Perry Borden in a Thinking Man’s Suite at Arbour Trails

Sitting down for a conversation with Perry Borden is akin to stepping into a whirlwind of history, legal theory and the ongoing quest for social justice and equality. There’s excitement in his voice as he talks about issues like the battle against collusion and price-fixing in all aspects of the consumer market, or the relationship between Canadian and Chinese governments.

Perry’s been a litigator and he’s worked as a personal injury lawyer. He’s well-versed in medical legalese and he’s supported trade negotiations between Canada the U.S. and China. He worked in Chile and Jamaica and many other places he doesn’t touch on; he’s seen the changing world over decades from the perspective of a man whose career has taken him across the planet, and he still delights today in fighting for the rights of regular folks.

Perry Borden sits behind the mahogany desk that once belonged to his great uncle, Sir Robert Borden.I had no idea who I was coming to meet when I shook Perry’s hand on a December afternoon; the team at the Village of Arbour Trails where he lives simply said he is beyond interesting and most certainly worth a conversation. That’s the thing about a Village where older people from many different backgrounds converge: an immense wealth of wisdom and experience are waiting to be discovered if you take the time to talk.   

Perry shakes his head when asked if he ever considered himself an activist solicitor.

“I just called myself a guy that has a strong belief in the administration of law and justice, and what we call a free and just society,” Perry says from behind a beautiful mahogany desk.

The conversation bounces around from Sec. 139 of Criminal Code of Canada (which Perry quotes directly) to the flaws in the American political system, and I ask about the desk.

Turns out the desk and chair had belonged to Ottawa’s Sir Robert Borden, as did a large chip and dale cabinet against the wall in the suite

Perry comes by his passion honestly with his Prime Ministerial ancestry.

When Perry’s father Henry was very young he lost his mother, and his uncle and aunt, Robert and Laura Borden, took charge of him as their own. Henry later clerked for his uncle in the halls of parliament and travelled overseas with him, eventually coding and decoding transatlantic messages during the years of the Great War while he and his uncle were in London on matters of state.

Yes, you just never know who you’re going to meet.

Perry grew up drenched in the history his family lived, and he was encouraged to study law as a means of fighting against the injustices he saw in the world around him. We talk for nearly an hour about the path from Ottawa to Chile, China the U.S. and eventually to Guelph.

From his suite at Arbour Trails he can almost see his house in the neighbouring Village by the Arbouretum, where he lived prior to his most recent move.

I ask him how he likes living at Arbour Trails and he laughs.

“It's good, it's good, it's good,” he says, chuckling. “I just gotta’ get my own bloody act together and clean these papers up, that's all, but it's a really nice spot.”

I think the suite looks perfect.

“It’s a thinking man’s suite,” I say, and the conversation carries with mesmerizing reflections of a long and interesting life.