Two years after being named among the 135 appointments to the Order of Canada in December 29, 2021, the Honourable Justice Hugh L. Fraser, O.C. continues to lead change in the world of sport.
At the time of his appointment, Fraser was recognized “for his transformative contributions to Canadian sport as an internationally recognized expert in sports law and as a former Olympian.” Today, he's responsible for rebuilding public faith in Hockey Canada as the organization's new chair.
In an interview with Sportsnet last month, Fraser told Paul D. Grant his focus on increasing diversity, inclusion and safety in the sport.
Fraser had a remarkable journey as a student-athlete and an Olympian. His family moved to Canada from Jamaica when he was seven years old. He was gifted in many ways, and immediately excelled as a student despite his thick Jamaican accent. He also had a passion for sports and showed at an early age that he was a gifted athlete blessed with speed.
Fraser attended Lisgar Collegiate in Ottawa and was the first person inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame. Fraser joined the school’s track team in Grade 11, and within a year he was competing in the Canadian Track and Field Championships in Halifax.
Fraser first attended Queen’s University and ran for their track team while studying law. Fraser’s father, Cecil Fraser, was among the first Black students to graduate from the Queen’s University Faculty of Law.
In 1975, Fraser won a bronze medal for Canada as a member of the 4x100m relay team at the Pan-Am Games. He also finished sixth in 100 metre final and sixth in the 200 metre final. That fall, he continued his studies at Ottawa U. and played wide receiver for the Gee-Gees. In 1976, Fraser competed at the 1976 Montreal Olympics in the 200 metres. He was drafted by the Toronto Argonauts in 1977, but any CFL aspirations were overshadowed by his desire to become a lawyer.
Fraser graduated from uOttawa in 1977, and then turned his attention to track. He competed in the 1978 games in Edmonton despite being hampered by a hamstring injury. After taking a few weeks off, he showed up at Carleton Ravens training camp. He had enrolled at Carleton to continue his studies and to play for the Ravens.
“I remember the first time Hugh was on the field with us,” former Ravens quarterback Mark Lee said. “We used a seven-step drop, which gives you about two-and-a-half seconds to throw the ball. Hugh was running a deep route, and I dropped back, and I threw the ball 30 yards past him. I threw it 60 yards. Hugh ran under it and it dropped into his hands.”
The play wasn’t finished there. Fraser gave his Ravens teammates a taste of his world-class speed in a ‘Run Forrest Run’ moment.
“Usually, guys will take a few steps and then turn around and come back to the huddle,” Lee explained. “Not Hugh. He kept running, and the entire team watched, laughing and applauding. He ran all the way into the endzone. He was such a keener. We couldn’t believe how fast he covered the entire 110 yards of the football field.”
With Fraser and future Ottawa Rough Rider Gary Cook as his two wide receivers, Lee had an explosive offence. That team also had a strong defensive line and linebacking core that was extremely difficult to play against. Lee said that Fraser made an impression on his teammates.
“Hugh was pure class as a teammate,” Lee said. “He never talked much but his efforts on the football field spoke volumes. We’d never seen that kind of foot speed and nobody ever ran the length of the field after catching a short pass. His Olympic pedigree shown through.”
Lee added that having a former teammate appointed to the Order of Canada is something that all Ravens should be proud of.
“We are all so proud of Hugh’s selection to the Order of Canada,” Lee said. “From his athletic achievements as a world-class sprinter at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games to his ascent in the legal world, he has always been a credit to his country. It was such a privilege to have spent time with Hughin the huddle. His exceptional qualities as a teammate rubbed off on all of us.”
The following year, Fraser was called to the Bar. He was still training and was looking forward to the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. Fraser was peaking and was turning in the best times of his career. Canada and the United States boycotted the Games, and Fraser’s Olympic career was over.
Fraser spent two years in private practice, two years as Counsel with the Department of Justice, eight years with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and three years with Digital Equipment Corporation. He was appointed technical advisor to the Dubin Commission of Inquiry established after Ben Johnson tested positive for a banned substance after winning the 1988 Seoul Olympics 100-meter dash in a world record 9.79 seconds.
Lee, who was by this time becoming one of Canada’s premier sports journalists and broadcasters, covered the inquiry. Fraser’s Olympic involvement continues. In 1996, he became a member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, based in Switzerland. He also became a Canadian Ethics in Sport board director.
In 1993, Fraser was appointed as a judge in the Ontario Court of Justice. He served for 25 years and would eventually become the regional senior justice.
Fraser remains an active member of the Old Crows and was the keynote speaker at the 2017 Carleton Ravens Football Dinner.