Glube was ‘feminist hero’ in legal profession

The legal community is remembering the life and legacy of retired Noval Scotia chief justice Constance Glube, who passed away suddenly on Monday at the age of 84.

Glube, known as Connie to friends and colleagues, became a lawyer at a time when women didn’t often go to law school, let alone practise in the profession.

Glube retired from the courts in 2004 after 48 years in the legal profession — 21 as a lawyer and another 27 as a judge. She remained a life member of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society and an active volunteer during her retirement.

Glube was one of just two women to graduate from the law school at Dalhousie University in 1955 and was a classmate of Purdy Crawford. The school has posted a memorial to Glube on its web site.

“Justice Glube was a feminist hero,” NSBS president Jill Perry said in a statement. “Not simply because of her long list of pioneering achievements but also because she was an unfailing source of support, encouragement, and mentorship for women in law.”

The NSBS called Glube “a trailblazer in Canada’s legal profession.” She was the first woman appointed to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court bench in 1977, and in 1992, became the first woman chief justice of a Canadian court. In 1998, she was appointed chief justice of Nova Scotia and of the Court of Appeal.

Camille Cameron, dean of the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie, grew up in Nova Scotia and was a trial lawyer who appeared before Glube many times. But the first time she met her was when Glube spoke to Cameron’s undergraduate urban politics class in her role as the city manager of Halifax. She was, again, the first woman in Canada to hold such a position in any Canadian city.

“She cared about the people around her, she was unassuming, really smart, and you had a sense that she really cared about having a conversation with you and finding out something about you,” says Cameron.

The two women met again once Cameron became a litigator.

“It was a pleasure to appear before her — she was very businesslike, professional, and respectful; she was steady that way. It was all business but in a very professional way,” she says. “She contributed a lot to the profession and certainly when she became involved as a judge she became very involved in judicial education.”

Even in retirement, Glube continued her involvement in the legal community right up until last October when she attended her class reunion during Dalhousie’s alumni weekend.

Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, said in a statement that: “Constance Glube was a leader. In a day when married women were denied careers, she became a respected lawyer. In a day when the number of women judges in Canada could be counted on the fingers on one hand, she earned a reputation as a stellar trial judge and a farsighted and pragmatic justice of appeal. At a time when only men served as chief justices, she became chief justice of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia and the first woman to hold such an office in Canada.”

Called to the bar 60 years ago, Glube practised at the Halifax law firm of Kitz Matheson and later as a partner in Fitzgerald and Glube. She joined the legal department at Halifax City Hall in 1969 and soon became Halifax’s city manager.

Premier Stephen McNeil offered condolences on behalf of government: “Constance Glube’s contributions to the law and to our province are profound. She maintained a lifelong commitment to gender, ethnic, and religious equality and opportunity.”

The many honours and accolades she received throughout her life included the Order of Nova Scotia and the Order of Canada, which recognized her “enduring contributions to the administration of justice for more than four decades . . . she continues to be a role model for women of all ages and professions.”

“She was a role model in all respects: she broke down barriers in our profession thus paving the way for many to follow, yet always found time to give back to her community,” says Lydia Bugden, chief executive officer and managing partner at Stewart McKelvey. “She will be remembered for her kindness and generosity of spirit.”

Glube was one of the first recipients of the Frances Fish Women Lawyers Achievement Award, presented to women who have achieved professional excellence and demonstrate a commitment to women’s equality in the legal profession. In 2009, the Canadian Bar Association’s Nova Scotia branch established the Constance R. Glube Spirit Award, to recognize achievement in law by Nova Scotian women lawyers.

Funeral services for Glube will be held tomorrow, Feb. 17, at 2 p.m. at Shaar Shalom Synagogue, 1981 Oxford St. in Halifax.

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