Lady Justice: An ally or living a lie

When I was younger, and still living in Montreal, I recall how proud I was to be a Canadian when the 1975 movie Lies My Father Told Me was nominated for an Academy Award. Even though the movie was made in Montreal, Quebec, and was about a 1920s orthodox Jewish boy David, the level at which I related was as a Canadian. Proud Albertan now, I still relate first as a proud Canadian when we achieve. If Alberta does well; Canada does well (which “Canada” may sometimes seem to forget) and vice versa.

My childhood memory had been that the movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. These days there is the internet and Wikipedia for fact-checking and it turns out it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay and won a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film. It was big news, at least in Montreal, my universe at the time.

In brief, six-year-old David’s grandfather Zaida (a rag and bottle collector) brings him on his rounds and, basically, treats him with respect, unlike his parents and others. As Wikipedia notes about one scene: “While Zaida’s friend… embraces the ideas of Karl Marx to end social class injustice, Zaida replies he is instead looking to the arrival of the messiah to end all injustice.” In the end, spoiler alert, David’s grandfather dies.

There were no lies MY father told ME (I do not recall him saying more than a few sentences to me my entire youth). It was society that told me lies, about myself and others. My mother told me the truth and encouraged me. My grandmother Helena (in a long-distance call from Quebec, I was then in Alberta) wondered out loud if society might be right. After I assured her that, yes, women can be lawyers, and I had been accepted into law school, she then supported me without question. She even surprised me with an early inheritance to support the endeavour. She passed away in my first year of law school. Her name has been passed on to my firstborn, now in law school. My grandmother was a working woman of action financially helping to support three generations and epitomized giving back to family and community.

Members of our shared society are not as lucky to have such allies as I did in my mother and my grandmother (and many others). “Society” can be a strong opponent. For instance, a popular test of unconscious bias I took has me unconsciously biased in favour of males being the breadwinners in society. Never part of my conscious (nor logical) reality. Many still believe a society that tells us “you are not good enough” based on some arbitrary ground such as class, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, ability, sexual orientation, age, beauty, and other identities. We are all “good enough”.

I have been lucky to be able to continually and intentionally face down that big lie. I still encounter it personally and as an advocate for others. The lie can change confidence into self doubt and even into loss of hope. Some benefit from the lie, so they may ignore the truth or think they deserve the benefit of it, or they may consciously believe the lie. I am convinced there is enough potential to go around and we all benefit from each other’s successes.

Who will win the case of Ally vs A. Lie? I am on team Ally in case anyone was unsure. I choose to come forward as a party, advocate, witness as needed. This is a voluntary class action. This action is inclusive, but it is an action, not inaction. We can all contribute to end injustice.

The title to a non-fiction novel floating in my mind actually is: Lies My Society Told Me. One local award-winning writer advised me decades ago, if I had not started writing books by then, I never would. Statistically, that may be true, but I have not, at least consciously, accepted that advice. “Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself” – Cicero, Roman statesman, lawyer, orator. If you haven’t already started, the next best time is now.

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

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