336 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 80 PART 3 MAY 2022
At the suggestion of Peterborough’s Carol Mahood, later Huddart J.A. of
the B.C. Court of Appeal, Nancy called Judy LaMarsh, who ran her own
practice in Niagara Falls and was looking for a junior lawyer. If the name
Judy LaMarsh does not mean anything to you, you should take a quick look
at the role of women in the Canadian Parliament in the sixties. Nancy and
Judy met for an interview north of Toronto while Judy was in the midst of
the 1963 election campaign, and Nancy was invited to join Judy’s one-
person firm in Niagara. However, the day before Nancy started, Judy left for
Ottawa to become the Minister of Health and Welfare, leaving Nancy to run
the office and handle all the scheduled trials, “alone and without a leader”,
as Rumpole would say.
That was the beginning of Nancy’s long career in the courts. But you’ll
have to read the book to get all the details.
Nancy was born in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, in 1937, to Jessie and lawyer
William, younger sister to Moira. Her deep attachment to Saskatchewan is
unabated, as she continued to drive to her cottage on a nearby lake until
COVID-19 put a stop to easy travel. She claims she stays awake on the long
prairie roads by chewing sunflower seeds.
She was urged by her parents to spread her wings and go to university in
another province. She chose UBC, then Osgoode Hall for law school, graduating
in 1961. She practised in Niagara until 1966 and then moved back to
Yorkton to join her father’s law office for three years. Throughout this time,
she was actively involved in politics. It was also at this period in her career
that she first read the Indian Act and began to appreciate some of the problems
faced by Indigenous people, many of whom became her clients.
This was a time when there were no barristers’ rooms for female litigators.
The horror of older male barristers coming upon young women changing
into their robes is the stuff of legend. For Nancy, practising in Ontario,
and then in Saskatchewan, not only were there no rooms, there was no one
to keep her company if she ventured into the male bastion. She would
arrive early, run into the washroom, struggle into her robes, and get out
before anyone else arrived. At the end of the day, she waited around outside
until the men had finished reliving the battles of the day and had left the
barristers’ room. Perhaps that started her dislike of robes.
Becoming restless at home, Nancy decided to return to British Columbia.
Her interest in criminal law led her to make inquiries about a job with the
Crown, and after a few unsuccessful tries, she managed to get a job offer
from Mr. McMorran, who had also hired one other woman, Wenda Deane.
After a few months of prosecuting, Nancy and Wenda decided to set up
their own firm.