Bertha Wilson (1923 - 2007)
Bertha Wernham Wilson was the first female Supreme Court judge. She made history for women’s rights in several groundbreaking rulings favouring the rights of women to make decisions about their own bodies. She worked to protect women from abuse, to ensure gender equality in the legal profession and was Commissioner of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
- When she was a student at Dalhousie University, the head of the law school told her to “go home and take up crocheting.” Women lawyers were rare in those days.
- In 1982 Wilson was the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. She was also the first woman appointed to the Court of Appeal for Ontario in 1975.
- She was well-known for her role in supporting First Peoples’ rights.
- In 1988, Bertha said, “Liberty in a free and democratic society does not require the state to approve the personal decisions made by its citizens; it does, however, require the state to respect them.”
- Wilson retired in 1991 and was made a Companion of the Order of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
- Wilson was originally from Scotland.