Pro Bono Students Canada

Retired Supreme Court Icon Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé Headlines Montreal PBSC Event


Pierre-Oliver Fortin (Sherbooke), Stephanie Nilausen (PBSC National), Léna Taylor (McCarthy Tétrault), Oksana Stepanov (PBSC UQAM), Julia O’Byrne (McGill), Nathalie Des Rosiers (CCLA), Annie Rousseau (Sherbrooke), L’H-D, Sébastien Delisle (UdeM), Julie Langlois (UdeM), Nikki Gershbain (PBSC National), Émilie Deschênes (PBSC Laval), Steeves Bujold (McCarthy Tétrault), Michèle Moreau (Pro Bono Quebec)

“Don’t work for money, work for justice”, was the advice former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé gave a packed room of over 100 Quebec law students in Montreal last week.  Madame L’Heureux-Dubé was the keynote speaker at an event organized by PBSC’s three Montréal chapters (McGill, the University of Montréal and the University of Québec at Montréal), and hosted by PBSC’s National Law Firm Partner, McCarthy Tétrault.  PBSC volunteers from as far away as Québec City and Sherbrooke made their way to Montréal for the event, which was held on January 10, 2013.

The evening was a phenomenal success, kicked off by PBSC’s Montréal Program Coordinators, who welcomed their volunteers.  Next up we heard from Steeves Bujold, member of McCarthy Tétrault’s Pro Bono Committee and a Board Member at Pro Bono Québec, who spoke about the firm’s longstanding support of PBSC, and praised the volunteers for their pro bono contributions.  Canadian Civil Liberties Association General Counsel Nathalie Des Rosiers then moderated a lively and passionate discussion with Madame L’Heureux-Dubé, drawing on questions submitted to her in advance by the audience.  The questions touched on a range of themes including Justice L’Heureux-Dubé’s career, gender and judging, judicial activism, the role of dissenting judgments, access to justice, and the impact of international law on Canadian jurisprudence.  Madame L’Heureux-Dubé spoke about several of her most noteworthy decisions including the decision Moge vs. Moge – said to be one of the most important family law judgments ever decided in Canada – and her concurring opinion in R. v. Ewanchuck, which set off a firestorm of controversy in Canada when it was released.

Madame L’Heureux-Dubé, who celebrated her 85th birthday in October, rarely accepts speaking engagements, but has been a longstanding supporter of PBSC and continues to enjoy meeting with law students.  Throughout the evening her remarks were uplifting, humourous and inspiring.  Asked whether lawyers had an obligation to provide free legal services to the poor, Madame L’Heureux-Dubé observed that “pro bono is the soul of justice and the nobility of the profession.”  On that note, she urged the packed room of law students to “go back to the fundamentals of our profession.”

Thanking Madame L’Heureux-Dubé in her closing remarks, PBSC’s Program Manager Stephanie Nilausen referred to the event as a “career highlight” for herself and everyone present.  A cocktail reception followed, at which students and speakers mingled well into the evening.  PBSC students left the event inspired by Madame L’Heureux-Dubé’s eloquent message, and reinvigorated by the prospect of using their legal careers for the public good.

Click here to watch a video by 4students of highlights from the Q & A with Madame L’Heureux-Dubé.

Click here to see photos from the event!