BCLI Remembers Arthur Close, QC

27 July 2021

By British Columbia Law Institute


Arthur L. Close, QC  1941-2021

BCLI greatly regrets the passing in late June 2021 of Arthur L. Close, QC, a founding member of BCLI and its first Executive Director.  For almost 50 years, he was prominently associated with law reform in British Columbia and nationally.   

Originally from Edmonton, Mr. Close obtained a degree in mathematics and worked for a time as a professional stage actor in the UK before graduating from the UBC Faculty of Law, where he was the gold medallist of the class of 1969.  After some time in private practice, he joined the staff of the Law Reform Commission of British Columbia (LRCBC) in 1972 and became its Counsel the following year.  He was appointed a full-time Commissioner in 1979, Vice-Chair in 1983, and finally Chair of the LRCBC in 1984. 

When the LRCBC ceased to operate in 1997 as a consequence of losing its provincial funding, Mr. Close and other prominent members of the legal community formed BCLI to carry on the task of modernization and improvement of the law in BC.  Mr. Close served as the first Executive Director of BCLI from 1997 to 2007.  He remained active in the affairs of BCLI as a Board member and later as a Member Emeritus until his death.

Mr. Close was equally prominent in law reform at the national level.  A past president of the Uniform Law Conference of Canada (ULCC), he actively participated in the work of that body for 43 years, being the longest-serving delegate in its history.  He was also instrumental in forming the Federation of Law Reform Agencies of Canada (FOLRAC) at the beginning of the 1990’s and served as its Chair from 1991 to 1995.

Between 2005-2008, Mr. Close headed the Canadian team in an international project  undertaken jointly by the ULCC with its US and Mexican counterpart organizations to develop a harmonized legal framework for unincorporated non-profit associations.

Arthur Close was the principal author of a great number of law reform reports that ultimately reshaped important areas of the statutory and non-statutory law of BC.  He was especially associated with reform of the law of personal property security, serving in the 1970’s on the Special Committee on a Model Uniform Personal Property Security Act headed by Prof. Jacob Ziegel.  This committee developed the prototype on which the Personal Property Security Act (PPSA) of BC and counterparts in several other provinces are based.  In 1991, he helped to establish the Canadian Conference on Personal Property Security Law.   From 1992 to 1996, Mr. Close was a member of the PPSA Consultative Committee that advised the Ministry of Finance and Corporate Relations on implementation of the PPSA in BC.

Following enactment of the 1997 Builders Lien Act, Mr. Close was retained by the provincial ministry then responsible for the Act to draft Questions & Answers on the New Builders Lien Act, an informational publication hosted on this site that continues to be consulted by industry and the public. 

In the early 1990’s Mr. Close served as a board member of the Plain Language Institute, which promoted clarity and simplicity in legal documents and in written communications generally, a cause he strongly supported.  He was an early proponent of adapting digital technology to legal research and of the development of legal databases.  At his instigation, computers were used in the LRCBC’s operations well before they became common in most law offices.  He oversaw the development by the LRCBC of the Law Reform Database, an online bibliography of Canadian, Commonwealth, and US law reform literature searchable by keyword that is still hosted on the BCLI website. 

Following BCLI’s move to UBC Law Faculty premises in 2000, Mr. Close taught an upper-year course on law reform as an adjunct faculty member.

The creation in 2003 of the Canadian Centre for Elder Law (CCEL) as a division of BCLI was largely inspired by Arthur Close, who perceived a need for a national focal point dedicated to this emergent field.  CCEL has since acquired national and international recognition for its expertise in elder law and efforts to improve the experience of older persons in their interaction with the legal system.

On his retirement as Executive Director in 2007, friends and colleagues established the Arthur Close, QC Prize in Advanced Legal Research at the Allard School of Law at UBC in honour of his lifetime of achievements in law reform.  The Arthur Close, QC Prize will serve as a permanent memorial to his immense contribution to the systematic, impartial, and deliberative improvement of the law.