Class of 1979


There was a general celebration of excellence from which we all benefited. Prof. Mewett's inspired lectures led me to spend most of my lawyer's career in criminal law. After joining the bench six years ago, I quickly realized how very solid was the grounding in other subjects, as many of the "first principles" of other areas of law remained alive in my usually feeble memory.As a 1979 graduate, I only just squeak into the range of women featured here; I must say that earlier graduates faced far greater "ground-breaking" challenges. To my view, the law school was entirely welcoming and valued all of its students, women and men. Not to say that there weren't some deep systemic gender issues at play (although I am not sure that the word was invented or in common use at the time), but the law school seemed genuinely willing to try to recognize and address them.

There was a milestone. Much of my lawyer's career was with the B.C. Crown counsel office. Back in the early '80s, four of us each had two children over the same few years, and we organized ourselves to work in part-time pairs. (This was at a time when one had to quit and re-apply if one wanted maternity time off). The office was supportive, but we did have to work extra hard and effectively to make the wider case for the arrangement (and we were each paid for two days' work per week for performing half of a full-time position!). The case was, I think, made: part-time arrangements (as well as commensurate salary and parental leave) have long been institutionalized in the office for both women and, I note, men parents.

There remain challenges for women in law, particularly in certain areas of practice. But one significant change impresses itself on me, and points up a previous inequity of which I was not consciously aware. I now see young men lawyers entering the profession, whether as law clerks or junior lawyers, for whom working with or, particularly, for women is simply not an issue. The liberating effect of this is similar to that described by my son who, with a male friend when they were about 15 years old, carried a large remote control glider to and from a park, and noticed that adults smiled at them with interest, instead of (as when the boys typically walked without the reassuring toy) viewing them with distrust.

The disadvantage of leaving Toronto for Vancouver is that contact with classmates and the law school has been more difficult to maintain. I am sorry not to be able to join you, and wish you all the best on International Women's Day: a great celebration in a great law school.