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'Formidable' 21-year Nova Scotia Conflict of Interest Commissioner Merlin Nunn 'has gently passed away'

Former Justice of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court and provincial Conflict of Interest Commissioner D. Merlin Nunn died on Thursday, May 21, 2020. he was 89.
Former Justice of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court and provincial Conflict of Interest Commissioner D. Merlin Nunn died on Thursday, May 21, 2020. he was 89. - Contributed
HALIFAX, N.S. —

Retired Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice and former provincial Conflict of Interest Commissioner D. Merlin Nunn has died at the age of 89.

The family shared the news of his death in Halifax in a release issued on Friday.

“We are heartbroken to share the news that Merlin Nunn has gently passed away yesterday from natural causes,” the statement said. “Merlin was a loving husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother and friend.”

The statement said he was fiercely devoted to his family and friends, and they will always miss his personal warmth and great sense of humor.

“While we grieve the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his extraordinary life. We hope his many years of service to the province serves as an example to young Nova Scotians the importance of committing to something bigger than yourself.”

Early life

Nunn was born on Nov. 19, 1930, in Whitney Pier to the late Bruce Clement and Florence (Merlin) Nunn. He graduated from Sydney Academy and went to St. Francis Xavier University at the age of 15. He earned Bachelor of Arts degree in1950 and Bachelor of Education in 1952 from St. F.X.

He taught school in Bowsman, Manitoba, and in Sydney before entering Dalhousie University's law school. He graduated in 1957 and, as a Ford Foundation Scholarship winner, followed that with his Masters in Law from Harvard University.

He was admitted to the Nova Scotia Bar in 1958 and taught as an assistant professor at Dalhousie Law School. In 1959, he worked with Algoma Steel Corporation as the assistant to the vice president of industrial relations before he joined the Halifax firm of Rutledge, MacKeigan & Downie in 1960, according to a release from the Nova Scotia Judiciary.

In 1972, Nunn was appointed Queen’s Counsel.

In 1973 he became a senior partner at Cox, Downie, Nunn, & Goodfellow.

He also served for several years as Chairman of the Nova Scotia Government Employee Labour Relations Board. .

Nunn spent six years on the board of directors for the Home of the Guardian Angel (1964-70), three years on the board of directors at the Convent of the Sacred Heart Private School (1967-70) and six years on the board of directors for the Northcliff Senior Citizens Corporation (1968-74).

Supreme Court, later life

He was appointed to the trial division of the Supreme Court on Sept. 1, 1982.

In 1997, Nunn was appointed the province's Conflict of Interest Commissioner, a position he held for 21 years, retiring in June 2018.

He fully retired on Nov. 19, 2005, and in the same year agreed to chair the inquiry into the case of a young offender who was released from custody and later charged in the death of Theresa McEvoy, who was killed in a crash with a stolen vehicle driven by the teen.

The Nunn Commission's report, Spiralling Out of Control: Lessons from a Boy in Trouble, focused on how charges against the youth were handled in the days leading up to his Oct. 12, 2004, release and the fatal collision that occurred two days later.

“Justice Nunn was a formidable jurist whose passing will touch many in this province’s legal community,” Deborah K. Smith, Chief Justice of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court said in the judiciary's release. “Whether it was his thoughtful and well-reasoned decisions in the courtroom or the countless hours he committed to the Inquiry into a local teacher’s death, Justice Nunn served Nova Scotians with passion and integrity.

“I know I speak on behalf of all his former judicial colleagues when I say that Justice Nunn will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and condolences are with his friends and loved ones during this difficult time.”

His obituary says he is survived by his wife, Joan (Gildersleeve); children Mary, Caroline, Bruce, and Douglas, 10 grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren as well as his sister Betty Lou Simpson, sister-in-law, Mary MacLellan, and many nieces and nephews.

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