Interview with Teresa Donnelly

  • October 13, 2022

Interview conducted in writing in September 2022.

Q: Could you introduce yourself to our readers? How did you get involved with the LSO?

A: I have been a Prosecutor with the Ministry of the Attorney General for 28 years working in the Region of Waterloo and Huron County. As a Prosecutor, I have dedicated my career to providing access to justice for victims of domestic and sexual violence – the majority of whom are women and children. As the West Region Sexual Violence Crown, I was one of seven Prosecutors in the province dedicated to enhancing the quality of sexual violence prosecutions and the victim’s experience in the criminal justice system.

As a third-generation lawyer, I believe in the dignity and integrity of the profession, the importance of an independent bar and a self-regulating profession. Those interests in the legal profession and in access to justice caused me to run for bencher in 2015.  I was elected as a bencher in 2015 and 2019.

Q: What was the process for becoming the Treasurer? 

A: In 2020, I was a second term bencher with experience as the Chair of the Audit and Finance Committee, Chair of the Program Review Task Force, Chair of the Human Rights Monitoring Group, and co-Chair of the Entity Regulation Task Force.  I believed that I had developed the requisite skills and experience to lead the Law Society.  As a result, I ran for Treasurer and was elected for a one-year term and subsequently acclaimed for a second term.  I was the fifth woman Treasurer in the 223 history of the Law Society of Ontario.

Q: During your term as Treasurer, what issues particularly motivated you?

A: In 2020, when I became Treasurer, we heard the impassioned cries for justice, following fatal encounters between police forces and Black, Indigenous, and racialized individuals. These cries highlighted the work that we needed to do to end racism and discrimination.  Racism and discrimination undermine justice and the rule of law.  Legal professionals have clear duties in pursuit of justice and combatting racism and discrimination.  That duty encompasses an active effort to make our institutions and justice system more diverse and inclusive. Diverse inclusive legal professions promote the public interest and further access to justice. 

In 2021, we saw the tragic uncovering of hundreds of unmarked burial sites of children at former residential schools. These tragedies highlighted the need for the Law Society’s ongoing work on implementing the four foundational pillars of our Indigenous Framework: creating and enhancing cultural competency; achieving and improving access to justice; promoting and supporting knowledge of Indigenous Legal Systems; and taking action on Reconciliation.

I was also concerned about the impact of the pandemic on legal professionals.  We navigated and lived through an extraordinary time.  We confronted many challenges and uncertainties.  We struggled with deaths and illnesses in our families, working from home, home schooling our children, caring for the vulnerable, coping with isolation, and transitioning our work to ensure health and safety of ourselves, colleagues, clients, and the public.  As demands on legal professionals increased, I became increasingly concerned about the need to prioritize our mental health and well-being. We need to be healthy and well; to look after ourselves; and look after each other in order to continue our important work in the justice system. In 2021 and 2022, I was honoured to co-host the Law Society’s Mental Health for Legal Professionals Summit where lawyers and paralegals shared their experiences and strategies aimed at building awareness, educating and reducing stigma associated with mental illness. The more we have these open discussions, the closer we are to moving from stigma to acceptance and support.