Claire L’Heureux-Dubé: A Life

Constance Backhouse

November 2017
UBC Press
ISBN: 9780774836326

Abstract:

Both lionized and vilified, Claire L’Heureux-Dubé has shaped the Canadian legal landscape – and in particular its highest court. The second woman appointed to the Supreme Court, and the first Québécoise, she was known as “the great dissenter,” making judgments that were applauded and criticized in turn.

Who was this energetic, risk-taking woman? L’Heureux-Dubé stands out as one of the most dynamic and controversial judges on a controversial court. Did she consciously position herself for success in a discriminatory milieu, or was she oblivious to power?

L’Heureux-Dubé anchored her innovative legal approach to cases in their social, economic, and political context. Constance Backhouse employs a similar tactic. Rather than focusing exclusively on jurisprudential legacy, she explores the rich sociopolitical and cultural setting in which L’Heureux-Dubé’s career unfolded, while also considering her personal life.

This compelling biography covers aspects of legal history that have never been so fully investigated. Changing gender norms are traced through the experience of a francophone woman within the male-dominated Quebec legal profession – and within the primarily anglophone world of the Supreme Court. Claire L’Heureux-Dubéenhances our understanding of the Canadian judiciary, the creation of law, the Quebec socio-legal environment, and the nation’s top court.

Claire L’Heureux-Dubé will interest students and scholars of law, Canadian and Quebec history, and women’s studies, as well as legal professionals such as lawyers, judges, and law clerks. More generally, those who enjoy Canadian biography will find compelling reading in this study of a highly influential woman with a formidable legal intellect.

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About the Author:

Constance Backhouse holds the positions of Distinguished University Professor and University Research Chair at the University of Ottawa. She teaches in the areas of criminal law, human rights, legal history, and women and the law. Her book Carnal Crimes: Sexual Assault Law in Canada, 1900-1975 (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2008) was the recipient of the Canadian Law & Society Association Book Prize, 2009, as well as being short-listed for the Harold Adams Innis Prize, presented each year to the best English-language ASPP-supported book in the social sciences. She is the co-author, along with her sister, the Hon. Justice Nancy L. Backhouse, of The Heiress versus the Establishment: Mrs. Campbell’s Campaign for Legal Justice (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2004), which was named by the Literary Review of Canada as one of the five “books most likely to become classics of their kind” for the year 2004. It was also selected by The Beaver magazine as a “Book Club Title” for 2005, and short-listed for the Toronto Book Award in 2005. She is the author of Colour-Coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canada,1900-1950 (Toronto: U of T Press, 1999), which was awarded the 2002 Joseph Brant Award as the “best book in multicultural history published within the past three years” by the Ontario Historical Society. Her book, Petticoats and Prejudice: Women and the Law in Nineteenth-Century Canada (Toronto: Women’s Press, 1991), was awarded the 1992 Willard Hurst Prize in American Legal History by the Law and Society Association.

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