Bruce A. MacFarlane, Q.C.

Bruce A. MacFarlane is a Canadian lawyer, author, scholar and teacher who, throughout his career, has restricted his practice to the criminal law.

Professional background:

Called to the Bar in 1974 (Manitoba) and 1987 (Alberta), Mr. MacFarlane spent his first 10 years as a federal prosecutor in Manitoba, pursuing cases of drug trafficking, conspiracies, as well environmental and white-collar crime.  Appointed as Director of Legal Services for the RCMP in 1982 at Ottawa, Mr. MacFarlane provided independent advice to the Commissioner of the RCMP on behalf of the Minister of Justice and, in 1986, was promoted to Director of the Justice Canada regional office in Alberta.  Throughout this time, Mr. MacFarlane actively practiced before the criminal courts in four provinces as well as the Supreme Court of Canada.  In 1988, he was appointed Queens Counsel by the Government of Canada, and in 1989 he was appointed Assistant Deputy Attorney General in Ottawa, with functional responsibility for all federal prosecutions in Canada.  In 1993 he was appointed Deputy Attorney General of Manitoba, a position he held for 12 years until 2005.  That year, he was appointed Special Counsel to the Attorney General of Manitoba, to advise and develop a system-wide strategy to counter the activities of criminal gangs in the province. Most of his recommendations have since been implemented, including amendments to the Criminal Code.  Mr. MacFarlane was a founding member of HOPAC, a council of independent Directors of Public Prosecutions from throughout the Commonwealth that meets bi-annually to discuss strategic prosecution issues of concern internationally. 

In 2006 he left government, and was appointed Professional-in-Residence to teach criminal law at the Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba, a role he continues to the present day as a Sessional Lecturer.  In 2008 he was appointed by the United Nations at The Hague as Amicus Curiae Prosecutor (the first such appointment), and he continues to pursue criminal cases there, in the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.   Since leaving government, he has been retained by provincial governments, the Government of Canada, law societies and the United Nations to provide independent advice on criminal cases where there was a perceived or actual conflict of interest in individual cases.

Scholarly writings and other activities:

Mr. MacFarlane wrote the leading text on the prosecution and defence of drug offences (“Drug Offences in Canada) in 1979, which proceeded to a second edition in 1986 and a third edition in 1996.  It is now updated semi-annually in loose-leaf format, along with co-authors Rob Frater and Chantal Proulx.  The text is regularly cited by trial and appellate courts in Canada, including the Supreme Court of Canada.  Mr. MacFarlane is also a regular contributor to the Criminal Law Quarterly, and has authored a number of articles on criminal law topics which have been published by university law journals and the Canadian Bar Association.  They, too, have been cited and relied upon by appellate courts and, in one instance, an article authored by Mr. MacFarlane was quoted with approval by the High Court of Australia.

Mr. MacFarlane has held a number of other positions throughout his career.  He was appointed head negotiator to develop a modern extradition treaty with Mexico, which was subsequently ratified by both countries and has been implemented in practice.  He was a Commissioner at the Uniform Law Conference of Canada, acting as Head of Delegation on behalf of Manitoba.  He was also National Chair of Statistics Canada’s “National Justice Statistics Initiative”, a member of the National Crime Prevention Council, and Co-Chair of the National Committee of Deputy Ministers of Justice in Canada – which has responsibility for setting the national justice agenda on behalf of Ministers of Justice in Canada.

Mr. MacFarlane has lectured throughout Canada and internationally (in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Scotland) on a variety of criminal law issues, particularly the causes of wrongful convictions.  He has been called as an expert witness on such matters before several Parliamentary committees in Canada, as well as the Lamer Commission of Inquiry into Wrongful Convictions (2006), the Driskell Commission of Inquiry (Chief Justice LeSage – 2007), the Goudge Inquiry into Pediatric Forensic Pathology in Ontario (2008) and the Air India Inquiry (Justice Major – 2010).


Mr. MacFarlane is based in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Phoenix, Arizona. He can be reached at:  (204) 999-0281 and bruce.macfarlane@hotmail.com