Joseph Kanuka (1934-2012)

Saskatchewan Lawyer Elected to Sports and Transportation Halls of Fame

Joe Kanuka loved to play sports and pro-moted amateur athletics both through his or-
ganizational participation and designation of funds from the Western Canada Lottery Foundation. While his major contributions had been to highway transport law, particularly, representing the interests of the trucker’s association during a key developmental period, he had also been involved in the regulation of the
Saskatchewan's short-line railways. Joe Kanuka died on October 22, 2012.

Born in Regina on December 14, 1934, Joseph William Kanuka was the middle of three children of Ukrainian immigrants Ignatius and Anne.

After earning his Bachelor of Commerce degree in 1957, Kanuka completed law school in 1958, and joined MacPherson Neuman and Pierce as the firm’s second articling student, whose name was added to the list of partners five years later. Since 1997, the company has been known as Kanuka Thuringer.

Early on in his law practice, Kanuka entered his calling in transportation law, to represent a group of carriers contesting a railway application for certain trucking rights. The opening of the Trans-Canada Highway in 1962 created new challenges in inter-provincial hauling. Kanuka attended many joint hearings and the co-operation meetings of the Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba Highway Boards, either as a carrier representative or as an expert witness. He eventually appeared before most of Canada’s provincial transportation boards, as well as the Interstate Commerce Commission in the United States. In late 1977, Kanuka was one of two lawyers from Saskatchewan who joined more than 50 others to found what is now the Canadian Transport Lawyers Association, a professional and social forum. Two years later, he was named Queen’s Counsel.

From the start of his career, Kanuka also used his legal skills in aid of sports, doing pro bono legal work. In 1960, he joined the board of directors of the struggling Regina Rams football team. In 1966, Kanuka was the Rams’ president and the team won the Junior Football Championship. In 1967, Kanuka joined the board of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, became the founding president of the Saskatchewan Amateur Football Association the following year.

As an active sports volunteer, Kanuka helped sports organizations incorporate, and acted as an athlete representative and agent through the Canadian Amateur Track and Field Association. In 1971, he was a founding member of Sask Sport, a co-ordinating and funding body for amateur sports organizations. In 1972, he became the first commissioner of the Canadian Junior Football League. By 1974, with Kanuka as its president, Sask Sport had established the Saskatchewan Lotteries Trust Fund for Sport, Culture and Recreation. That same year, Kanuka and other provincial lottery representatives established the Western Canada Lottery Foundation (now known as Western Canada Lottery Corp.).

In 1998, Joe Kanuka was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame as a multi-sport “builder”, and in 2002, named to the Saskatchewan Transportation Hall of Fame.

Kanuka’s life was changed when a stroke during surgery left him unable to speak. Having overcome the disability, he nevertheless took this event as a sign to retire and focus on his family while he still had relatively good health.

Kanuka leaves June Ann, his wife of 52 years, and his five children and their families.