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mentorship is on display within our office which the author has modestly not
named; it is Winteringham MacKay, a boutique litigation firm located in Gastown
– Asst. Ed., at the many CLE events at which she speaks and in her role as
an enthusiastic teacher to law students through UBC’s advocacy programs.
But we may also consider those qualities that make Janet something other
than unique. I speak now of a sense that can arise sometimes when one is
observing Janet in the courtroom. Watching her, you can get the sense that
you have felt before the emotions you are experiencing in the moment. This
is the way in which there is something about Janet that is familiar.
And slowly, over time, what it is about Janet that feels familiar comes to
us. We see in her the qualities espoused by Michelle Obama in meeting
adversity with dignity: “When they go low, we go high.” We recognize in her
the fabled Atticus Fitch of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird: “It’s when you
know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it
through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”
We see in Janet an athlete, persevering in the face of obvious defeat until
we can watch no longer and so we scream out, “Give up!”—the same athlete
who crosses the finish line victorious, dignity fully intact, while we hide our
shame at having counselled surrender. When the chips are down, when it
appears success is beyond reach, Janet does the impossible. She is that
heroine who succeeds when even dreaming of success has become folly.
Like all lawyers, she does not win every time. But unlike many of us, she
contributes to the law in every case, building the legal foundations that will
make the law more accessible, equal and responsive in the future.
Janet will descend into the intellectual heart of the law with the best of
us; unlike many of us, she will not dwell there at the expense of good common
sense. The full measure of Janet’s practicality became clear when
Janet and I were involved in a long and intractable criminal prosecution,
with William Berardino, Q.C., at the helm as special prosecutor.
When we were in the deepest depths of the proceeding, we appeared
before the learned chambers judge in respect of an application engaging the
scope of informer privilege. Counsel for the accused sought access to information
over which we had claimed such privilege. We sought an in camera
hearing so that we could explain to the court the nature of the privilege.
Counsel debated the nuances of the scope and rationale of informer privilege.
Janet chose a different path: let us have a three-minute in camera
hearing, she requested, so that the Crown could explain, briefly, the nature
of the claim of privilege. This would ensure that the court was not left to
guess. The learned chambers judge declined this solution and ruled that
defence counsel should participate in the in camera hearing.