Harvey Pollock, Winnipeg’s whistling lawyer, dies at 89
Winnipeg’s whistling lawyer, Harvey Pollock, has died.
The well-known litigator and senior member of Pollock & Company practised law for more than six decades and was well respected and admired in the legal community. He died Sunday at age 89.
“Harvey was one of those people who had a very incredible reputation,” said Saul Simmonds, a criminal lawyer in Winnipeg since 1980 who had known Pollock that entire time.
“[He] stood for so much, he was a highly ethical individual who had a vast amount of knowledge in many areas of law. He was one of those people who just had an incredible personality, both as a lawyer and as a person.”
Pollock’s interests included golf, tennis, music and whistling, according to the bio posted on his firm’s website.
He won the inaugural World Whistling Championship in 1977, performing classical and contemporary music. And he plied that pursed practice throughout his life as he strolled through downtown and the law courts.
“He could be heard whistling through the courthouse all the time, always happy, always up,” Simmonds said. “And he always had time for people. When you when you saw Harvey in the elevator or walking on the street, no matter what he was doing, he always had time to stop.
“When he met you he knew you by name, he knew what you did and what you were practising. He showed the kind of interest that many people don’t really focus upon.”
A past president of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s board of directors, Pollock was also a member of the maestro’s inner circle and appeared with the Winnipeg, Toronto and Bismarck symphony orchestras. In 2003, he appeared as guest conductor with the WSO.
Pollock graduated from the University of Manitoba’s law school in Winnipeg in 1957 and was called to the bar the following year. He served as counsel to the Children’s Aid Society of Winnipeg until 1960 when he opened his own law office.
He acted in many matters affecting the rights of First Nation peoples, including acting as counsel to the founders of the Manitoba Indian Brotherhood, now known as the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. In 1970 Pollock was made an honorary chief for all of Manitoba’s First Nation bands.
“He took a huge amount of pride in that. It obviously was one of those things that opened the door to the kind of Indigenous realization and actualization that we are now seeing in a much more significant way,” Simmonds said.
In 1988, he represented the family of John Joseph (J.J.) Harper at the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry, which examined how Indigenous people are treated in the justice system.
The inquiry was sparked by two flashpoints: the death of Harper, a Cree leader shot dead by city police that same year, and the 1971 murder in The Pas of Helen Betty Osborne, whose killers weren’t brought to justice until 1987.
The inquiry’s final report, released in 1991 with 296 recommendations, determined racism played a role in those events.
“[Pollock] stood for not only awareness, but justice, generally,” Simmonds said.
“I don’t think people recognize the fact that when the inquiry took place, it was really the beginning of an understanding of what was taking place in the Indigenous community and the justice system.”
Pollock, who had been practising until recently, will forever be known for his cases and accomplishments and that legacy will endure, Simmonds said. Pollock’s son Martin and grandsons Noah and Ethan continue to practise at the firm and carry on Pollock’s efforts.
“They, too, work hard in the areas that he had been integral to,” Simmonds said. “[Pollock] was an excellent practitioner but he was an excellent teacher and he was able to have people around him understand just the depth and the dedication necessary in the practice of law.
“He taught that legacy to everyone who was around him. He’s going to be missed.”
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