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A lawyer who’s done it all

Long-time CBA volunteer Kerry Lynne Findlay talks about life as a lawyer and in politics.

Kerry Lynne Findlay

Kerry Lynne Findlay has experienced the law from many perspectives. As a lawyer, a human rights tribunal member, a member of Parliament and a former Minister of National Revenue, she has practiced law, made law, and interpreted the law. 

In 2020, Findlay now sits in the House of Commons as the member for the British Columbia riding of South Surrey—White Rock. She won the seat for the Conservative Party of Canada in the October 2019 election, after previously representing the riding of Delta-Richmond East from 2011 to 2015. Findlay is currently the vice-chair of the House Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

Before entering politics, she practiced law in B.C. and held various leadership roles with the Canadian Bar Association. A CBA member since she was a law student, Findlay was B.C. branch president in 1997-98, national and provincial chair of the Constitutional Law Section, and sat on many different CBA committees.

She was the first chair of the Women Lawyers' Forum at the B.C. branch and later was the first to chair of the national Women Lawyers' Forum. Her efforts were recognized with the CBA's Cecilia I. Johnstone Award in 2011 for achieving professional excellence and influencing other women in the field.

"We had a wonderful group of motivated women lawyers who wanted to see more support for women in the profession," Findlay says of the founding WLF members. "When I was starting out, there was a lack of senior women in partnerships, on the bench, as benchers. And there was a feeling that women within the profession would thrive with more mentorship and more opportunities for collegiality and networking, and that's what we set out to do."

After losing her seat in the 2015 election, Findlay renewed her law practice, KFindlay Law Group, which also offers mediation and arbitration services. Her specialty is civil litigation with a focus on family law, and she has done work in employment, First Nations land management issues, and wills and estates.

"You're helping clients at a very difficult time in their lives," she says of family law. "It's meaningful to help a family in crisis get past that, and get themselves set up perhaps in new homes, having some certainty around their finances, helping make sure that the children are in as stable an environment as possible. So there's a lot of personal satisfaction in doing that."

Findlay says it was her CBA involvement, more than her day-to-day law practice, that brought her into the policy-making and political arena. She served a five-year term as a member of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal starting in 2006. In 2010, she ruled in the Johnstone case that a Canada Border Services Agency employee suffered discrimination on the basis of family status when the employer failed to accommodate childcare needs. The Federal Court upheld the ruling in 2013 and the Federal Court of Appeal in 2014.

"Through being active in my law practice, CBA and in politics, I was appointed to a role where I had a case come before me --- which was upheld and has changed the way that family status is looked at," she says.

While proud of her long association with the CBA, Findlay has also had to balance her CBA relationships with the pressures of party politics.  During her previous term in office, Findlay tried to build bridges between her party and the CBA, at a time when the CBA expressed opposition to government policies such as mandatory minimum sentencing and repeat offenders – a policy which the CBA continues to oppose under the current government. When Robert Brun was CBA President in 2012-13, Findlay brought together the CBA and the lawyers caucus of the Conservative party to talk over concerns.

"I felt there was some strain there, and I wanted to promote getting to know each other better," she says. "I think there was a better understanding (as a result). If we had remained the government party, I certainly would have continued to try and have more meetings, at least annually."

Findlay may have been the first in her family to attend law school, but she's raised a family of current and future lawyers. Among her four children, her son is a lawyer in Hamilton, and two daughters are attending law school. Her husband, Brent Chapman, is an actor based in Vancouver.

Though law is a demanding profession, Findlay also stresses the need for lawyers to manage their mental health and well-being, which includes utilizing the supports available through the CBA, law societies, and other resources.

"There are a lot of strong people in the law. They're dealing with many pressures, many stresses at the same time. But it can be overwhelming at times, and I've had times in my own career where I felt overwhelmed. I have found that it's important to talk that out with someone. It's not a sign of weakness; it's a sign of resiliency," she says.