On today’s date in 1975, Bertha Wilson became the first woman appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal. Bertha went on to become the first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada on March 4, 1982. She served as a Supreme Court justice until 1991.
Bertha immigrated to Canada in 1949 from Scotland. She studied law at Dalhousie University and was called to the Nova Scotia Bar in 1957. Before being appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, Bertha worked at a prestigious law firm (Osler, Hoskin, and Harcourt) for 16 years.
Bertha specialized in legal research and opinion writing during her legal career. Bertha was commended for her work surrounding human rights, ethnic and sex discrimination, matrimonial property, child custody, and citizen access to information collected by government and police officials.
Prior to appointing Bertha, much feminism-based pressure was being placed on the Supreme Court to appoint a woman. Notably, Bertha was amongst the Supreme Court decision to strike down the Canadian abortion law in early 1988. Bertha served on the Supreme Court of Canada for eight years and retired on January 4, 1991.
In 2005, the Royal Canadian Mint marked the Supreme Court’s 130th anniversary on a 14-karat gold coin. With a face value of $100, the 27-millimetre proof coin captures the court’s grand architecture alongside Justitia (or Justice), one of two tall statues erected next to the building’s steps (the other being Veritas, or Truth).