I became a lawyer in 1977. Before I went to law school at U.B.C., I completed a B.A. at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, and an M.A. in sociology at U.B.C.
I have had a broad range of legal experience.
I have practiced as a union-side labour lawyer; worked for the Legal Services Society (legal aid) doing poverty law, and in policy-making capacities; been a member of the Faculty of Law at UBC; and now have a general practice.
In my non-lawyer capacity, I have done political work and advocacy around issues of oppression, including sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and disability. As a member of AWARE (the Alliance of Women against Racism Etc.) and as a member of Across Our Differences, I have done hundreds of unlearning oppression workshops for groups ranging from workplaces to university classes to legal audiences. It is my conviction that unless we work as hard on the ways we are privileged - whether by white skin, by heterosexuality, by able- bodiedness, or by economic advantage – as we do on the ways we are oppressed, equality will never come.
I was also a founding member of the December 9 Coalition, a working coalition of leaders in the LGBT community which does political action and advocacy.
Within the legal profession, I have been a founding member of the provincial and national queer lawyers' groups in the Canadian Bar Association, called SOGIC, (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Conference).
I have been a member of the equality committees of the Law Society, the B.C. Branch and the National Canadian Bar Association. I have also been a member of LEAF (the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund) as a board member of West Coast LEAF and as a member of the National Legal Committee.
I have done a good deal of writing on legal topics, ranging from a handbook for West Coast Environmental Law called “Here Today/Here Tomorrow” to theoretical papers to the Out/Law legal information pamphlets available on this website.
I am often asked to participate in continuing legal education conferences for other lawyers, and to speak to the media. I have been included in eight documentaries, including most recently Meghna Halder’s documentary about the first one hundred years of the B.C. Court of Appeal, “Though the Heavens Fall”.
My name is spelled without capital letters. People make many assumptions about why that is. Here is the story. I have always signed my name without capital letters. When I was taking a Master of Laws degree in 1990, I had letterhead designed and my name was in lower case. I liked it, so I continued it when I returned to private practice in 1992. What an uproar! Lawyers called me up to say that they had a vote in their firm about why I chose that spelling; a court rejected an Order because my name was not properly spelled; and the local queer newspaper refused for years to spell my name without capital letters.
I realized that I had a perfect illustration of how we react when someone moves even a tiny bit away from a norm of behaviour, even with respect to something that has no impact on anyone else. So I have kept that spelling, and I tell this story in unlearning oppression workshops.
I was designated as “Queen’s Counsel” in 2001. That is a designation awarded by the Queen, through the Lieutenant Governor in B.C., to the most distinguished members of the legal profession.
I have also been honoured by an Award of Merit by the Sexual Diversity Studies Department at the University of Toronto, been given a Lifetime Achievement Award by Xtra (in 1997!); and given a Hero Award by SOGIC for my contribution to advancing rights for LGBTTIQ communities.
In 2013 I was awarded the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal.