A national organization of Canadian lawyers has awarded Vancouver lawyer barbara findlay its highest honour for her pioneering work over four decades of practice.
“It has been quite a ride: from being put in a mental hospital for being a lesbian and therefore having to acquire a 'certificate of competence' to practise law in the first place, to being one of the faces of the legal profession through this award, is hard to put together,” findlay said.
The Canadian Bar Association’s (CBA) Louis St. Laurent Award of Excellence is the highest award conferred on a CBA member. It recognizes a lifetime of outstanding service and professional achievement to the benefit of the legal profession, the CBA and society at large.
findlay was called to the bar in 1977, just after homosexuality became legal in Canada. However, there were no laws giving homosexuals and their partners any rights, a spectrum of issues findlay has diligently worked to change.
She has long described herself as a queer, activist, feminist lawyer.
“I am humbled to be honoured,” findlay said. “But it is the brave, brave clients, and the intrepid queer and trans communities, who deserve the honour.”
findlay is no stranger to being honoured for her work:
- in 1997, she received a lifetime achievement award from Xtra West newspaper;
- in 2001, she was designated Queen’s Counsel;
- in 2005, findlay received an award of merit from the Sexual Diversity Studies Department at the University of Toronto;
- in 2006, findlay received the Hero Award from the CBA’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Community Section (of which she is a founder) for her contribution to advancing rights for LGBTQ communities;
- in 2010, the Legal Education and Action Fund recognized findlay as a lawyer who has made a difference for women and girls in Canada;
- findlay has also received The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, and;
- in 2016, she was rated as “distinguished” by the Martindale-Hubbell attorney peer-ranking system.
findlay said Lisa Nevens, a transgender lawyer who has advocated for respectful pronoun policies in the courts and elsewhere, received the Touchstone award for their work to advance equality.
“That the national lawyers' organization is proudly honouring in-your-face queer and trans lawyers makes me proud to be a lawyer,” findlay said.
The St. Laurent accolade was named in memory of Canada’s 12th prime minister, a past president of the CBA.