This month’s spotlight shines on barbara findlay, KC.
Why did you become a lawyer?
Feminism changed everything.
I encountered feminism when the second wave hit, in 1970. I realized that there were very many things that needed to change. So I went to law school to give me some small-p power to make those changes.
When I was called, women were only 40 percent of the legal profession. It was not safe to be ‘out’ as a lesbian, so it was more than a decade of practice before I was able to start a practice focusing on LBGT+ issues.
When did you first become involved with CLEBC?
I’m so old that neither I nor CLEBC is able to find a record of my first engagement with continuing legal education.
When I began working on queer and trans rights in the early ’90s, our communities were literally invisible to the law: we did not exist in family law, or in so-called ‘spousal benefit’ regimes. One in four laws of BC explicitly discriminated against gay and lesbian people and even human rights protections were very new.
Things changed incrementally as people brought Charter challenges to discriminatory laws.
The profession and the judiciary were very unfamiliar with queers or their standing under the law, and the law was now changing rapidly. So I have spoken regularly about queer and trans legal rights in most areas affecting individuals: family law, employment law, human rights, and fertility law.
What have you worked on most recently?
Most recently, Adrienne Smith and I co-presented on trans human rights and trans employment rights at CLEBC’s Human Rights Law Conference 2022 in November 2022.
I also provided the keynote presentation on the topic of All in the Family: Who Counts? for CLEBC’s Planned Parenthood 2022: Assisted Human Reproduction and the Law course in October 2022.
Note from CLEBC: This keynote presentation was very well received by the attendees of that course, and we would like our readers to have an opportunity to view it.
What are you passionate about?
I have facilitated unlearning oppression workshops for almost as long as I have been a lawyer. That work offers a framework to understand the ways that we are marginalized – as women, queers, trans for example, and the ways we are privileged – as white folk, as lawyers, as able-bodied people for example. I have done that work with lawyers, with the Benchers, and with the judiciary. The analytical work of unlearning oppression informs the legal work I do for queer and trans people, and vice versa.
What advice would you give a newly called lawyer?
I would say: bring all of who you are to work. Do that for yourself; do it for the law. Because it is only if lawyers bring our experience of ‘difference’ to our work that the law will reflect all of who we are as a country.