Welcome to your tour of the McMurtry Gardens of Justice! Whether you are one of the 25,000 people that visit Osgoode Hall every year or just exploring the Gardens online, there is lots to see and to learn.
The Gardens of Justice is a series of sculptures and fountains that sit between historic Osgoode Hall, home of the Ontario Court of Appeal, the Law Society of Ontario, and the Superior Court of Justice. Each item is designed to represent one of the fundamental legal rights that belong to all Canadians. This gallery of public art invites us to pause and reflect on our freedoms, whether we are on our way to court, visiting on a class trip, or just passing by.
The Gardens were created to recognize the Honourable R. Roy McMurtry, who served Ontario for decades as a public servant, elected official, and diplomat. McMurtry was a Member of Provincial Parliament from 1975-1985, and spent part of that time as the Attorney General of Ontario. He was appointed to the Superior Court of Ontario in 1991 as the Associate Chief Justice, and by 1996 he became the Chief Justice of Ontario at the head of the Court of Appeal. He remained there until he retired in 2007, which was the same year the Gardens opened.
While McMurtry dedicated his career to protecting the rights of Ontarians, he spent much of his personal time painting. He was inspired by the works of the famous Group of Seven, and many of his paintings reflect their style and passion for the Canadian landscape. The Gardens marry his love of art with his commitment to justice, celebrating the rule of law in Canada with statues from a selection of respected public artists.
The idea for the Gardens started with the legal community, but it quickly gained support from the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto. One of the earliest and most influential advocates for the Gardens was Madam Justice Gloria Epstein. She wanted to share the foundational ideas and values behind the legal system directly with the public in a way that was both powerful and lasting. She saw that a sculpture garden would improve the physical space around our courthouses and show pride in the work that is done there. The statues you will see today are a direct result of this vision, which she shared with the other Founders, whose names are inscribed on a sign plate in front of the main Toronto courthouse on University Avenue.
As you begin your tour, consider:
Who sees these statues?
What do you think they are feeling?
How do you interact with the legal system in your day-to-day life?
What kinds of values do you want to see reflected in the law in Ontario?