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VOL. 80 PART 3 MAY 2022
was a sought-after speaker for many years. Women’s rights and equality
were seldom, if ever, designated topics, but she would manage to use
humour to weave them in, to great acclaim from primarily male audiences.
It may be thanks to a funny speech of Nancy’s that sanitary napkin dispensers
were first installed on BC Ferries.
Nancy freely admits that, upon her appointment to the Provincial Court
bench, there was a lot of dismay at the Crown office with her soft, and even
illegal, sentences. Whether this prompted her next move or not is hard to
say, but barely a year after joining the bench, she was asked to become vice
chair of the Labour Relations Board, with Paul Weiler as chair, where she
stayed for three years. Her good friend, Jim Dorsey, Q.C., says Nancy, in
charge of hiring for the board, typically went against conventional thought
and hired a young blind woman as receptionist who worked for the board
Nancy subsequently returned to the Provincial Court for a few years, and
after lecturing in family law at UBC for two semesters, decided she was too
young to remain a judge for several further decades. She resigned in 1981
and immediately became involved again in politics, running enthusiastically
but unsuccessfully for the Liberals in Vancouver Kingsway in 1984.
Knowing she did not have the connections or personality to be invited
into an established firm after she left the bench, she decided to set up on
her own again. She happened to run into Glen Orris, then a young lawyer,
now a Q.C., on the street, who invited her to share space with him and Terry
La Liberté, also now a Q.C. She happily agreed, and returned to criminal
and family litigation, as well as an extensive practice in mediation and
Both Glen and Terry are happy to talk at length about Nancy, her compassion
as a judge, her sense of fairness, her hard work, her sense of
humour and fun, and the improvement that her presence in the office
brought to their office Christmas parties. Terry says Nancy has always
reminded him of Joan Baez, not only in looks, but in her reputation for
social and political activism, interest in the arts, and community presence.
Glen appreciated and learned from Nancy’s respectful approach to everyone
she dealt with, and recalls the Who’s Who of Canadian power women
who could be found meeting and socializing in Nancy’s office—Members of
Parliament and other political figures, activists, journalists, broadcasters,
even a Lieutenant Governor.
However, despite the emergence of powerful women, and just to give a
flavour of the day, Nancy and Bruno were not allowed on a cruise line because
they were not married, and refused to register as “Mr. and Mrs. Gerussi”.