Class of 1976

I graduated from the University of Toronto law school in 1976 and was called to the bar in 1978. As a product of the student movement from the end of the 1960s, I entered practice wanting to use my legal skills to help ordinary people. I had worked in student legal aid mostly with immigrants and so continued this work as a lawyer. I had high expectations of being able to achieve justice through the courts. I did not believe that being female would or should matter. However I learned quite quickly that achieving 'justice' was a slow process, with as many set backs as advances, and that being a woman did matter - at times. Early on my primary problem was getting the Court to recognize that I was a lawyer and not an accused or my client's daughter (this one went away as I aged). Always there was a worry, when I perceived differential treatment from a judge, as to the cause - was it because I was a woman, or because I was perceived as a 'radical', or just because the judge didn't like me or the arguments I was advancing. There's no real way to know, short of asking the judge and this, of course, is not an appropriate question.

On the justice front, over the years there have been advances in my area of practice. There have been significant decisions from the Courts, some of which I have argued, that have recognized the human rights of non-citizens. They are treasured as they are not common. Few are achieved through the courts alone. Community support and public opinion play as large a role, I believe, as the judges considering the issues.

Looking back on the past nearly thirty years, I can say that my practice has been rewarding. My understanding of the world has broadened. I like my work, I like my clients, and notwithstanding the difficulties in trying to advance human rights protections for non-citizens, it is worth the struggle to continue pressing for such protections.