barbara findlay, QC

Class of 1975-1976

barbara, as a first year student, consulted the student health service psychologist. She told him that either something was wrong with the world, or something was wrong with her, and she hoped that it was the latter as it would be much easier to fix.

At the time, barbara had no idea that she was a lesbian. It was not a subject that came up directly in her therapy: it was unspeakable. But the psychiatrists clearly thought there was something wrong with her, institutionalizing her against her will, telling her they would turn her into a “normal girl”. At the time, “homosexuality” was listed as a mental disorder under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association....

When barbara began practising law, homosexuality had very recently been decriminalized. Not only were there no laws affording rights to queer people and their partners, fully 25 per cent of the laws of British Columbia, as well as a multitude of federal laws, specifically discriminated against queers by extending rights to “[heterosexual] spouses”. Laws discriminated in relation to everything from family law and marriage, to the availability of government benefits, to the right to sit on the board of professional corporations. barbara had been practising law for 15 years before the B.C. Human Rights Code included protection. The federal Human Rights Act did not add that protection until 1996. She had been practising law for 8 years before the Charter came into effect, and for 18 years before the Supreme Court of Canada determined that the equality rights section of the Charter protected lesbians, gay men and bisexual people from discrimination...

For more, read Profile of barbara findlay from The Advocate, 74 (2016).