March 13, 1928 - October 9, 2019
The Honourable Patricia Mathilda Proudfoot, beloved by her extended family and an even broader circle of friends and colleagues, died peacefully at home on October 9, 2019, age 91. A singular woman, she combined a judicial career marked by firsts with a full private life. Pat valued relationships. She built and maintained these across generations and continents, in all aspects and at every stage of her life. She will be remembered with love, with laughter and with deep respect for her strength of character, courage and life accomplishments.
Born March 13, 1928, the youngest in a family of ten children, Pat set her sights on the practice of law at an early age. Working three part-time jobs to support her studies, she graduated from the University of British Columbia with a B.A. in 1949 and her LL.B. in 1952. After articling, she was called to the bar in September 1953. Thereafter, she set up a private practice, which lasted 18 years until October 1971, when she was appointed to the BC Provincial Court. She was the first woman judge to sit in that criminal court. When appointed to the BC County Court in 1974, she was the first woman to be appointed to that court. In 1977, she was the first woman appointed to the BC Supreme Court.
More appointments followed. In December 1982, she was appointed a deputy judge of the Supreme Court of the Yukon Territory and in June 1991, as a deputy judge of the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories. She was also appointed a member of the Pension Appeal Board of the Canada Pension Plan in 1994, a position she held until July 2010.
In 1989, Pat was elevated to the Court of Appeal for BC and Yukon Territory, making her the first woman to sit in every court in the Province of British Columbia. She retired from the Court of Appeal in 2002 and the Pension Appeal Board in 2010, having served the public for almost 40 years.
Pat was active in other spheres. She was a member of the board of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews, a member of the committee on Sexual Offences Against Children and Youth, an honorary director of Big Sisters of British Columbia, a commissioner appointed under the BC Public Inquiry Act to the Royal Commission on Incarceration of Female Offenders and a member of the Vancouver Foundation’s Family and Youth advisory committee. She was also a long time supporter of the Franciscan Sisters of Atonement in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and of her parish church, St Augustine’s, with a special interest in its school.
Esteemed for her many contributions to the legal profession and the community at large, Pat received a number of awards and accreditations. These included an Honorary Doctor of Law from Simon Fraser University in 1975 and from the University of British Columbia in 1994. In 2002, she received the Vancouver YWCA “Woman of Distinction” award as well as a third Honorary Doctor of Law from the Okanagan University College. She was made a member of the Order of British Columbia in June 2007.
Predeceased by her husband, Arthur Proudfoot, seven sisters and one brother, Pat is survived by her sister, Helen Schaeffer of Summerland BC, and by many nephews and nieces, their children and grandchildren. She is also remembered by a host of friends from around the world.
For more information, see the interview and corresponding article written by Diane Haynes and originally published in the UBC Law Alumni Magazine, Fall 2005.