The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Beverley Spencer

Message from the editor

Why diversity isn’t a numbers game

By Beverley Spencer December 8, 2017 8 December 2017

 

If you haven’t read Hadiya Roderique’s blistering account of why she left big law, I’d encourage you to do so. (Called Black on Bay Street, it was published Nov. 4 in The Globe and Mail, and has been widely shared on social media.)

The superbly qualified and well-rounded Roderique – she holds a law degree from U of T, a science degree from McGill, and is a musician and a competitive athlete – landed her dream job on Bay St. where she flourished for several years.

She found it harder to fit in, however, as her career progressed. 

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Religious neutrality

Quebec’s religious neutrality bill: Legal challenges to pile up soon

By Beverley Spencer October 19, 2017 19 October 2017

Quebec’s religious neutrality bill: Legal challenges to pile up soon

 

It didn’t take long for legal experts to start poking holes in Quebec’s controversial new law which bans face-coverings for public workers and anyone receiving a government service. “I’ve never seen a more flagrantly unconstitutional law,” said Montreal human-rights lawyer Julius Grey. “The possibility that somebody could be refused service at a hospital or be thrown off a bus [because of a face veil] is scandalous,” he told The Globe and Mail.

There are still many unanswered questions, but here’s what is known so far.

The new law

The Quebec National Assembly passed Bill 62 on Wednesday. The stated purpose of the law is to establish the “neutrality of the state” for “communications reasons, identification reasons and security reasons.”  The Quebec Liberals, who hold the majority, voted in favour; the opposition Parti Québécois and Coalition Avenir Québec, who have argued the legislation doesn’t go far enough, voted against. Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre opposes denying services to people with covered faces and says it's unfeasible anyway. The law will go into effect after it receives Royal Assent.

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Message from the editor

Grow resilience to meet life’s challenges

By Beverley Spencer September 15, 2017 15 September 2017

 

If you’re looking for inspiration, look no further than the subject of our cover story.

Marie Laure Leclercq was the first lawyer to transition in a major Montreal law firm. Today, it’s still not easy for transgender individuals to work, live and love even though society is a lot more open. But it took a special kind of courage to transition at a time when the world was much more hostile to people who challenged societal norms. Her journey, as you will read, was not an easy one. However, deep inner strength and the support of friends and colleagues helped her achieve a satisfying new life.

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Cover story

Her way: Profile of a transgender lawyer

By Beverley Spencer September 15, 2017 15 September 2017

Her way: Profile of a transgender lawyer

 

She wears a conservative navy blue suit and a pink-striped blouse. Her brown hair is lightly streaked and clipped up with a comb and her only jewellery is a simple silver necklace and a plain band on her right hand. Beige eyeshadow highlights her expressive brown eyes and she wears pale pink lipstick. Slim with delicate features, she has a pretty face.

It’s usually inappropriate to focus on the appearance of interview subjects unless they’re Hollywood actors or members of the Royal Family. But Marie Laure Leclercq used to pack her female identity into a suitcase that she carried in the trunk of her car so she could change out of her “suit of armour” when the pain of living a lie as a man named Philippe became overwhelming. Her ability today to live openly and proudly as a trans woman is a personal and professional victory. Her struggle to get to that point is the defining narrative of her life.

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CBA Community: Young Lawyers International Program

Finding a calling far from home

By Beverley Spencer July 6, 2017 6 July 2017

Finding a calling far from home


Persia Sayyari’s path to the BC Coroners’ Service took her via Constitution Hill, a former prison in Johannesburg where men and women who fought apartheid were once incarcerated.

Home to South Africa’s Constitutional Court and the offices of the South African History Archive (SAHA), it’s where she worked as an intern with the Young Lawyers International Program in 2012-13. Her experience there shaped her decision to pursue a career with an investigative role – as a coroner who conducts preliminary investigations of unnatural, unexpected or unexplained deaths.

It’s a long way from SAHA, an independent human rights archive that preserves histories about struggles for social justice and uses access to information laws to support present-day activism.  But the work was an eye-opener for someone who, as an articling student, had been frustrated with how the human elements of a case can be ignored during litigation.

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