PICTOU – There was much pomp and ceremony in Pictou Thursday as Elizabeth Van den Eynden was sworn as a justice for the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, but there was equally as much fun and laughter as colleagues spoke about the newly appointed judge.
Tim Daley, past president of the Nova Scotia Barristers Society and a longtime friend of Van den Eynden, spoke of the first day he drove with her to the courthouse. His sharp looking blue blazer was soon covered in dog hair. It was a clue that she was an animal lover and should have warned him about what lay ahead.
Halfway to the courthouse, Van den Eynden spotted a stray dog on the side of the road. She pulled over and told Daley to get it and put it in the back seat. They proceeded to court, did their work and a couple of hours later came out and took it to the pound because she couldn’t stand the thought of it wandering homeless.
But Daley was just getting a small glimpse of the woman, whose kindness he would see over and over again demonstrated to people and animals – the most classic example of which he referred to as the “Weasel in Distress” story. According to him, Van den Eynden found a wounded wild animal – a weasel or something of the sort. Van den Eyndencleared her schedule for the day, took the animal to the vet and had it taken care of, caring not that it was feral but only that it was hurt.
“She has a heart as big as all outdoors,” Daley said.
But as much humour as he shared, Daley equally praised Van den Eynden’s intelligence and ability.
“She’s one of the brightest people I’ve ever met. She’s quick-minded and nimble in her thinking and answering, but above all else she is compassionate. She has a heart like I’ve never seen. I think when you’re a judge one of the most helpful things to have is the ability to understand what it’s like in someone else’s shoes.”
He said if there’s anyone he’s met in his life who could do that, it’s Van den Eynden.
“She’s a dynamo, a whirlwind and if you can harness and take care of it and nurture it, we’ll all be the better for it in this province because she is a special person.”
When it came to her part of the ceremony to speak, Van den Eynden focused on thanking those who had helped her arrive where she is today, from her parents who instilled in her the importance of hard work to the clients who she says she worked with as a team.
“I did not get here solely on my own,” she said. “I had a lot of professional and personal experiences that shaped me as a lawyer and a person and many people are to be thanked for that.”
She said she had the opportunity to practise in many different areas of law and each brought valuable experience, but among the most impactful was her time as a lawyer with child protection.
“ I can’t tell you how much I learned form the social workers and the families and the children that they served,” she said. “I gained so much insight into the struggles of families and children and it was very insightful. It not only made me a better lawyer it certainly made me a better person.”
Nova Scotia Chief Justice Michael MacDonald, also spoke at the ceremony. He also brought out the theme of compassion.
“I think to be a good judge you have to remember that every so often you see good people at their worse. That’s where the compassion comes in, because good judges are made of people with obvious integrity, well respected at the bar, learned in the law, committed to the rule of law and dedicated to the rule of law. But good judges are great judges when they add the ingredient of kindness and compassion. That’s the key.”
Van den Eynden will be a great judge, he believes.
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Justice Elizabeth Van den Eynden was a managing partner with the MacIntosh, MacDonnell & MacDonald law firm in New Glasgow. She has been a lawyer for 25 years.
She earned her BA from St. Francis Xavier University in 1984, her law degree from the University of New Brunswick in 1987, and was callled to the Nova Scotia Bar in 1988. She was appointed Queen's Counsel in 2008.
Justice Van den Eynden will be presiding in Truro.