The Law Society’s SS Daisy Legal History Committee is launching the Women’s Legal History Project and celebrating the first woman admitted to the Bar, Louise M. Saunders, 90 years after her call.
Louise M. Saunders was born in Greenspond, Bonavista Bay. She studied law under Sir Richard Squires, and in 1933, she became the province’s first woman lawyer. In 1964, Ms. Saunders was raised to the silk, becoming the first woman appointed Queen’s Counsel. Ms. Saunders was a practising lawyer until her death in 1969. Besides her career, Louise was active in the community and a talented painter.
This event is being held in October, which is recognized as Women’s History Month in Canada. In 1992, the Government of Canada designated October as Women’s History Month, marking the beginning of an annual celebration of the outstanding achievements of women and girls throughout Canada’s history.
The Committee is thrilled to welcome Chief Justice Deborah E. Fry as guest speaker at this event. Chief Justice Fry was appointed to the Trial Division of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland on March 30, 2007, and was appointed as the first female Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal on June 22, 2018.
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Guest Speaker: Chief Justice Deborah E. Fry
Chief Justice Fry graduated from the University of Saskatchewan in 1973 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She then worked as a public health nurse in Saskatoon and subsequently in Australia where she taught at the Western Australian School of Nursing in Perth before contemplating a career in law. Chief Justice Fry graduated from the University of Saskatchewan School of Law in 1980 then moved to this Province. She articled at the Department of Justice and was called to the Bar in 1981.
Starting as a solicitor in the Department of Justice, Chief Justice Fry’s organizational ability, intelligence, and work ethic were soon recognized. She served as Associate Deputy Minister of Justice from 1987 to 1991 and was Deputy Minister of Employment and Labour Relations from 1991 to 1996. In March 1996, Chief Justice Fry was appointed Deputy Minister of Education where she played a critical role in the reform of the province’s denominational education system. She served as Deputy Minister of Human Resources and Employment until 1999 and as Deputy Minister of Health & Community Services.
On February 12, 2001, Chief Justice Fry became Clerk of the Executive Council and Secretary to Cabinet, the first woman to hold such a position. Chief Justice Fry co-founded the Centre for Innovative Dispute Resolution; received the YMCA/YWCA of St. John’s Women of Distinction Award and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal; and was twice named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women by the Women’s Executive Network.
Chief Justice Fry is on the board of directors of the National Judges Counselling Program and previously served as president of the Program. She also served on the board of directors of the Canadian chapter of the International Association of Women Judges.
Since taking office, Chief Justice Fry has done significant work related to the provision of legal assistance for incarcerated self-represented litigants, including improving ways to distribute legal information and streamlining processes for connecting self-represented litigants to legal counsel or pro bono services.