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Jan Advocate 2017

120 V O L . 7 5 P A R T 1 J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 7 THE ADVOCATE Maria’s parents were among the many hard-working, family-oriented, generous-spirited Italian immigrants whose culture and labour have so enhanced our city and our palates. The Morellato home was always immaculate and the evening meal was on the table each day at 5:30, a time set aside for the family to be together, talk about the day, watch the news and discuss current events. Maria’s parents fostered her inquisitive nature and encouraged her critical thinking. In particular, her mother always encouraged her to consider “il perché dei perché” (literally, the why of why). From her father, Maria learned many things, including perseverance, compassion and the joys of working hard, as well as the very useful swearword “casoccha”, an old-world expletive, she thought, until her brother Frank, laughing, corrected her. Misheard words are a source of delight to her. Once, talking with a friend at a party, she happened to comment that some minor source of irritation was a “first world problem”. “What,” demanded the friend, mystified, was a “first squirrel” problem? Maria (and all her friends) now delight in calling our peeves “first squirrel problems.” Maria’s strong sense of social justice was manifest from childhood, no doubt inspired by Frank, who helped guide Maria into a greater awareness of social, political and economic issues of the day. She sought out information and conversations about the establishment, human rights and social justice, and her Templeton and Notre Dame High School friends remember her as unusually thoughtful, candid and insightful. She was also industrious. During high school, Maria worked in a textile factory and as a part-time waitress. After graduating, Maria took on a fulltime job as a “waitress and sandwich girl” in the cafeteria at the downtown Woodward’s department store. Her parents were pleased that she had become a contributing member of society and had settled onto a path that would ensure a secure and comfortable future. But waitressing was not her calling; neither was the traditional cultural script of early-in-life marriage and children. Working the suicide prevention phone lines at a crisis centre taught her a lot about human nature and helped her to better understand how her post-secondary education might be shaped. Rebelling gently but firmly against her parents’ preferences, she enrolled at Langara Community College, and then switched to Simon Fraser University, where she earned a B.A., majoring in psychology and biology. In the early 1980s, she headed to UBC to earn her law degree. Memorable courses at UBC include Professor Bertie McClean’s first-year property law course, Professor J.C. Smith’s jurisprudence courses and Professor Michael Jackson’s courses on what was then called Native Law. She was hired to


Jan Advocate 2017
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