A graduate of the University of Montreal and the University of London, Robert Décary practiced law in Montreal and then in Gatineau for two decades while serving in the federal public service, including as special assistant to the Secretary of State for External Affairs and as co-director of research for the Task Force on Canadian Unity (Pepin-Robarts report).
During the 1980s, he provided political and legal analyses for influential Quebec newspapers Le Devoir and La Presse, as well as on television with Radio Canada and TVA. In 1983, he published Chère Élize, a series of articles describing the patriation of Canada’s constitution. He has pleaded several famous cases before the Supreme Court of Canada, including: Société des Acadiens, Père Mercure, Chantal Daigle, and Conrad Sioui. He has been a member of several judicial committees, including the committee that drafted a French version of the Constitution of 1867. In 1986, he was appointed Queen’s Counsel and in 1990, he was appointed to the Federal Court of Appeal of Canada and to the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada.
During his twenty years on the Federal Court of Appeal, Robert Décary reviewed over 2000 cases and drafted several judgments that marked legal history, including the recognition of the quasi-constitutional status of the Official Languages Act, the unconstitutional nature of the Canadian system of military justice in effect in 1990, and the interpretation rules that apply to modern treaties between the Crown and Aboriginal peoples.
Over the course of his distinguished career, he has vigorously defended language rights and bijuralism. From 1989 to 1990, he taught a course in the art of pleading at the University of Ottawa. From 2010 to 2013, he was Commissioner of the Communications Security Establishment of Canada. He is currently appointed to the Court of Arbitration for Sports in Lausanne, Switzerland and is a member of the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada. In 2014, he was one of nine international arbitrators selected to preside at the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. He is senior counsel at Noël et Associés, the law firm he founded with Simon Noël in 1979. Robert Décary enjoys several sports, including fishing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snorkelling.
In 2012, the University of Ottawa invited him to be a member of its delegation to a conference in Rennes, France. In 2014, he published Confidences d'un conseiller de la Reine. In 2015, at the Laskin Moot Court Competition, an interuniversity legal contest with which he has a 25-year association, he awarded the bronze medal to the University of Ottawa Civil Law Section.