When Claire L'Heureux decided to attend law school in 1949, women in Quebec had been allowed to practise law for only eight years. She had made the decision when she realized that she could write the letter her boss was dictating better than he could. Already a gifted student, with Lieutenant-Governor's medals for her high school and her undergraduate years, she continued to excel and graduated cum laude from Laval University's law school in 1951.
Perhaps it was the determination learned from her mother, who spent 40 years in a wheelchair, that gave Claire the habit of hard work and the will to succeed. "I thought my competence could take me where I wanted to go," she said in 1987. She married professor Arthur Dubé and gave birth to a son and a daughter while building a practice as a divorce lawyer. Her interest in women and their families led her to work with the family law and family court committees of the Quebec Civil Code Revision Office and with the Vanier Institute of the Family. In 1983 she and Rosalie Abella published Family Law--Dimensions of Justice.
In 1973 she was one of the first women in Quebec to be appointed judge of the Superior Court. She became known on the bench for her desire to insure social justice. "It is people who are important," she says, "it is for them that justice is rendered."
In 1979 Madame L'Heureux-Dubé was appointed judge of the Court of Appeal of Quebec and in 1987 she became the second woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. She is enthusiastic about her demanding job. "I love my life. I love my work...I can eat it, I work like a dog, that's my life." Although she herself rejects labels, she has been called the most liberal-minded judge ever appointed to the Supreme Court. She declares that 35 years in the legal profession have made her "gender blind." However, when she says, "I'm for justice--whether right, left or centre, that's all that counts," it is obvious that the rights of the disadvantaged, whether they be immigrant women, children, or the disabled, matter deeply to her.