THE ADVOCATE 899
VOL. 77 PART 6 NOVEMBER 2019
James Donald Baker, Q.C.
Every legend should have truth at its heart. To those
who knew him or knew of him, the legend of James
D. Baker, Q.C., has resonated with reference to legal
confidence, legal accomplishment, legal wisdom and
humanity. Like all good legends, Jim’s does not disappoint.
All the references are actually true. The history
of the bar of British Columbia is replete with
characters and counsel so utterly unique that they will never be forgotten.
It is this way with legends. It is this way with Jim Baker.
Jim was born in Vancouver on December 1, 1936. It was on April 4, 2019
that he left us, passing away in his sleep. Jim was also raised in Vancouver.
His parents were Hope and Raymond Peterson. Raymond was Icelandic.
His genetics and ancestry led Jim to a love of that land that imbued his character
with elements of the Viking. Following his father’s death in 1939, Jim
was raised mainly by his mother and his uncle, Don Hope. His mother married
Ernest Baker when Jim was in his teens. Ernest adopted Jim, and at the
age of 16, Jimmy Peterson became known as Jim Baker.
As a youth, Jim knew the hardships of the early post-war years in British
Columbia. Those difficulties, known so well to an entire generation of
Canadians, somehow inspired Jim and motivated him to excel. He always
lived his life with no illusion that our human experience was a rehearsal.
He was inordinately existential without being overly philosophical, and he
had an enduring sense that life was meant to be lived in the present with
ferocity, energy and grace. This required that he live life well. If that meant
going first-class, then he understood that was how he would live his life.
Jim’s mother had wanted him to become an engineer, but he didn’t particularly
like mathematics or science. He was gifted with language, persuasion,
and a deep interest in human psychology and society, and was thus
attracted to law. Jim attended Gladstone High School and then UBC. Prior
to graduating from university, he met and married his first wife, Sherry.
Together they had three children whom they raised mostly in Chilliwack.
UBC awarded Jim degrees in commerce and law. While in law school, he
initiated friendships that he enjoyed for his lifetime. Lawyers such as
George Stevens, Laurie Peers and now former Chief Justice Lance Finch
were close friends and bridge partners at law school. Jim was an accomplished
athlete and played football well for UBC. Later in life, he would also