First Woman Supreme Court Justice Bertha Wilson Dies
Supreme Court news release:
OTTAWA, April 30, 2007 – The Supreme Court of Canada issued the following press release today:More:
The Honourable Bertha Wilson, formerly a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, passed away in Ottawa on April 28, 2007 after a prolonged illness. Justice Wilson attended the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and graduated with an M.A. in 1944. She continued her education at the Training College for Teachers in Aberdeen, obtaining her diploma in 1945. She married the Reverend John Wilson in December 1945 and they emigrated to Canada in 1949. In 1955, Bertha Wilson enrolled at Dalhousie University to study law, and in 1957 she completed her LL.B. and was called to the bar of Nova Scotia. In 1959 she was called to the bar of Ontario. She practised law in Toronto with Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt for 17 years.
Bertha Wilson broke ground in 1975 as the first woman appointed to the Court of Appeal for Ontario, and again in 1982 when she became the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. She retired from the Court in 1991.
Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, on behalf of the members of the Supreme Court of Canada, lamented Justice Wilson’s passing, “Bertha Wilson was known for her generosity of spirit and originality of thought. She was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada the same year the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted. As a member of this Court, she was a pioneer in Charter jurisprudence and made an outstanding contribution to the administration of justice. She will be sorely missed by all who were privileged to know her.”
A memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 8, 2007 at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Wellington and Kent Streets, Ottawa.
- Finally, a woman on Canada's Supreme Court (CBC Archives, 1982): "When Bertha Wilson applied to law school, in 1954, she was told to go home and take up crocheting. And when she applied to a law firm after graduation, the partners debated whether women were suited to practise law. Nearly three decades later, Wilson has earned a place on the Supreme Court of Canada."
- Judging Bertha Wilson: Law as Large as Life (University of Toronto Press website): "Madame Justice Bertha Wilson, the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, is an enormously influential and controversial figure in Canadian legal and political history. This engaging, authorized, intellectual biography draws on interviews conducted under the auspices of the Osgoode Society for Legal History, held in Scotland and Canada with Madame Justice Wilson, as well as with her friends, relatives, and colleagues. The biography traces Wilson's story from her birth in Scotland in 1923 to the present. Wilson's contributions to the areas of human rights law and equality jurisprudence are many and well-known. Lesser known are her early days in Scotland and her work as a minister's wife or her post-judicial work on gender equality for the Canadian Bar Association and her contributions to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples."