Two Firsts: Bertha Wilson and Claire L’Heureux-Dubé at the Supreme Court of Canada
March 18, 2019
Second Story Press
Bertha Wilson and Claire L’Heureux-Dubé were the first women judges on the Supreme Court of Canada. Their 1980s judicial appointments delighted feminists and shocked the legal establishment. Polar opposites in background and temperament, the two faced many identical challenges.
Constance Backhouse’s compelling narrative explores the sexist roadblocks they faced in education, law practice, and on the courts. She profiles their different ways of coping, their landmark decisions for women’s rights, and their less stellar records on race. To explore the lives and careers of these two path-breaking women is to venture into a world of legal sexism from a past era. The question becomes, how much of that sexism has been relegated to the bins of history, and how much continues?
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.