Thursday, October 19, 2017

Backhouse on L'Heureux-Dubé

Claire L’Heureux-DubéOut this month with UBC Press is Claire L'Heureux-Dubé: A Life by Constance Backhouse (University of Ottawa). From the publisher:
Both lionized and vilified, Claire L’Heureux-Dubé has shaped the Canadian legal landscape – and in particular its highest court. The second woman appointed to the Supreme Court, and the first Québécoise, she was known as “the great dissenter,” making judgments that were applauded and criticized in turn.

Who was this energetic, risk-taking woman? L’Heureux-Dubé stands out as one of the most dynamic and controversial judges on a controversial court. Did she consciously position herself for success in a discriminatory milieu, or was she oblivious to power?

L’Heureux-Dubé anchored her innovative legal approach to cases in their social, economic, and political context. Constance Backhouse employs a similar tactic. Rather than focusing exclusively on jurisprudential legacy, she explores the rich sociopolitical and cultural setting in which L’Heureux-Dubé’s career unfolded, while also considering her personal life.

This compelling biography covers aspects of legal history that have never been so fully investigated. Changing gender norms are traced through the experience of a francophone woman within the male-dominated Quebec legal profession – and within the primarily anglophone world of the Supreme Court. Claire L’Heureux-Dubé enhances our understanding of the Canadian judiciary, the creation of law, the Quebec socio-legal environment, and the nation’s top court.

Claire L’Heureux-Dubé will interest students and scholars of law, Canadian and Quebec history, and women’s studies, as well as legal professionals such as lawyers, judges, and law clerks. More generally, those who enjoy Canadian biography will find compelling reading in this study of a highly influential woman with a formidable legal intellect.
Praise for the book:

“A compelling book about a compelling judge by a compelling author. Claire L’Heureux Dubé is a bold, brilliant, and brave woman who transformed Canadian law. Constance Backhouse is also a bold, brilliant, and brave woman who has transformed Canadian legal history. This is a meeting between two giants, the ebullient and forceful Québec legal mind and the eminent Anglo-Canadian feminist scholar. I laughed, I cried, I debated, and I reflected. I read it in two days. So should you.”  -Nathalie Des Rosiers

“This book is a tour de force. Constance Backhouse has created a new genre, one that masterfully combines socio-legal history and riveting biography, giving insight not just into the life of an individual but also into Canadian history. In its weaving together of public and private events, this book makes visible the costs borne by those who were breaking paths ahead of their time.” -Rebecca Johnson

“Professor Backhouse has taken her legal expertise, stirred in prodigious amounts of research, added some spicy feminist analysis, iced the whole with her inimitable writing style, and served up a magnificent biography. For many English Canadians this detailed portrait will be an eye-opener, one that may well contribute to a greater understanding of Quebec history and culture through its comprehensive, intimate, and insightful portrait of Claire L’Heureux-Dubé herself. This book is a triumph.”  -Philip Girard

Further information is available here.