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(Photo credit: Brighton Creative Group)

Ellen Schmeiser

Key contributions: Her recommendations as a special adviser to the Saskatchewan Attorney General’s Department led to the 1980 Matrimonial Property Act, considered trail-blazing legislation that became a model for the rest of Canada.

The law served to transform the legal principles behind property ownership in the context of marriage, offering protection to partners in a divorce who didn’t have an income from outside the home.

Schmeiser was the sole woman to graduate from U of S law in 1957. After practising with a firm in Saskatoon, she was appointed as the first director of research for the Law Reform Commission of Saskatchewan.

Her leadership and dedication to equality and human rights led to her being named as a founding commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, representing the three Prairie provinces.

In an interview with Saskatoon’s Bridges magazine in 2015 after being awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit for her contributions to the province and Canada, she described why she fought hard to promote equality:

“Always in my mind was that we’re all equal and everyone should give it their best. I hate – I guess I can say that – I hate discrimination.”