By: Marie Gordon, Q.C.
The American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL) announced last week that Patricia (Trish) Hebert, Q.C. of Bruyer & Mackay LLP in Edmonton, is the latest recipient of the Beverly McLachlin Access to Justice Award. The award, named for former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Beverley McLachlin, is awarded to a judge or member of the bar in the United States or Canada who has demonstrated innovative measures or extraordinary personal commitment and professional dedication to enhancing access to justice in their communities.
Trish Hébert Q.C. has spent most of her professional life promoting access to justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Her early years as a staff lawyer at Legal Aid Alberta gave her a deep understanding of the ways in which systemic change can make a real difference for clients in need. Currently serving on the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, she is Chair of the “Thought Leadership Table on Family Law” and is leading a deep dive into thinking about what strategic steps and advocacy are needed to achieve ambitious goals on access to justice in the family law field. Trish recently presented to the OECD’s “People-Centred Justice Framework” focussing on the needs of children in the justice system, and she has an international presence as one of Canada’s foremost spokespeople on A2J. Nationally Trish was active on the CBA’s National Access to Justice Committee which held a seminal “Equal Justice Summit” and produced the impressive “Reaching Equal Justice” Report. As a member of the CBA national Access to Justice Committee she was part of a team that developed the ground-breaking “Legal Aid Benchmarks” – an innovative effort to develop common principles and standards for legal aid entitlement across the country. She chaired the national CBA Family Law Section in 2014/15 and helped write the ambitious and highly-reviewed “Successful Parenting Apart” toolkit for parents and lawyers, as well as a range of other publications.
More locally, Trish was a member of the powerhouse Law Society of Alberta “Negotiating Team” tasked in 2017/18 with working on a Governance Agreement with Legal Aid and the Government of Alberta, to improve access to justice for Albertans in need. Her volunteer work with the CBA, the Law Society, the National Family Law Programme, AFCC, LESA, and Kids Kottage Foundation have all been fueled by her desire to make a real difference for children and adults experiencing the impact of separation and divorce as well as economic deprivation. As a sessional instructor at the U of A teaching Practice Issues in Family Law, she has imprinted the meaning of “access to justice” on hundreds of her students, and has made sure that they understand it as a professional obligation and a priority, not just a time-worn phrase.
This prestigious ACTL award represents international recognition of the inspiring work Trish has done over many years, and will continue to do for the rest of her professional life.