Lady Justice: Long Lived the Queen

On September 8, we lost the Queen of England and the Commonwealth, Elizabeth the Second. On September 19, our province will have a day of mourning, with many observing a moment of silence. Many of us admired the Queen and her steadfastness and commitment to service. Most of us would not remember a time without her.

I can first remember the influence of the Queen on my life back when I was in the single digits living in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. My first non-aquatic pet was a guinea pig I named Queenie. As it was for Queen Elizabeth I (1553-1603), Queenie was single. Queen Elizabeth I apparently named herself “The Virgin Queen” as she considered herself married to her country and was considered by many a great leader and one of the most famous women in history.

When Queenie died, I had her lie in state in a lovely Kleenex lined shoebox coffin on the living room table. I am not sure for how long, I kept denying comments that it had been long enough, but when I came home from school one day, she had disappeared. My mother assured me that there had been a formal burial in the forest by the house. That was my first introduction to death.

Queenie was soon replaced by Queenie the Second, as life goes on. As for Queen Elizabeth II, this Queenie came with a mate. She also had an offspring. Queenie II and her family did not live long. We cannot say the same for Queen Elizabeth II with 70 years representing us.

Fast forward. I graduated from law school in Alberta and spent part of my articling year at the Court of Appeal and Court of Queen’s Bench. To be admitted to the Alberta Bar and become a full-fledged lawyer, I had to pledge true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second. Unlike naming your pet, this was not a free choice. Having worked to pay my way through law school – I am a meritocracy versus monarchy type of citizen. I accepted she was a figurehead and moved on.

My other issue with my pledge was I had to acknowledge that I would not seek to destroy any “man’s” land. My female colleague (now a law professor) and I complained behind the scenes about the sexism behind this but went along with it. Later, one of our law professors, who decided she wanted to be admitted to the Alberta Bar simply changed the word “man” to “person”. She now sits on the Supreme Court of Canada. That was a lifelong lesson in action over complaining.

Accepting this figurehead approach, I went pretty well all out. I was privileged to be appointed a Queen’s Counsel (“Q.C.”). In July 2020, I established my own provincial law firm, Donna Purcell QC Law. My head office abuts the QEII. Since my appointment as a Q.C., my daughters, whom I call Princess, started calling me Queen.

Fast forward to September 8, in the morning I was taking minutes at a Queen’s Bench meeting with the civil bar (we started these at the start of the Pandemic). Then the Queen died. Within hours (minutes?), that slow moving justice system dispatched an email from the Court of King’s Bench. By the next day, the slow-moving government dispatched an email through the Justice Minister, setting out the research and law and I was a King’s Counsel and needed to change my Notary Stamp forthwith. The court and government is very quick on tradition. Since I could name my firm Donna Purcell ABC Law, my law firm name should be safe.

Perhaps the most famous woman on the planet is eliminated from our institutions. To quote the words of a famous K.C. (with the Sunshine Band), while we think “Please Don’t Go” (and we miss her so); unfortunately, “That’s the Way” – even if we don’t like it.

Donna Purcell, K.C., (aka Lady Justice) is a Central Alberta lawyer and Chief Innovation Officer with Donna Purcell QC Law. If you have legal questions, contact dpurcell@dpqclaw.com.

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