754 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 80 PART 5 SEPTEMBER 2022
Sheila took on increasing responsibilities and rose to the rank of commander
(in the Navy, that rank would have warranted her commanding a
ship!). In 2005–06 Sheila was in Kabul, Afghanistan as the senior legal advisor
to the commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force
and the general staff on ongoing and contingency operations, often in
urgent situations where lives were in the balance.
Former JAG colleague and friend Sally Torani reported that in 2008, she
attended a lecture that Sheila gave on international and operational law that
impressed and inspired her. Sally reports that although there were women
in important positions in the military then, it was not commonplace. Sheila
was the senior legal advisor for Canadian Armed Forces overseas missions,
including Afghanistan. One of few women to have held that position, she
worked alongside and advised strong personalities during an ongoing
armed conflict. She was able to manage that and excel.
In 2009, Sheila studied at the NATO Defence College in Rome for six
months and (almost) met the Pope. She then became the Assistant Legal
Advisor, Operations Law Branch Lead to the NATO Allied Command Operations
at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Belgium. Sheila’s
legal advice helped to ensure that the rule of law and Canadian legal views
were reflected in NATO military operations.
Always comfortable in her own skin, Sheila assisted her subordinates to succeed.
Young legal officers were routinely sent west to Esquimalt to soak in her
experience, her rigorous intellect, her humour and her principled approach to
providing legal advice within the military. It is no easy thing to convince commanding
officers what to do and how to do it. Sheila perfected that art and was
regarded very highly within the Forces by clients and lawyers alike.
Along with involvement in weighty international legal issues, Sheila also
prosecuted serious and sensitive cases at courts martial across Canada.
Sally Torani worked closely with Sheila, who insisted on junioring Sally in
a case they prosecuted despite her rank and position. Generous with her
knowledge, she exhibited a force and energy that continues to this day.
Sally shared another example of Sheila’s perceptiveness and generosity.
Sally was stationed in Edmonton when a change in family circumstances
prompted her to quit the Forces to move closer to family. Headquarters’
response was “nice to have known you, have a good life,” but Sheila wasn’t
having any of that. She quickly determined the situation, worked out a solution
and asked Sally to hold tight. She convinced the bosses to move Sally
to Victoria, eliminating her need to resign. Sally remains with the Forces,
having herself risen to the rank of commander. Sally admires Sheila’s persuasive
abilities: “She could convince me to do anything—she could convince
me to get a tattoo if she wanted!”