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Saanich girls school’s 50th reunion promises an inspiring celebration

St. Margaret’s alumni hosting former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin for online talk May 1
Members of the class of 1971 pose for a photo at St. Margaret’s School in Saanich. Theirs was the first class studying at the current school campus to graduate. Unable to hold a 50th reunion in person, the alumni are hosting a special online talk by retired Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin on May 1. (Photo courtesy Bonnie Helm-Northover)

Not being able to meet in person due to public health restrictions might have put a damper on the 50th grad reunion for the first class coming out of the new St. Margaret’s School on Lucas Avenue in Saanich.

Keen to do something that benefited the school and the community, the members of the class of 1971 put their heads together with the school, took advantage of some mutual connections and landed the woman often referred to as Canada’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

As part of the 50th celebration, Trailblazers: Empowering Women will feature former Supreme Court of Canada chief justice Beverley McLachlin, who will give a virtual talk on Saturday, May 1. The presentation and Q&A is also a fundraiser for a new artist-in residence program at St. Margaret’s.

Retired Chief Justice of Canada, Beverley McLachlin, will give a talk online May 1 as part of the 50th anniversary of the class of 1971 from St. Margaret's School in Saanich. (Photo by Jean-Marc Carisse/courtesy Bonnie Helm-Northover)

Bonnie Helm-Northover, among the class of ‘71, expects listeners of all ages to be inspired by McLachlin and her story, emerging from the small town of Pincher Creek, Alta. and working her way up to the top legal position in the country, which she held for a record-setting 18 years.

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“The lesson from all of this is she had an idea, she wanted to do something, and was not willing to be held back by social implications,” Helm-Northover said. “The fact she has really accomplished something fantastic in her life is an inspiration to anybody.”

McLachlin’s 2019 memoir, Truth Be Told: My Journey Through Life and the Law, is an award-winning recounting of her journey.

“She’s such a fantastic mentor to people and she’s really our RBG in Canada. And reading her book, she seems so approachable,” Helm-Northover said.

As an artist herself, she is also excited that the talk will provide startup money for the artist-in-residence program at the school, one of few remaining all-girls campuses. The plan is for the first person in the position to be Indigenous.

“It’s not only a cultural inspiration, it’s an act of reconciliation and it’s about contributing to our community,” Helm-Northover said. Providing added exposure to the arts will help broaden students’ learning perspectives, she added. “If you think in a creative way, you are training your mind to think outside of the lines and problem solve in different ways.”

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Tickets are $25 for the online talk, which runs from 1 to 2 p.m. Visit for more information and to register.


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