Local history: Remembering Constance Glube

Constance Glube

I only once met Constance Glube, encountering her at an event for a local charity. Her grace and serenity made an impression that has stayed with me ever since.

Today, many Nova Scotians don’t recall the woman who had such an impact on our province and country. Born in Ottawa on Nov. 23, 1932, Glube’s connection to Nova Scotia began when completed a law degree at Dalhousie in 1955 and was admitted to the Nova Scotia Bar in 1956.

Her career was a battle from the beginning. As a Jewish woman, she struggled to find work in Halifax’s white-male dominated legal sector, eventually working with a private firm before joining the City of Halifax as its solicitor in 1969. By 1974, she had risen to become Halifax city manager, the first woman in Canada to have such a job.

In 1977, a call from Pierre Trudeau sent her on a new path. The prime minister asked her if she was interested in becoming chief justice of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia Trial Division.

“I think I took him aback when I interrupted him to say I would take the job,” she recalled later. “The normal procedure in these matters is to take a week to mull things over. But it’s not my style.”

That decisiveness, in both her professional and private life, was a hallmark of Canada’s first female chief justice. But many also remember her warm smile, her ability to see the humour in most things, and her modest and unpretentious manner.

In 1982, she became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, the first woman Chief Justice in Canada. In 1988, she became Chief Justice of Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Court of Appeal. She served until retirement in December 2004.

As chief justice, Glubee spent 22 years on the Canadian Judicial Council. From 2000 to 2003, she chaired the national committee on jury instructions, which prepared model jury instructions now used throughout Canada. She helped to develop instructions, in both English and French, that were direct and easy for lay people to understand

Over her career, she garnered countless honours and plaudits. The one I find most memorable is this condolence message after her death in 2016, from Beverley McLachlin (the 17th Chief Justice of Canada): “She left the Canadian justice system richer and more effective than she found it. We are all indebted to her.”

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