Bertha Wrenham Wilson (Bertha Wilson)

Bertha Wrenham Wilson

Jurist.  The first female Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. Born in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, she followed her two older brothers to the University of Aberdeen. She attained an M.A. in philosophy in 1944 and then obtained a teaching diploma. She married a Presbyterian minister, the Reverend John Wilson in 1945. They emigrated to Canada in 1949, moving first to Ontario then Nova Scotia during his term as a Navy chaplain. After graduating from the law school at Halifax’s Dalhousie University in 1957,  Wilson joined the Toronto firm of Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt as its first woman lawyer, and later, first woman partner.  She was appointed by Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1982. Madame Justice Wilson, a firm champion of individual rights, became a self-described “unabashed and enthusiastic supporter” of the newly-enacted Charter of Rights and Freedoms. She was noted for decisions in several milestone cases including ones involving women’s property rights, access to abortion, liability of public authorities and rights of refugee claimants.  After eight years on the high court, she retired in 1991.  That same year, she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. She was invested a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1992. Madame Justice Wilson received honorary degrees from numerous universities including her alma mater. For several years after her retirement she continued her public service with the Canadian Bar Association task force on gender equality, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and various educational and community causes.  She died of Alzheimer’s Disease at age 83 in Ottawa. (bio by: Milou)


  • September, 18, 1923


  • April, 04, 2007


  • Cremated

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