fundraising. In 1968, he established the Canadian Amateur Diving Association (now known as Diving Canada) and remained its Honorary President at his death. He helped to unite diving and swimming with water polo and synchronized swimming under the umbrella of the Aquatic Federation of Canada. He was the Chef de Mission for Canada’s national diving team, was a member of the Canadian Olympic Association, and he was a board member of the Commonwealth Games Association of Canada, Amateur Swimming Union of the Americas (ASUA), and Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA). Between 1964 and 1990, he judged diving at the Olympic, Commonwealth, and Pan American Games and various World competitions.
He practised law with the Winnipeg firm of Pitblado Hoskin then spent 31 years with the firm of Newman MacLean. In 1966, he was made a Queen’s Counsel. Toward the end of his legal career, he practised with Baker Zivot and Pullan Guld. Known for his combative style in the courtroom, over a period of years starting in 1980 he challenged the constitutionality of Manitoba’s English-only legislation, culminating in arguments before the Canadian Supreme Court. He was a candidate for the St. Boniface constituency in the 1968 federal general election but was defeated by Joseph-Philippe Guay.
As a member of committees planning the 1967 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, he worked to obtain federal funding for the Pan Am Pool. At the local level, he was involved in founding the Manitoba Sports Federation, which evolved into Sport Manitoba, and the creation of a sports lottery organization that eventually grew into the Western Canada Lottery Corporation. He founded the Aquatic Hall of Fame and Museum of Canada and he continued to curate its collection of aquatics-related art and memorabilia through to his final days. He served on an athletic committee of the Manitoba Centennial Corporation. In recognition of his contributions to sports, he was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame (1984).
A noted patron of the arts community in Manitoba, he was especially fond of painting and sculpture, and buildings and parks around Winnipeg contain works that he donated. He wrote the books The Sculptress Marguerite Taylor (1966) and The Sculptor: Cecil Clarence Richards, R.C.A. (1981) about noted Manitoba sculptors.
In recognition of his exemplary community service, Baird was inducted into the Order of Canada (1995) and he received the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubile Medal (1977), the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal (2002), the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012), and an honorary doctorate from the University of Winnipeg (1987).
He died at his home at Ste-Agathe on 17 August 2013.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 31 August 2013.
We thank Frances Kasper for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 5 June 2019
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