Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Matthew Kelleher, partner, McCarthy Tétrault LLP, Justice L'Heureux-Dubé , and PBSC national director, Nikki Gershbain


“Bring your values [to the practice of law]”, was the advice former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé gave to more than 120 Pro Bono Students Canada volunteers in Toronto March 8, 2013, International Women’s Day.  

Madame L’Heureux-Dubé was the keynote speaker at a final volunteer appreciation luncheon organized by two of PBSC’s largest Canadian chapters, the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall Law School.  The event was moderated – with characteristic humour and charm – by former U of T associate dean and now Osgoode Dean Lorne Sossin, and generously hosted by PBSC’s national law firm partner, McCarthy Tétrault LLP.

L’Heureux-Dubé, who celebrated her 85th birthday last fall, rarely accepts speaking engagements, but has been a longstanding supporter of PBSC and continues to enjoy meeting with law students.  This is the second PBSC event she has headlined this year, the first being a Q & A in January with volunteers from all five Quebec law schools at McCarthy Tétrault’s Montreal office.

Her remarks were extremely candid, ranging from reflections on her own judgments to the Court’s recent spousal support decision in Eric v. Lola, and her personal struggles to achieve equality as a young female lawyer in the 1950s. 

Thanking Madame L’Heureux-Dubé, PBSC’s national director Nikki Gershbain remarked how fitting it was that the event was taking place on International Women’s Day. 

"I can think of no one individual in my lifetime who has done more to promote women’s legal and social equality in Canada than Justice L’Heureux-Dubé. On a day when we are asked to agitate for gender equality and to celebrate women’s achievements, it is our privilege to be graced by the presence of an individual who has helped to lay the foundation for women’s equality in Canada, in so many facets of our lives.”

To thank Madame L’Heureux-Dubé for her participation, PBSC has made a donation in her name to one of its longstanding community partners, the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic.  The Schlifer Clinic is a specialized clinic for women experiencing violence, named in memory of Barbra Schlifer, a young female law graduate who lost her life to violence on the night of her call to the bar of Ontario.

PBSC was delighted that Schlifer executive director Amanda Dale and legal director Mary Lou Fassell, as well as several clinic lawyers who work directly with our Toronto volunteers, were able to join them for lunch on March 8.

Watch the video of Madame Justice L’Heureux-Dubé’s talk.