Dalhousie Law Journal


Bertha Wilson, justice, judiciary, judges, law, women


My topic is the role of the judiciary in the work of Madame Justice Wilson, but I am going to use a particular focus. I started with the famous lecture "Do Women Judges Really Make a Difference" delivered at Osgoode Hall Law School7 and it helped me think of a question. What is it that women judges might make a difference to? One answer is the law, another is judging itself. These themes were very clear in Madame Justice Wilson's lecture. Another answer, however, is the concept of woman. When women judges make a difference to law, part of what they might make a difference to is law's contributions to the cultural meaning of womanhood. (The law does not of course do the job of making us women ( and those of us who are men, men) alone - she is very much aware of the relatively minor role of law.8 There are other influences, including religion and education. A focus on what it means to be a woman does not take us away from the topic of the role of the judiciary. Madame Justice Wilson has made it crystal clear that the qualities of being womanly and judicial are not mutually exclusive. We may have indeed moved from an age when it seemed inconceivable that one could be a judge and a woman too to a time when more attention is being paid, via judicial education programmes, to the question that many conscientious judges struggle with - how to combine maleness and judging. In addressing Madame Justice Wilson's role as a judge in contributing to the legal construction of woman, I'd like to start by asking whether the word woman changes the meaning of the word judge.