The Honourable Sally A. Gomery’s Questionnaire
Under the new judicial appointment process introduced by the Minister of Justice on October 20, 2016, any interested and qualified Canadian lawyer or judge may apply for such appointment by completing a questionnaire. The questionnaires are then used by the Judicial Advisory Committees across Canada to review candidates and submit a list of “highly recommended” and “recommended” candidates for consideration by the Minister of Justice. Candidates are advised that parts of their questionnaire could be made available to the public, with their consent, should they be appointed to the bench.
Below are Parts 5, 6, 7, and 11 of the questionnaire completed by the Honourable Sally A. Gomery.
Questionnaire for Judicial Appointment
PART 5 – LANGUAGE
Please note that in addition to the answers to the questions set out below you may be assessed as to your level of language proficiency.
Without further training, are you able to read and understand court materials in:
- English: yes
- French: yes
Without further training, are you able to discuss legal matters with your colleagues in:
- English: yes
- French: yes
Without further training, are you able to converse with counsel in court in:
- English: yes
- French: yes
Without further training, are you able to understand oral submission in court in:
- English: yes
- French: yes
PART 6 – EDUCATION
Name of Institutions, Years Attended, Degree/Diploma and Year Obtained:
- McGill University, 1986-90, LL.B. and B.C.L. conferred in 1990
- University of Toronto (Trinity College), 1983-86, B.A. (Hons.) conferred in 1986
- Champlain Regional College of General and Vocational Education, Lennoxville, Diplôme d’études collégiales conferred in 1983
- I have not pursued further university studies since obtaining my law degrees. I have participated in CLE required to remain in good standing with the Law Society of Upper Canada (12 hours a year) and the Barreau du Québec (30 hours every two years). This has consisted of:
- Conferences on various topics offered through Quebec Bar Association, Canadian Bar Association, County of Carleton Law Association, etc.; and
- Training offered through Ogilvy Renault LLP and Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP, including unconscious bias training and seminars on topics such as effective time management, delegation and supervision of young lawyers and good interview techniques.
- Unfortunately I cannot provide a detailed account of this CLE as I have not kept a record of it.
Honours and Awards:
- Awarded the Pelletier, Poirier, Leroux & Kimmel Award to recognize public spiritedness and academic achievement in 1990 by the McGill Faculty of Law
- Elected Associate Editor-in-Chief of the McGill Law Journal, 1989-90
- Awarded the Montreal Bar Mooting Prize and the Quebec Bar Prize by McGill University in April 1989
- Designated as Faculty Scholar by McGill University, 1987-88
- Awarded Trinity College Scholarships and named Faculty Scholar in 1985
- Invited by the University of Toronto Alumni Association to speak on behalf of the undergraduate student body at Katedra at V, the fifth anniversary of the establishment of the Chair of Ukrainian Studies
- Elected President of the International Relations Society, University of Toronto, 1984-85
PART 7 – PROFESSIONAL AND EMPLOYMENT HISTORY
Please include a chronology of work experience, starting with the most recent and showing employers’ names and dates of employment. For legal work, indicate areas of work or specialization with years and, if applicable, indicate if they have changed.
Legal Work Experience:
- Partner, Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP (formerly Ogilvy Renault LLP), 2000-present. I practice in the Litigation Group in the Ottawa office. Currently, about two thirds of my time is spent on civil litigation (with an emphasis on professional liability, health law and class action defence) and the remainder on compliance work (including internal investigations of allegations of misconduct or corruption). During some periods I have done a significant volume of insurance defence, but this has decreased over time. Since 2000, I have continued to represent clients in matters before the Quebec courts, and to advice on questions of civil law. Again, this portion of my practice has decreased over time.
- In 2014, I was elected to the Partnership Committee, the internal governance body for Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP. From 2003 to 2008, I was the chair of the Litigation Group in our Ottawa office.
- Associate, Ogilvy Renault LLP, Ottawa, Ontario, 1997-1999. I practised in the Litigation Group of Ogilvy Renault’s Ottawa office from 1997 to 2000, prior to becoming a partner. My practice during this period focussed on insurance, professional liability and contractual and construction disputes in Ontario and Quebec.
- Associate, Gowlings LLP, 1995-97. From 1995 to 1997 I was a member of the Canadian Medical Protective Association general counsel group within Gowlings’ Ottawa office.
- Associate, McCarthy Tetrault LLP, 1992-95. I joined McCarthy Tetrault’s Montreal office as an associate after completing my articles at the Supreme Court of Canada. About 50% of my time was spent on medical malpractice defence. The balance of my practice was civil and commercial litigation.
- Law clerk, Supreme Court of Canada, 1990-91. I completed a 12-month clerkship under the supervision of Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé. Prior to this, I worked for three months under the supervision of Justice Frank Iacobucci.
- Student, McCarthy Tetrault LLP, Quebec City and Montreal, 1988-90.
- Research assistant to Professor Paul-André Crépeau, McGill University Faculty of Law, 1987-88.
Non-Legal Work Experience:
- I had summer jobs through high school, undergraduate studies and law degrees, but nothing relevant to this application.
Other Professional Experience:
List all bar associations, legal or judicial-related committees of which you are or have been a member, and give the titles and dates of any offices which you have held in such groups.
- Member of the Advocates’ Society
- Member of the County of Carleton Law Association
- Member of l’Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Ontario
- Editorial Board Member of the Canadian Institute’s Class Action Journal
- Member of Quebec Bar Association, Ontario and Canadian Bar Association
Pro Bono Activities:
- As Vice-Chancellor of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa, I regularly provide legal services to churches in the Diocese on a pro bono basis.
- Over the last three years, I have represented Henk Tepper, a New Brunswick potato farmer who was detained in Lebanon for 13 months, who is claiming damages against the Government of Canada for various breaches of his rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- I have also provided legal advice to two not-for-profit organizations in Ottawa, Centre 454 and the Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy, on a pro bono basis. This has included, in particular, contract review and employment advice.
Teaching and Continuing Education:
List all legal or judicial educational organizations and activities you have been involved with (e.g. teaching course at a Law Faculty, bar association, National Judicial Institute, or the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice).
- “Mastering Winning Discovery Techniques,” instructor for The Advocates’ Society, Civil Litigation Skills Certificate Program, October 31, 2016.
- “Conflicts of Interest of Interest to In-House Counsel,” presentation to in-house counsel group at TELUS, April 7, 2016.
- “Discovery Skills Win at Trial,” co-presenter and panelist at The Advocates’ Society 2016 Courthouse Series, Ottawa, March 1, 2016.
- “Le rôle du correspondant à la Cour suprême du Canada,” conference for general counsel entitled “La Cour supreme du Canada et le monde des affaires : Ce que tout avocat en entreprise devrait savoir,” Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP, Montreal, September 23, 2015.
- ·Judge, Presentations on anti-corruption by Telfer School of Business MBA students, Ottawa, February 28, 2015 and October 15, 2014.
- “Travaux en cours! Analyse comparée des amendements au Code de procédure civile à la lumière de l’obligation de l’expert en Ontario,” seminar for the Canadian Bar Association, Litigation and Insurance section, Montreal, October 7, 2014.
- “Something to consider when you sign the next mediation agreement: Union Carbide Canada Inc. v. Bombardier Inc., 2014 SCC 35,” 12 Minute Litigator seminar, Law Society of Upper Canada, Toronto, September 2014.
- “Skills for Cross-Examination,” instructor for The Advocates’ Society 2014 Courthouse Series, Ottawa, January 31, 2014.
- Judge, Nelligan O’Brien Payne Moot, University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, November 9, 2013.
- “Train the Trainers Seminar,” training with The Advocates Society, Toronto, September 6, 2013.
- “Effective pre-trial conference briefs,” County of Carleton Law Association seminar, Ottawa, June 2012.
- “Expert Evidence: How has the Landscape Changed for Counsel, Experts and Courts?” Canadian Institute Conference on Advanced Evidence, Ottawa, June 23, 2010.
- Judge, student moot, University of Ottawa French Common Law Program, November 18, 2010.
- “Fat Boy v. Mr. Hairpiece: The Ontario Court weighs in on conduct at discovery,” County of Carleton Law Association Annual Litigation Conference, Montebello, Quebec, November 2010.
- “Defending Toxic Tort Claims” (with Jamie Macdonald), Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, March 25, 2010.
- “Defending Toxic Tort Claims,” Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, March 23, 2009.
- “The Civil Litigation Process in Quebec,” Ontario Masters Conference, Ottawa, September 18, 2008.
- “L’affaire Double N Earthmovers : Perspectives civilistes et de la common law” (with Claudia Dery), Construction Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association, Montreal, October 10, 2007.
- “Enforcement of Quebec Judgments in Ontario,” County of Carleton Law Association, November 2000, Montebello, Quebec.
- I was involved in other teaching and continuing education prior to November 2000, but have not kept a record of these activities.
Community and Civic Activities:
List all organizations of which you are a member and any offices held with dates.
- Vice-Chancellor, Anglican Diocese of Ottawa, 2012 to the present. As Vice-Chancellor, I advise the Diocese on a wide range of legal matters, including risk management, employment issues and claims.
- Member, Cathedral Refugee Sponsorship Steering Committee and chair of the fundraising subcommittee, 2015 to the present. The Steering Group, in conjunction with two Rotary Clubs in Ottawa, has sponsored a Syrian refugee family who have resettled in Canada and has applied for further sponsorships.
- Board Member and head of Governance Subcommittee, SenseAbility Canada, 2015 to the present. SenseAbility is a business-led not-for-profit group promoting the hiring of persons with disabilities.
- Board Member, Centre 454, 2012-2015. Centre 454 is a not-for-profit organization providing support for the homeless and at risk of homelessness.
- Chair, GIFT campaign, Christ Church Cathedral Ottawa, 2012. The GIFT campaign raised money to support various ministries of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa, including women’s shelters and homeless support centres.
- Board Member, Ottawa Youth Orchestra Association, 2008-10. The OYOA is a not-for-profit organization providing musical education and training to children and youth in the National Capital Region.
- Cited for meritorious service by the United Way for participation in the 1991 Federal Service Division Joint Campaign.
PART 11 – THE ROLE OF THE JUDICIARY IN CANADA’S LEGAL SYSTEM
The Government of Canada seeks to appoint judges with a deep understanding of the judicial role in Canada. In order to provide a more complete basis for evaluation, candidates are asked to offer their insight into broader issues concerning the judiciary and Canada’s legal system. For each of the following questions, please provide answers of between 750 and 1000 words.
1. What would you regard as your most significant contribution to the law and the pursuit of justice in Canada?
- Through my career, I have contributed to some important developments in Canadian law. For example:
- I was lead counsel for Canadian Blood Services in CBS v. Freeman, 2010 ONSC 4885, a challenge to blood donor policies based on section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I successfully argued that section 15 guarantees do not apply to CBS collection policies, first, because CBS is neither a government entity nor implementing a government program and, second, because blood donation is not a benefit conferred by the law or an obligation imposed by the law. These arguments advanced the legal analysis of these issues and by extension the Charter.
- In a series of cases before the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario and the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board culminating in WA v. JB, 2016 CanLII 1579, I argued that the College has attempted to impose reporting requirements on physicians that are inconsistent with statute. Although this may seem like a narrow point, it has a significant impact not only on individual physicians but on faculties of medicine across Ontario. The Board’s decision will be reviewed by the Ontario Divisional Court in 2017.
- In Glaxo Wellcome PLC v. Minister of National Revenue (1998) 228 NR 164, I crafted the argument that convinced the Federal Court of Appeal to recognize a new remedy known as an equitable bill of discovery (an action which has as its sole purpose the securing of information required to act on rights against a party which has injured you, but whose identity is unknown).
- I led the plaintiff’s legal team in Statham v. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation,  2 FCR 421, which clarified the obligation of federal entities such as the CBC in responding to access to information requests.
- I am proud of these contributions, but suspect that many litigators who have been in practice over a couple of decades could identify equally important cases in which they have been involved. For that reason, I do not think that this body of law is my most significant contribution.
- I am also proud of how I have, during the last 15 years of my career, promoted ethical corporate practices. This began with advocacy for best practices in procurement to large companies even though, at the time, there were few sanctions for bad behavior. As Canadian authorities began to enact legislation, policies and practices which imposed consequences for illegal or unethical acts in the context of tendering, I created a business ethics and anti-corruption group within our firm. In some cases, we have been able to have a significant effect on the practices of our clients. I have provided training on best practices to the management and employees of a national telecommunications company, a multi-national engineering company, and a Crown corporation. Recently, I led an investigation for Agrium on the potential human rights impacts of its purchase of phosphates from a company in Morocco that mines materials in Western Sahara, a disputed territory. The resulting Human Rights Assessment Report has since been published online and can be found here: https://www.agrium.com/sites/default/files/agrium_hrdd_summary_report.pdf. This represents one of the first times that a Canadian company has engaged in this sort of analysis in a transparent way.
- Again, although I am proud of my accomplishments in this practice area, I do not think it represents my most significant contribution to date. Although striving to achieve ethical standards and conducting human rights assessments will become more common in Canada (and globally) over time, I recognize that there are other lawyers who have dedicated their entire career to these issues, while it has only been a portion of mine.
- In my view, the most important contribution I have made is how I have conducted myself during my 25 years as a lawyer. I have led by example. I have not compromised my integrity. I believe that this has had a significant impact on my colleagues, my clients, and others with whom I have interacted. I have mentored many associates and students, and given those opportunities for real professional growth and advancement. I have supported staff members, and listened to their concerns. I have promoted diversity and inclusion, not just as a good idea but as a part of the fundamental DNA of my firm and profession. I have been open about my commitment to my family, and my belief that, as a female lawyer, having a family and having a career are not mutually exclusive. I have volunteered my time and energy for community projects. I think I have upheld the highest standards of my profession by striving to do my best on a personal level.
- In my view, this leadership has been my most significant contribution because it has been the hardest to achieve, and it has had the most impact on the greatest number of people. Doing the right thing when you are the partner in a large corporate law firm is not always easy. Changes are incremental. You must battle cynicism and fatigue. But I believe that our society bends towards ethical and progressive practices, if only given a little nudge forward. The best way to convince others that this is true is to act on these values.
2. How has your experience provided you with insight into the variety and diversity of Canadians and their unique perspectives?
- I had early insight into the variety and diversity of Canadian culture, and choices I have made personally and professionally have added to this insight.
- I was born in Quebec. My stepmother is a Francophone. My father believes passionately in a Canadian identity rooted in the marriage of English and French cultures. I attended French primary school, and was raised on Fanfreluche as well as The Friendly Giant, and Molière as well as Shakespeare. When I went to law school, I trained in both common law and civil law, and have practiced both throughout my career.
- My background taught me that reasonable people can approach the same problem in very different ways. This was reinforced by my training in civil and common law. The Civil Code of Quebec sets out a detailed set of principles to govern civil status, rights and obligations. The common law has grown from specific precedents and can seem much more ad hoc. Presented with similar problems, civil and common law courts often reach the same conclusions. But how judges make their determinations, and how they explain their reasoning, may differ significantly.
- My understanding of how perspective can influence legal reasoning has since deepened. Different perspectives are rooted not just in competing legal systems, but in cultural and even individual expectations. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge flows from the natural human impulse to think that a familiar way is the best way, and to resist new ideas. But different approaches also present an opportunity, because they may provide solutions that had not previously been considered.
- With this in mind, I have consciously worked over my career to seek diversity of thought and experience, and to try to learn from it.
- Within my firm and the broader legal profession, I have been deeply involved in diversity and inclusion initiatives. This has brought me into contact with a range of perspectives. One of the most exciting recent initiatives is support for the new Bora Laskin Faculty of Law at Lakehead University. I advocated for this support within my firm because Lakehead is the only law faculty in Canada that seeks to recruit Aboriginal students and students whose parents did not attend university, demographics that are woefully under-represented in the Canadian legal profession. As well, Lakehead has an integrated work-study program, the first of its kind in Canada that permits law students to complete Ontario articling requirements through internships during law school. As a result, Lakehead will graduate students who would not otherwise have studied law, and who are ready to begin practice at graduation. These graduates will almost certainly bring new perspectives and insights into the practice of law.
- I have also had a chance to gain new insight into the diversity of Canadian society through my work with SenseAbility, a not-for-profit organization that promotes the employment of individuals with disabilities. Through SenseAbility, I have gained a better understanding of the challenges faced by the many Canadians who are clearly willing and able to work, yet who face prejudice and physical obstacles in finding a job.
- My involvement in community organizations has also allowed me to appreciate life experiences very different than my own. For four years I sat on the management board of Centre 454, a support centre for people who are homeless and at risk of homelessness. Through this, I learned how poverty undermines every other human right, and creates situations where people almost inevitably get a negative impression of our legal system. Recently I have been involved in refugee sponsorship efforts through the local Anglican diocese. This has again sensitized me to the different perspectives that people in Canada may have, and the need to get past assumptions to have real conversations about rights and obligations.
- Finally, some specific work I have done has given me greater insight. In 2015, I was retained by Dalhousie University to assist with a crisis that had developed after the university learned that students in the dentistry program had posted misogynistic and racist comments on their Facebook group page. The situation raised a number of legal and ethical issues, and received a lot of attention in the local media. The university’s general counsel had proposed a restorative justice process in attempting to resolve complaints about the Facebook postings.
- I was initially skeptical about whether this could work, given the divergent interests of those involved and the pressure in the wider community for a more conventional process. As it turned out, however, the restorative justice process was largely successful. This reminded me of the importance of remaining open to new approaches.
- I have also learned about different perspectives from work for entities such as Ottawa Community Housing Corporation, EDC and University of Ottawa. In determining what to do, these organizations must not only comply with the law, but with the interests of the groups that they serve, whether they are individuals receiving social assistance, small businesses or students.
3. Describe the appropriate role of a judge in a constitutional democracy.
- At the most basic level, a judge is an arbiter of disputes. Judges and courts allow us to function in a civilized way. People interact with our justice system in the most stressful periods of their lives: during family conflicts, when they face criminal charges, and when they are struggle with commercial or personal disputes. In dealing with these issues, judges must act with authority, dignity, compassion and respect for everyone involved. Legislatures enact laws, the executive orders their execution, and judges are there to figure out how the law actually works. Judicial decisions are rarely perfect – almost by definition, one party is happier with the decision than the other. We also have huge problems with access to our justice system in Canada; it is under-resourced and so expensive as to be out of reach for many. Despite these limitations, judges play a critical role in solving all manner of immediate problems and, in doing so, permitting individuals to move on with their lives.
- Of course the role of a judge is much greater than this. Through their decisions, judges shape the law and, by extension, society itself. Judges necessarily play this role for a variety of reasons. Even the most clearly-drafted statutes and regulations generally require some interpretation. Statutes may be used to address problems that were not contemplated when they were drafted. Moreover, many principles that are fundamental to our justice system are not written at all. For example, the principles of equity and fair play are deeply embedded in the common law traditions of Canada, even though they are not statute-based.
- Over the past few decades, we have seen some great examples of the importance of a judge’s role as a thinking, considerate interpreter and shaper of the law. In its 1995 decision in Egan v. Canada,  2 SCR 513, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized equality on the basis of sexual orientation as an analogous ground, making Canada a global leader for LGBT rights which have since been widely recognized. In The Queen v. Ron Engineering,  1 SCR 111, the Court applied a creative contractual analysis to tendering. This analysis as promoted a level playing field in both public and private contracting in Canada, which is not reflected in the procurement law of most other jurisdictions. More recently, in Bhasin v. Hrynew,  3 SCR 494, the Court recognized a duty of good faith in commercial dealings. Although the duty of good faith has long been established in civil law, its recognition in common law represents a real evolution in the legal relationship between parties to a contract and will have a profound impact on many Canadians.
- A judge’s interpretive role requires a deep understanding not only of the law, but of the interplay of laws and legal principles. It also requires constant awareness of the effect of legal decisions on individuals. Decisions are never made in a vacuum. Judges must consider those who are directly and indirectly affected by them. This cannot prevent judges from making hard decisions, but they must do so mindfully and compassionately.
- Judges must also communicate decisions persuasively. This is not a bromide but a real requirement of the job. Court decisions are only effective to the extent they are understood and respected by those whom they affect. Persuading litigants that they have been treated fairly is hard if a judge’s writing or actions in the courtroom reflect a narrow experience or outlook.
- Some people would object to the description I have provided of the role of judges, on the basis that it gives those in appointed positions an unacceptable amount of power in the context of a democracy. I disagree. The appointment of judges is consistent with democratic values if two fundamental conditions are met.
- First, the appointment process must be apolitical, considered and wise. Judges appointed must not only be intelligent, independent and hard-working but also excellent communicators. They must be aware of the diversity of Canadian experience, respectful and prepared to listen and learn.
- Second, judges must realize that they are being judged, all the time, by those who come before them and those who read their decisions. The institution is as strong as those who are in it. The best argument in favour of an appointed judiciary is the effectiveness of appointed judges.
- The role that judges play in our constitutional democracy is critical. Canadians must trust judges, and judges must repay that trust by fulfilling the huge responsibility they have within our society.
4. Who is the audience for decisions rendered by the court(s) to which you are applying?
- The immediate audience for a decision are the parties directly involved in the case. They may not be the only people affected by a particular judgment but they are, for immediate purposes, the most important. Judges must write decisions that clearly summarize the evidence, state the applicable legal principles and explain the judge’s reasons for reaching their decision. These decisions must avoid the unnecessary use of jargon that make judges and lawyers feel smart but alienate the ordinary reader. To the extent that legal terminology is necessary (as it sometimes is), judges should reduce it, to the extent possible, to language that a non-lawyer can understand. Parties cannot have confidence in the legal system if they do not understand the reasons for the outcome. They cannot make decisions about what to do next if they do not understand their rights and obligations. A judge owes it to the parties who come before him to communicate the court’s decision in a way that they allows them to act on it.
- Clear writing is especially important where parties are self-represented. But I would argue that it is important in every case, because in the end of the day a person who is directly affected by a decision needs to know why that decision was made, whether they are a person going through a divorce or a plaintiff suing for a personal injury or an investor in a shareholder dispute. Their lawyer may assist them with nuances and technicalities but the fundamental reasoning should be evident.
- The next audience for decisions rendered by the Superior Court are lawyers. They have to explain the decision to their clients, and make recommendations in light of them. Beyond this, the broader legal profession needs to understand the court’s reasoning so they can take them into account in other cases. Badly written decisions are not only unhelpful to the parties but may actively impede the further development of the law.
- Other courts also have an interest in understanding decisions by the Superior Court. Although a Superior Court’s decisions are not binding precedents for most purposes, they can have significant persuasive value on other courts, including appellate courts, if they are well reasoned and written.
- Similarly, legislators may be an audience. The law develops as the result of a dialogue between courts and Parliament. Meaningful dialogue cannot take place if the courts charged with interpreting the law do not explain why a particular law is invalid or unenforceable, or has an unanticipated impact.
- Finally, society at large is an audience, or at least a potential audience, for decisions of the Superior Court. Not every decision sets a broad or novel precedent, or involves individuals or circumstances that draw public attention to them. In general, I think that lawyers tend to overrate the interest that non-lawyers have in judgements, even well-written ones. But occasionally courts will speak to an issue that has broader implications or draws scrutiny for other reasons. For this reason, I strongly believe that decisions should be written in accessible language. Judgments that clearly and persuasively communicate the rationale for a decision increase the public’s confidence in the legal system.
5. Please describe the personal qualities, professional skills and abilities, and life experience that you believe will equip you for the role of a judge.
- I would approach my role as judge as I have as a lawyer: with intelligence; a good knowledge of the law and an ongoing commitment to improve it; superior writing skills; strong analytical skills; sound judgment and a great work ethic. I would also bring personal qualities that, in my experience, are essential to a good jurist. These include a willingness to listen, compassion, a sense of humour and dedication to public service.
- My father was a lawyer, then a judge. He was and is an inspiration to me. To him, law is a vocation as well as a profession. Lawyers and judges serve the law and the people who look to the law for help. But my dad also taught me that being a judge is a job. You have to work hard, and never fall into the trap of believing that you are above those whose cases you have to adjudicate. Judges put their pants on one leg at a time, just like everyone else.
- My stepmother was also a lawyer, then a judge, but she had a different approach than my father in many ways. My stepmother is a role model for me. Her career was (and is) a huge part of her identity. She taught me that I could have a profession and a family.
- My mother was a nurse. From her, I learned about the profound skepticism that many people have about the fairness of the justice system, and that rules should be tempered with compassion.
- After completing CEGEP I did an undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto in Russian language and history. In 1986, I spent four months studying at the University of Moscow. At that point I assumed that I would get a PhD and teach. My father persuaded me to apply for law school, and promised that he would pay for my post-graduate studies if I hated it and dropped out. This was very canny on his part, since I realized shortly after starting law school that I loved it and had a natural aptitude for litigation.
- I obtained both common and civil law degrees at McGill because I wanted to understand both systems and study in both French and English. Early in my career I practiced in Montreal, but eventually moved to Ottawa because my husband’s job was there. Although most of my litigation files are now before the Ontario courts, I continue to handle legal actions in Quebec as well. This has required me to remain intellectually nimble.
- My practice has made me an agile thinker in other ways. Through conscious effort, good fortune and geography, I have been able to resist hyper-specialization. I am counsel on class actions and all manner of civil cases, but I also handle Charter cases, commercial/contractual disputes and hearings before administrative tribunals. About a third of my current practice involves giving clients advice on procurement and anti-corruption problems. The breadth of my practice has kept me from becoming complacent and forced me to acquire knowledge about a wide range of legal issues.
- I would not have achieved the professional success I have without strong advocacy skills. I know how to craft effective argument and analysis, as is clear from my track record in court and in resolving cases without going to court. Writing well and persuasively is a critical ability for a judge. A person reading a judgment ought to be able to understand why the court reached the conclusion it did and be persuaded of the merits of the decision. As a judge I would work hard to be an effective communicator, because this is essential to maintaining the public’s confidence in our legal system.
- A final element of my professional profile is a strong work ethic. While building a legal practice, I have raised a family while remaining active in my local community and contributing to my firm’s management. This has required self-discipline and a lot of energy. It helps that I really enjoy what I do, but the fact remains that I put in a lot of hours. I would not view an appointment to the bench as a way to reduce my workload. Based on my observations, good judges work hard, and this is again something I would bring to the job.
6. Given the goal of ensuring that Canadians are able to look at the justices appointed to the bench and see their faces and life experience reflected there, you may, if you choose, provide information about yourself that you feel would assist in this objective.
- I am a middle-aged woman who has raised a family. This informs what I say and do. I would think that this is something that people could relate to, if I were a judge.
- My personal experiences have also made me conscious of the need to fight both conscious and unconscious bias.
- When I was a young associate, a male partner (who was later appointed as a judge) told me I should not have children, because a woman with children would not become a partner. When I was a senior associate, a male partner told me to abandon my career in litigation, because “a courtroom is a not a place for a woman with children.” After I made partner, I was told by a colleague in the business law group that women do not have the stamina for corporate practice. This remark was made to me just as I was about to start a four-month-long trial as lead counsel in a Charter case with significant legal, operational and reputational implications for our client.
- None of this deterred me from pursuing my professional and personal goals. I built a successful practice and career while raising a wonderful family with my husband. But my personal experiences motivated me to fight for diversity and inclusion within my firm and more broadly within the legal profession. In 2008, as a result of my advocacy, my firm created a formal D&I program. I was put in charge of this program and later appointed the firm’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer in Canada. In this capacity, I lead the firm’s diversity and inclusion initiatives across Canada. In particular, I advise the firm’s management on policies affecting women and members of other equity-seeking groups, and lead programs to promote diversity and inclusion with the legal profession and the Canadian business community as a whole.
- For example, in my leadership role I:
- initiated the collection of demographic information as part of affinity surveys in the firm, so we have baseline data showing where we could improve.
- revised firm policies regarding maternity leave and parental leave, and support systems for lawyers returning from leave.
- advocated successfully for a minimum number of female partners on the Partnership Committee, the governance board for our firm.
- oversaw the creation of Pride, our firm’s LGBT affinity group, which has since gone on to win awards for its leadership role.
- implemented training on unconscious bias for all lawyers and senior business leaders in the firm.
- participated in discussions within the firm, with clients, and in faculties of law, on diversity and inclusion issues.
- arranged for the firm to join SenseAbility, a not-for-profit organization that promotes the employment of persons with disabilities, and took on an active role as a member of its board of directors.
- coordinated a large, multi-year donation by our firm to the new Bora Laskin Faculty of Law at Lakehead University, because it seeks to recruit students who are Aboriginal, as well as students whose parents do not have any post-secondary education.
- have played an active role with Diversity 50, which promotes the appointment of women and members of other under-represented groups as directors of public boards, for the past four years.
- In short, I am passionate about the need to include the full range of voices and experiences within the legal profession, and I have actively fought unconscious and institutional bias whenever I encounter it. I would continue to do so as a judge.
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