The Honourable Barbara J. Norell’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 Barbara J. Norell.
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: no
Without further training, are you able to discuss legal matters with your colleagues in:
- English: yes
- French: no
Without further training, are you able to converse with counsel in court in:
- English: yes
- French: no
Without further training, are you able to understand oral submission in court in:
- English: yes
- French: no
PART 6 – EDUCATION
Name of Institutions, Years Attended, Degree/Diploma and Year Obtained:
- 2001-2003, York University (Osgoode), LL.M. (e-business) 2003
- 1982-1985, University of Victoria, LL.B. 1985
- 1979-1981, University of British Columbia, Faculty of Commerce
- 1978-1979, University of British Columbia, Faculty of Science
I attend continuing legal education and in-house courses, make presentations and teach, and do independent study of interest to me, in fulfillment of Law Society requirements.
As an example of a typical year, the Law Society records indicate that the formal continuing legal education I undertook in 2016 was as follows:
- 2016 Fall International Conference, Washington D.C., TAGLaw - various employment, privacy, and corporate legal issues – (8 hours). I also was a speaker at this conference on barriers to the retention and leadership of women in the profession.
- 2016 Defamation and Privacy Law, Harper Grey LLP (1 hour).
- 9th Annual Provincial Counsel Conference, Mont Tremblant, Quebec – various issues in health law (10 hours).
- Canadian Bar Association, BC Freedom of Information & Privacy Law subsection Professional Development Conference (5 hours). I also was a speaker at the conference.
- Law Society of BC Bencher Conference: Truth and Reconciliation Report, Law Society of British Columbia (5.5 hours).
- Demystifying Digital Forensics, TCS Forensics Ltd. – Harper Grey LLP (1 hour).
- 2016 Understanding EMR Basics for Legal Professionals, Harper Grey LLP (1.5 hours).
- Harper Grey LLP Health Law Study Group 2016, Harper Grey LLP (1 hour).
- 2016 Spring International TAGLaw Conference, TAGLaw – various employment, privacy and corporate legal issues (9.5 hours).
- First year moot court judge at Allard Law School (UBC) (4 hours).
- Canadian Bar Association, BC Freedom of Information & Privacy Law subsection meeting – anonymity in human rights cases (1 hour).
In 2016, I also did my own research for a paper I wrote on socio-economic diversity in the profession, as well as the usual reading that comes across a lawyer’s desk (e.g. case summaries, articles).
Honours and Awards:
- Appointed Queen’s Counsel, 2016
- Lexpert Zenith award, 2017, Celebrating Women in Law
- Recognized by Best Lawyers in Canada 2016 and 2017 as a leading lawyer in the area of Medical Negligence and Health Care Law
- Rated “Repeatedly Recommended” in the area of Medical Negligence (Represents Defendants) by the Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory 2014, 2015, 2016
- Recognized by Benchmark as a Local Litigation Star 2017 in Health and Medical Malpractice
- Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Rating: 4.4 Distinguished
- Various academic scholarships while in high school
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:
1985 to present: I articled (1985-1986), became an associate (1986-1993), and then a partner (1993-present) at Harper Grey LLP. I have always been a litigator, initially doing general insurance defence, solicitors’ negligence defence and medical malpractice defence litigation. After about 10 years, I became more focused on health law, broadening that area to administrative matters before the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC, and other tribunals, as well as continuing with litigation. For the past 10 years, I have also practiced privacy law, mostly in the health law area, but also providing privacy advice in other industries.
Non-Legal Work Experience:
- Summer 1984, Special Constable (in uniform) RCMP, Port Alberni
- Summer 1983, Teller, Credit Union, Port Alberni
- Fall 1981 to Summer 1982, Clerk, Valley Facilities Ltd, Port Alberni; Clerk, Radio Shack, Port Alberni; Teller, Credit Union, Port Alberni
- Summer 1981, Researcher, North Island College, Port Alberni
- Summer 1979, Student Placement Officer, Canada Employment Centre, Port Alberni
- Summer 1978, Recreation Camp Leader, Parks and Recreation, Port Alberni
- Autumn 1975 to Autumn 1977, Page, Regional Library, Port Alberni; Tutor, Port Alberni
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.
- South Fraser Family Court and Youth Justice Committee (2009) – Delta appointee
- Law Society of BC’s Justicia project (active member since inception in 2013 to present)
- Law Firm Diversity and Inclusion Network (active member since inception in 2014 in BC to present)
- Canadian Bar Association (1985-present). Currently, I am a member of the health law, Women Lawyers Forum (“WLF”), and freedom of information and privacy law subsections. For several years I have been a mentor through the WLF.
- Vancouver Bar Association (member from 1985 to present)
- Medical-Legal Society (member since early in my career to present)
Pro Bono Activities:
I volunteered with the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (“BC FIPA”) in 2002 and 2005. I drafted submissions to the federal government on the then Lawful Access proposals (search and seizure for the internet). I also volunteered at two large public consultation meetings, and was one of the facilitators in a smaller group to assist other community groups without resources to draft submissions.
Other pro bono activities include providing advice on specific matters (e.g. submissions on a Worksafe BC dispute, advice on privacy) but these are not significant.
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).
I presented to various audiences in health law, privacy, litigation, diversity and in the past on cyber-liability. Some of these were to legal audiences, some were teaching law to professional but non-legal audiences, and some were more general talks that addressed legal principals but not to a significant degree. I have listed in this section those presentations that were to legal audiences or where the presentation involved more detailed teaching of substantive law. I have listed more general (usually health law) talks under Part 8. I do not have any records prior to 2002, and incomplete records up until 2006.
Diversity related issues:
- April 2017. Presented at the bi-monthly Law Firm Diversity and Inclusion Network meeting on the lack of socio-economic diversity in the profession.
- October 2016. TagLaw international conference in Washington D.C. One of the speakers at a session entitled: Women in Leadership: “The Pink Elephant in the Room” which discussed the barriers to retention and advancement of women in the profession. Facilitated a Women in Leadership open forum at the beginning of the conference.
- May 2016. TagLaw international conference in Lisbon. An organizer and facilitator of the first Women in Leadership open forum.
- September 2014. One of the panelists at the BC CBA Women Lawyers Forum subsection meeting: “Hot Tips from Hot Mentors.”
- 2013 to present. Active member of Justicia. Assisted to draft maternity and parental leave model policies and a guide to leadership.
- 2014 to present. Active member of the Law Firm Diversity and Inclusion Network.
- February 2015. Presented a paper I wrote at the CLE Society of BC course on the Health Care Costs Recovery Act.
- May 2014. Presented a paper I wrote at the CLE Society of BC course on Anatomy of a Medical Expert.
- April 2004. Presented a paper I wrote at an Insight conference on Litigating and Defending against Personal Injury and Disability Claims.
- 2013-2016. UBC first year moot court judge.
- March 2013. Presented at the health law club at UVic law school
- March 2005. PLTC guest lecturer on Chambers practice. I was also a guest lecturer at PLTC on Chambers practice and at a trial advocacy course in the distant past, but I no longer have records of when.
- January 2005. Presented an in-house seminar to associates on cost of future care claims.
- June 2016. Speaker at the BC CBA privacy law subsection professional conference day. My topic was privacy issues with respect to health data banks and research.
- May and June 2015. Gave eight two-hour in-house training seminars on privacy law and security practices to lawyers and staff at Harper Grey LLP.
- February 2008. BC Institute of Technology guest speaker on privacy law for IT professionals.
- January 2004. Provided in-house seminars for all lawyers and staff at Harper Grey on privacy law.
- April 2003. Speaker on privacy issues in bankruptcy and insolvency at the Vancouver Insolvency Discussion Group meeting.
- January 2002 to June 2004. Taught three-hour, and co-taught six-hour, insurance industry credit courses for the Insurance Brokers Association of BC (“IBABC”) on privacy law and compliance. (June 2004, January 2004, October 2003, May 2003, April 2003, November 2002, June 2002, and January 2002.)
- August 2002 to December 2003. Presentations to various insurers, brokers and agents on privacy law. (December 2003, July 2003, June 2003, August 2002.)
E-commerce and Insurance:
- November 2005. I was one of three speakers at a webinar to the insurance industry on e-commerce risks and insurance coverage.
- 2003. Co-taught three hour insurance industry credit courses on technology risks and insurance coverage for the IBABC (November 2003, March 2003)
- April 2003. Presented a paper I wrote on “E-commerce Land Mines: Emerging Issues” for the Harper Grey Catastrophic Loss seminar for the insurance industry
- September 2002. Presented a paper I wrote on “Managing E-Commerce Risk, Part II: Insurance Issues” for an Insight conference on “Commercial Litigation: The Latest Issues in Insurance Litigation and Corporate Level Disputes.”
- See question 8 below.
Community and Civic Activities:
List all organizations of which you are a member and any offices held with dates.
- South Fraser Family Court and Youth Justice Committee, 2009, Delta appointed member.
- 2007-2011, School Planning Council, Delta Secondary School, member
- 2003-2007, Vice-chair, Chair, and past-Chair, Neilson Grove Elementary Parent Advisory Committee
- 2003-2007, School Planning Council, Neilson Grove Elementary, member
- 1998-2000, Vice-chair, Hawthorne Elementary Parent Advisory Committee
I volunteered extensively with school and community sporting activities in connection with our children’s activities. For example, I helped organize and volunteered at the PeeWee Western Canada Baseball Championship hosted by my home community. I was a frequent volunteer for baseball, hockey, and volleyball games and tournaments, track and field events, and school breakfasts, lunches, field trips, and fundraising and community spirit activities.
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?
- My most significant contribution is doing my job well. It is fulfilling my duties as a lawyer, with integrity, to the best of my ability so that when the public has an experience from within the legal system, or is viewing it from the outside, they have confidence in the administration of justice and the rule of law.
- Lawyers play an integral role in the justice system. To quote the Canon of Legal Ethics, it is a lawyer’s duty to "promote the interests of the state, serve the cause of justice, maintain the authority and dignity of the courts, be faithful to clients, be candid and courteous in relations with other lawyers, and demonstrate personal integrity". To me, the most important word in that quote is "integrity" because it captures everything that is needed to fulfill the other ethical duties, and it applies to all aspects of legal practice and our personal lives.
- I conduct litigation fairly. I feel strongly that there has to be a fair process and I am most concerned about this when I have cases with self-represented litigants, which is often. I recognize the significant challenges self-represented parties have. This includes a lack of intimate knowledge of law and process in a system that I am sure is intimidating. Sometimes these parties have other personal circumstances such as limited education, poverty, or mental health issues that not only cause discrimination in their own lives, but magnify the barriers to accessing the justice system and finding counsel. Recognizing these challenges, I am as fair and accommodating to them as I can be while still representing my clients’ interests. For example, I speak to them clearly in plain language and not in legal terms, I explain rulings to them if they are not sure of the meaning, and I explain process and provide them with the applicable rule when they are not sure of procedure. I have lent them text books of law, and provided them with closing arguments in advance of theirs. In all ways I have treated them with respect so that they are not further traumatized.
- I practice law competently. I am conscientious, work very hard, and have always tried to do a good job and be well-prepared in managing my cases. I am candid and don’t take unreasonable positions in cases, but will press firmly and fairly my client’s interest on issues. I try to resolve cases that should be resolved, and am more interested in coming to the "right" conclusion rather than "winning", because that is almost always in my client’s and everyone else’s best interests.
- I treat others courteously. I am respectful of other counsel, judges, parties and witnesses, and treat them with the same courtesy I would expect. As a result, I am liked among my colleagues at the bar. I don’t take unfair advantage of litigants or counsel, and accede to reasonable requests that do not prejudice my clients, knowing that sometimes it may be me making the request.
- I also feel it is part my responsibility to advocate for a more diverse and inclusive profession because the public will be better served if we do. All segments of society should have access to the profession. My long time interest has been in securing a more socio-economically diverse profession and I have researched and written the enclosed draft article to raise awareness of this. I am also a member of the Law Firm Diversity and Inclusion Network and am my firm’s diversity officer promoting practices that will increase diversity and inclusion. I have advocated strongly for increasing the retention and leadership of women in the profession. I am an encouraging role model and sponsor, mentor and an advocate for women within and outside of my firm. I am an active participant in the Law Society’s Justicia Project, and contributed to the materials on best practices for the retention and advancement of women in the profession. I am an active participant in the BC CBA Women’s Lawyer Forum as a mentor to women in other firms. I have spearheaded a women’s initiative internationally through TagLaw, a law firm network in over 90 countries. I was recognized with a Lexpert Zenith award in June of this year for my work.
- I have done pro bono work with BC FIPA on the Legal Access proposals, an important public issue that is still ongoing today, concerning the ability of law enforcement officials to effectively and efficiently carry out their duties in an increasingly electronic world, balanced against the Charter and privacy rights of citizens. It is part of our duty to the public to ensure we have laws that are procedurally fair and constitutionally valid. I have also been an appointee in my home municipality to its family court committee.
- I participate in education to the legal profession. It is part of our obligation to share knowledge. I train and mentor young lawyers. I have given presentations to the profession through CLEs, to lawyers and students within my own firm, and to law and articled students (e.g. spoken at UVic, volunteered at UBC moots, and PLTC). It is also important that we educate the public on the law. I have given many presentations to a variety of audiences on privacy law, health law and cyber-risks. I have spoken at SFU, BCIT, as well as numerous insurance industry and client events.
- Finally, I return to the word "integrity". It applies, in all aspects, to our personal lives. I have brought that approach to volunteer work in our community, be it chairing a parent advisory committee meeting, cooking breakfast at the local school, participating in fund raisers, or volunteering at a baseball tournament.
2. How has your experience provided you with insight into the variety and diversity of Canadians and their unique perspectives?
- Day-to-day life experiences give us the opportunity to gain insights. I have made the most of these opportunities by embracing my interactions with others with an open and inquiring mind and by trying to listen really well.
- I was born on the prairies and spent most of my youth growing up in a mill town on Vancouver Island at a time when the logging industry was booming and times were prosperous, and then when they were not and there was serious unemployment. For one year I lived in the far north in Inuvik and went to school with teens from families who were posted to the military base, and indigenous teens from outlying communities who lived in the two residential schools. I lived another year in the Yukon. Even though I have lived in the greater Vancouver area most of my adult life, I still consider myself a small town person. I understand the perspectives of people who live in rural areas. I have seen the effects of limited employment opportunities and isolation, but also the benefits of a vibrant and caring small community.
- Both my parents grew up poor on the prairies during the depression. They brought that perspective to their approach to parenting. They taught empathy, compassion, respect and acceptance for all. My parents had a very open and generous home, with frequent and varied visitors, something my mother continues to this day into her 80s. As a result, from a young age, I engaged with people from all walks of life.
- My father was a small town family doctor and my mother was a nurse. I consider that I grew up privileged and recognize the significant advantages I have had in life and I try to remember that – always. When I in junior high school, my father became increasingly ill until he was completely disabled from working 10 years later. I understand what it is like to have someone close who is chronically ill. I have had a lot of interaction with people who have mental health and/or addiction issues. I know how devastating those illnesses are and how they affect all aspects of their own and other peoples’ lives. I have seen how vulnerable these people are, how they are marginalized by society, and sometimes how unjustly they are treated. For one summer in university I was an RCMP special constable in uniform and saw the challenges of policing, and was able to interact further with significantly disadvantaged people.
- For almost 30 years I have been married to a man who came from a loving but very poor immigrant family. I have heard the struggles of those who immigrated to a new country. My husband and I have raised two children, and experienced all the trials and joys of parenthood.
- I have been fortunate to be able to travel throughout Canada and I have reveled in experiencing other cultures; that of Cape Breton Island is as different from Toronto, as the prairies are to B.C, and Kitimat is to Victoria. I have deepened my understanding of the lives of other Canadians by being able to talk to locals and enjoy their customs. I have traveled to many other countries, most stable but some just emerging from oppressive political regimes and war and have seen how this has affected their lives. Some of these people will immigrate to Canada and become our fellow citizens.
- I have been primarily a tort litigator throughout my career. One of the benefits of that practice area, is that the cases are varied and I am fortunate to meet people from all walks of life. I have had files with people from all variety of race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and socio-economic status. I have had files with those who are unemployed and uneducated, to skilled tradesman, to those who are highly educated and at the pinnacle of their professions. I have had files with people who are heartbreakingly poor to very wealthy. I have had cases with those who are narrow minded, to those who have suffered discrimination and childhood abuse. I have had files with established families with deep roots in the community to new immigrants. I have had files with those who suffer from mental illness and addiction issues. I have had interactions with members of society who have suffered ill-treatment by people in positions of authority and the abuses of the residential school system. I have listened to the profound and lasting effect these experiences have had on their lives. I have learned from all of these people.
- In my pro bono work, I have come into contact with people from varied backgrounds. My work on the public consultations for the Lawful Access proposals brought together people in law enforcement, the legal community, and the technology sector. A smaller meeting for the local community brought together an entirely different group, including academics, ethnic and religious leaders. They all expressed unique concerns. For example, one person expressed concern that the proposals, which were within a couple of years of the 9-11 New York attack would be used to target his religious community. An academic expressed concern that the proposals would affect anonymity of searches in public libraries. These experiences deepened my understanding of perspective and the need to think outside the box of our own lives.
- Similarly, the membership in the family court committee on which I sat was diverse, including a social worker, retired and active police officers (one who had immigrated from another country), a local parent, city councilors, a visible minority business person, and a parole board member. They all brought different perspectives to the sources of and solutions to issues we discussed.
- The learning of perspectives is not confined to momentous occasions. It takes place every day – from listening to a radio interview of a housewife in northern Quebec, to talking to someone from Haida Gwaii over coffee.
3. Describe the appropriate role of a judge in a constitutional democracy.
- The role of a judge is to independently and impartially decide disputes brought before her by litigants. It is the constitutional right of every citizen to have an independent and impartial judiciary.
- Independence refers to individual independence such as security of tenure, and institutional independence as reflected in the constitutional division of powers that separate the judiciary from the legislative and executive branches of government (Valente v. The Queen). As stated in the “Ethical Principles for Judges,” judicial independence means judges can “decide honestly and impartially on the basis of the law and the evidence, without external pressure or influence and without fear of interference from anyone.” Judicial independence is the “cornerstone” of impartiality, because without independence we cannot have confidence in the rule of law and judicial impartiality.
- Impartiality refers to the perception as well as the absence in fact, of any bias or influence. It requires integrity, conduct above reproach, diligence, intellectual rigor and knowledge of the law, thoughtful reflection, patience, respect, discretion, cultural and political sensitivity, and awareness of any stereotype or unconscious biases. A judge must appear impartial in the eyes of reasonable minded citizens.
- A spot light is shone on the appropriate role of the judiciary in constitutional and particularly Charter cases. Our Constitution Acts, as the supreme law, set out the powers and roles of the courts and the political branches of government. Parliament and legislatures have the authority to enact laws within their respective jurisdictions, but it is the role of a judge to determine whether those laws are constitutionally valid. This necessarily involves an interpretation of constitutional or Charter provisions. This may lead to labels of judicial activism or judicial restraint and a debate over the appropriate limits of the court’s interpretive and common law making function.
- One side of the argument reflects the belief that in a democracy, elected officials should be creating law, that they are charged with considering the multiple faceted competing cultural, economic and resource demands and interests, and that resulting legislation should be given great deference. However, elected officials may be subject to political pressure and public opinion that may not have the benefit of all relevant information. The other side of the argument reflects the belief that judges are appointed and are therefore independent and impartial and are not subject to political pressures. They decide the issues on evidence not public opinion, and are guardians of fundamental rights that ensure a majority does not trample on individual or minority rights. However, there are limits to the power assigned to judges, and it would be wrong for a judges to overstep their role by interpreting the Constitution and Charter to advance their own personal political or social policy beliefs.
- In constitutional cases, the role of the judiciary is to walk the fine line between the competing arguments above so that the Constitution and the rule of law are respected and the public has confidence in the administration of justice. This starts with a respectful recognition by judges and the legislative branches of the differing roles assigned by the Constitution. The legislative branch is given power to make laws, and the courts to interpret them. Judges should give significant deference to legislation enacted by a government who is assumed to have weighed competing interests to come to what it collectively thinks is the best solution to an issue, and who is assumed to have not intentionally offended the Constitution Acts. On the other hand, deference has its boundaries. There may be cases where the legislative branch has crossed the line and in those cases the court must intervene. The role of the court is to carry this out cautiously but courageously, independently and impartially with integrity, for the public good, to the best of its ability, and without advancing a personal political or social policy agenda.
- The Charter has significantly increased the role and importance of courts for the protection of fundamental rights. The words of the Charter do not allow only one interpretation, and there are many complex, deep and nuanced meanings to a particular right. There will always be debate on how particular provisions of the Charter or any law should be interpreted. The interpretation of our Constitution and laws are a reflection of society’s values, morals, experiences and economic realities, and they may change over time. Our society is diverse. So too, our courts must bring diverse and varying perspectives to their roles while at all times upholding the rule of law.
4. Who is the audience for decisions rendered by the court(s) to which you are applying?
- The potential audience includes all of the following, but the relative importance and the likelihood of any of the groups reviewing a particular decision depends on the nature of the case: (a) the parties and witnesses; (b) those, other than the parties, who are interested in or affected by the decision; (c) the legal profession; and (d) the public and the media.
- The purpose of any decision is to finally determine the issues between the parties by making and explaining findings of fact, identifying and interpreting the relevant constitutional, statutory or case law, and clearly setting out the application of the law to those facts that logically leads to the result. In that narrow sense, the audience is the parties. However, a decision is also public. What may have been previously a private matter between parties may become truly public. In all cases, the potential audience is anyone, anywhere in the world, even if this is not the likely audience. A decision may also affect persons other than the parties; it may set precedent that affects individual rights, or business, professional or government practices. A decision may garner wide public interest either because of the importance of the issues or the parties involved. The audience is therefore potentially wide and diverse, and the decision may be reviewed by groups or persons other than the parties for purposes, related or not, to the original dispute between the parties.
- All of these people, including the parties, may view a decision with varying abilities and perspectives. As a result, the language and tone of a decision needs to be carefully considered. The analysis should be organized, and the language should be plain and unambiguous, with words that are chosen carefully, and specific to the facts and circumstances of the case. A person should be able to understand clearly how the judge arrived at the decision she did. The tone of decision must demonstrate impartiality, be temperate and balanced, politically and culturally sensitive, and free of any unconscious bias. Discretion is required in sensitive matters such as highly personal information and the credibility of parties and witnesses. In all cases, the expectation is that a decision will be of the highest quality.
- In civil actions, the actual parties to the dispute will be reviewing a decision because it is important to them as their lives or businesses may be significantly affected. The party who will be reading the decision mostly closely is the losing party who will want to know whether the evidence the party called and the arguments the party made were heard and carefully considered. Parties are more accepting of a decision made against them if they feel they have treated fairly by a well-reasoned impartial decision before them. Witnesses called by the parties, both lay and expert, may be reading the decision to see if their evidence is accurately summarized and accepted.
- Family law and personal injury cases may involve highly personal information and events. Other family members, guardians, or friends and neighbours may be part of the audience. In child protection cases, the decision will be reviewed by family members, and government agencies. In commercial law or labour disputes this could include employees, directors, competitors, government, regulators, unions or other business organizations. In class actions, the audience will be the parties, counsel, others working in the industry or business of the defendant, and possibly class members. In judicial reviews of administrative decisions, the audience will include the parties and tribunal affected.
- In criminal prosecutions and sentencing decisions, the alleged offender whose liberty is potentially at stake, and the alleged victim are important audiences along with the Crown. In cases of serious or violent crimes, the audience will likely extend to the family and friends of the accused and alleged victim, and may extend to the media and public if the case has attracted public attention.
- In constitutional, indigenous rights, and Charter matters, the audience will be the parties including governments or their agents, the aggrieved parties and any intervenors. This category of decision is likely to attract a wide audience (the legal profession, public interest groups, particular industries, the public and media) as it may have broad implications and will be of national interest.
- In all decisions, counsel who argued a case will be part of the audience and will be reviewing a decision for sound reasoning and legal correctness, and for any potential error of fact or law or procedural error. Other counsel may read the decision for their own education, for precedent use in practice, or for confirmation of existing law, or the development of new law. Similarly, other judges in the same court, or in courts at different levels or in different jurisdictions, will review the decision for the same purposes or for enforcement in another jurisdiction. The appellate court may be reviewing the decision on appeal.
- Most cases turn on facts or expert evidence applied to established law, and few create new law. For those that do create new law, there will be increased interest from the legal profession. The potential likely audience would broaden to include legal academics who may have critical analysis, and the government and politicians who create statutory law and decide social policy. The audience may also include special interest societies or lobby groups who are interested in the development of the law in that area.
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.
- The following are the qualities which will enable me to be a fair and impartial judge that will continue public confidence in the administration of justice.
- I practice integrity. I have tried to live my life, both personally and professionally, by always doing the right thing. To me that means taking the high road and doing what is correct even if it is not the easiest path. It means being kind, honest, patient and respectful of others, and treating people fairly. To quote C.S. Lewis, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching,” and I have tried to follow that.
- I am empathetic and introspective although I realize that sometimes one can never truly understand how it feels to be in a certain situation until one has actually experienced it. It recognize that a person’s perceptions and actions are a reflection of their experiences, and that these may be different from mine. I am politically and culturally sensitive.
- I practice law with fairness and candour. A good reputation takes years to build and can be lost in a few minutes. I am aware that a fair process is as important to a dispute as the outcome itself. I equally treat counsel, judges and self-represented litigants with courtesy. I never take advantage of others. I accommodate self-represented litigants and do what I can to assist them within the bounds of my duties to my client and my role as an officer of the court. This is reflected in reasons for judgment: “The plaintiff complained several times that this trial was unfair because he was self-represented… I made every effort to explain trial procedure to the plaintiff, and the basis for specific evidentiary rulings. Counsel for the defendant was most restrained in their number of objections and took a generous approach to the plaintiff’s conduct of the trial” (2008 BCSC 1018, para. 131-2).
- I am competent counsel, reasonable in my approach to cases, have common sense, and can be trusted and relied upon. As a result I am liked by my colleagues at the bar. I am analytical and can make difficult decisions in a timely manner, but carefully consider all sides before making a decision. I work well under pressure, meet deadlines and understand that justice delayed is justice denied. I strive to have cases resolve appropriately and feel that I have professionally done my best when cases come to a decision that is in the parties’ best interests in an efficient and procedurally fair manner.
- I have a strong work ethic. I am energetic, hardworking and honest, and I am positive that anyone who has worked with me would say the same thing. I am organized in my approach to files. I see how hard judges work and I would bring that same work ethic to being a judge.
- I like to be challenged and to learn new law. I have endeavored over the years to expand my knowledge in areas of the law outside my practice. Between 2001 and 2003, and after I had been in practice for 15 years, and when I had two young children, I completed an LL.M. in e-business through part time studies, while working and carrying on with a busy practice. I took the courses because I like learning and I wanted to gain knowledge in this new area. It was a truly rewarding experience. The course work included intellectual property rights in e-commerce, a broad range of regulatory matters, jurisdictional issues on the internet, electronic contractual issues including websites and software, and securities issues, privacy and cyber-risks. Similarly, the Lawful Access pro bono work was rewarding because among other things, it expanded my knowledge in criminal and constitutional law. Being a judge would allow me to expand or deepen my knowledge in areas, something I look forward to.
- I have the patience to listen well, and have good judgment. I sat on a variety of committees at my firm which reflects that my partners trust me. For nine years up until the end of 2016, I was a member of the firm’s practice management committee and compensation committee. As a member of those committee, I jointly made business decisions and dealt with sometimes sensitive and emotionally charged matters. I know how important it is to consult all who are affected by a decision so that their interests are taken into account and they feel heard. I approached matters with an open mind, and I carefully listened to and considered all sides of issues before making sometimes difficult decisions.
- I have taken the same approach of integrity to volunteer work in my home community. When my children were younger, for 14 years I was an active member of parent advisory councils, usually in the capacity of chair or vice-chair although I have done just about every job from cooking hot dogs to erecting playground equipment to pleading for funding. I value a paragraph written about me in our children’s school newsletter: “exudes dedication, integrity and common sense… whose opinion is valued and ability to be fair much admired.”
- I live a balanced life which is important for health and wellness and meeting the demands of a challenging career. I try to exercise regularly (I frequently fail) and up until a few months ago when my teacher had to cease teaching, I took singing lessons. I will resume that soon. My husband and I live a quiet but active life.
- My husband and I raised two children. That, along with other life experiences, has taught me humility and patience.
- I have the right temperament, moral compass, and work ethic to be a judge and I am confident that I would be able to handle the significant demands and workload.
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.
- There are two aspects I would like to highlight. The first is my role as a mother, and the second is my interest in socio-economic and gender diversity and inclusion.
- First, I am the face of a working mother. My husband and I raised two children while practicing law, and while our children were young I was very involved with them, our local school, and our community. To enable me to do this, when my children were young I worked part time. Part time actually meant close to full time, and full time when I was in trial, but it gave me flexibility to do things such as volunteer at our children’s school on sports day. There is a tremendous conflict between the time it takes to practice well and take on high profile roles that would, in the traditional view of the practice of law, advance a legal career, versus the time it takes to volunteer at school or drive children to and from activities, and to allow a household to run smoothly with a spouse who is also a lawyer with a demanding career. This is a personal decision, and there is no right or wrong decision. Some women, because of their particular circumstances, will feel more comfortable or be able to spend more time at work, while others will allocate their time in a different fashion, or choose activities that will allow them to do some of both. The important point is this: the bench should reflect this diverse reality. Being a mother gave me perspectives on the challenges and joys of parenting. It also gave me insight into the aspirations, concerns, and perspectives of today’s youth in a quickly changing world. I am inspired by the youth I meet, and their potential when they are given opportunities to succeed. This leads me to my next point.
- Second, I have a keen awareness of diversity and inclusion issues and in particular for women and those who are socio-economically disadvantaged. I understand the intersectionality between different forms of diversity. Even before I was appointed our firm’s diversity officer I had an interest in the area. I have a deeper understanding of the systemic and unconscious barriers to full substantive equity in the law because of the reading and research I have undertaken out of my own interest, in my role on Justicia, at the Law Firm Diversity and Inclusion Network, and for the article I wrote on socio-economic diversity. I have learned a great deal from my colleagues in this area and come away from each of our meetings with new insights. I have reflected much on social policy and norms and how this influences law, and in turn how the lack of diversity and inclusion, and unconscious biases leads to inequality. The article I have drafted on the lack of socio-economic diversity in the profession, which is a personal project, reflects my passion for the subject. This deeper appreciation has given me other tools and a better framework in which to address issues of inequality in practice.
- I have applied diversity knowledge to the practice of law. In my role as mentor to other women through the Women Lawyer’s Forum I have been able to help them identify unconscious biases or lack of supports or systemic inequalities that may prevent them reaching their full potential and leadership positions. I have also been able to identify possible solutions to those barriers. In my role on the practice management committee and as our diversity officer, I have put a diversity lens on practices and decisions that are made.
- My experience in practice and in my personal life with socio-economically disadvantaged individuals has confirmed to me the significant hurdles, often insurmountable without assistance, that they must overcome to access the opportunities those who are more privileged have been given. They are vulnerable and marginalized, and may face systemic discrimination. They may have difficulty accessing justice, and are often self-represented. The recognition of the permanent deep and hurtful legacy of colonization and the residential school system, its effects on socio-economic factors, and the resultant over-representation of indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system, is one example of this (R. v. Gladue).
- What will the public see if I am appointed to the bench? They will see a working mother. They will see a person who has had much of the same experiences they have had. I was neither rich nor poor, but I was privileged and I understand the advantages I have had, and recognize the challenges of those who are less fortunate. The public will see a person who recognizes that not all our experiences are or will be the same, and that therefore we will view issues through different lenses. They will see someone who is patient and empathetic, and who will work hard to make the right decision in a culturally respectful way, taking into account all perspectives and backgrounds. Finally, they will see someone who takes very seriously the heavy burden that is on a judge.
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