In Memoriam - Donovan WM Waters, KC, FRSC, 1928-2023

Emeritus Professor Donovan WM Waters, KC, FRSC died on September 9 in Ottawa. Donovan joined the faculty in 1977 and officially retired in 1993 to spend the following 25 years practicing and consulting at the Bar in Victoria and Vancouver. The leading Canadian authority on trusts law and a global leader in this field, Donovan’s reputation brought great credit to the Faculty of Law and the University of Victoria. The University awarded him an Honorary Doctorate in 1995. Donovan and his late wife Maryla were mainstays of the faculty in its early days, and of Victoria’s arts community. In retirement, Donovan maintained strong connections to UVic Law. Ever kind and generous with his students and his colleagues, Donovan’s inspirational influence, even after his retirement from the Faculty, will be greatly missed.

A celebration of life will be held at McCall Gardens, 4665 Falaise Drive, Victoria BC on Friday November 10, 2023 at 2pm. A memorial web page containing the following obituary and memory wall can be found here


Donovan Waters passed away on September 9, 2023 in Ottawa, Canada, at the age of 95 after a long life of personal happiness and professional fulfilment. Donovan was born in Brighton, England and studied law at Oxford University and the University of London. He pursued a career as a professor of law and a legal scholar at universities in England and Canada, including McGill University and the University of Victoria. After retirement as emeritus professor, he practiced law for over two decades as counsel for law firms in Vancouver and Victoria. He combined great scholarship with a love and flair for teaching, garnering a devoted contingent of students over the years who still remember his lectures and laugh at his jokes.

Donovan’s legacy as a legal scholar remains in the many articles and books he authored, in particular his landmark book The Law of Trusts in Canada. First published in 1974, it has subsequently seen four further editions (the last three with co-authors) and has been read, consulted and cited by students, legal practitioners and judges across Canada. In addition, it raised Canada’s profile as an important jurisdiction in trusts law and made Donovan a recognized international expert. Donovan’s academic achievement was recognized with two honorary doctorates and a DCL from Oxford University, as well as a lifetime achievement award from STEP International.

Donovan had a very happy family life, married for 57 years to his late beloved wife Maryla. He is survived by their three children, Catherine, Anne-Marie and Alastair, and their four much-loved grandchildren, Jonah, Alex, Benjy and Claire. He was a loving, gentle and generous father and grandfather, who could talk to his family about esoteric subjects and then burst into song. He and Maryla had a rich life of travel, the arts, family, and a great number of wonderful friends in Victoria, across Canada, England and all around the world. 

Although Donovan’s family and friends mourn his passing, we celebrate his long and happy life and his legacy of love, friendship and scholarship.  A celebration of life will be held at McCall Gardens, 4665 Falaise Drive, Victoria BC on Friday November 10, 2023 at 2pm.