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Census has a population of 413 (humans, not geese). She is the eldest of four
children. Her father was the town’s family doctor and her mother a nurse.
Soon the call of the West Coast brought Barbara and her family to British
Columbia, and with the exception of a two-year period when the family
moved to northern Canada, Barbara grew up in Port Alberni.
In the mid-70s Barbara and her family lived in northern Canada, which
had a lasting impact. It was in Inuvik, NWT and the Yukon that Barbara and
her family witnessed the advantages and disadvantages of living in small
remote communities. Barbara has never forgotten those experiences, and
she will carry them into her decision making as a judge.
The family returned to Vancouver Island and the allure of Sproat Lake
near Port Alberni. Barbara attended junior and high school in Port Alberni.
She excelled academically and in music. In addition, she was not a bad field
hockey player. After graduation she enrolled in the commerce program at
the University of British Columbia. She did not finish her undergraduate
degree because she was accepted into law school at UVic. In her first year
of law school she met her future husband, Herman Van Ommen, Q.C.
Barbara’s younger brother, Peter Norell, who followed in his older sister’s
footsteps, remembers Barbara as being very independent and always possessing
an innate sense of fairness and justice, which will serve her well as
After completing her law degree in 1985, Barbara articled, became an
associate and later became partner at Harper Grey LLP. She was at that firm
for more than 30 years. She flourished and was on the practice management
committee for nine years. She was also appointed the firm’s chief diversity
officer. As part of this role, Barbara was involved on behalf of the firm in the
Law Society’s Justicia Project and the Law Firm Diversity and Inclusion
Network. She was a tireless architect and supporter of policies and changes
to encourage leadership among women in the law. She was a mentor to
women through the CBA Women Lawyers Forum. She has a particular interest
in increasing socio-economic diversity within the profession. In 2017
Barbara was recognized for her commitment to diversity with a Lexpert
Zenith award celebrating her as a leader in the legal community in this
area. Her legal commitment and expertise were recognized in 2016 when
she was appointed Queen’s Counsel.
Barbara also became an expert in the field of privacy law and was Harper
Grey’s privacy officer for more than ten years.
Barbara was a litigator with expertise in a wide variety of practice areas
including general insurance defence, solicitors’ negligence and (her ultimate
focus) health law, including administrative matters before the College