Freedom-of-expression issues are of interest to me, says Patricia Jackson in Lexpert

Rebels with a Cause

April 01, 2009

Some of Canada's most hard-bitten commercial lawyers still manage to shrug off their starched-collar personae from time to time to take on the role of champions of social justice.

When she's on the clock, Patricia (Trisha) Jackson is often found defending financial institutions named in class-action lawsuits. Off the clock, she does serious-cause litigation in the area of free speech, an interest that dates back to the Karla Homolka press ban nearly 15 years ago.

Trisha has intervened for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in the Little Sisters case, as well as in John Robin Sharpe's legal battle to own child pornography, which pitted the protection of children against the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression. Did her involvement raise eyebrows? It did.

"I was in the Supreme Court of Canada on both Little Sisters and Sharpe, and a lot of people would say to me, 'How on earth can you be up there defending pornographers?' Well, it's not defending pornographers. It's defending the right to have artistic and free expression that isn't second-guessed by the state. In some ways our world is arguably getting less welcoming of freedom-of-speech issues that have occurred—and I think that's something we should all care about." Asked whether she got any pushback from her partners because of the subject matter, she says "absolutely not."

As for how she managed to prepare Supreme Court interventions while working on her regular paying files, she says, "You just do it. If you're interested in the issues—which I am—if you end up doing it late at night or early in the morning or on the weekend, you just do."


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