Inducted in 2011
Patricia Blocksom is, in many ways, a quintessential Albertan. Her ties to the farmland surrounding the Town of Hanna stretch back generations to homesteading great-grandparents who came to the province seeking a better life. Like those early homesteaders, Patricia has forged her own pioneering path, tackling challenging new horizons as a tireless champion of Alberta families and as a strong advocate for women here at home and around the world.
Patricia Lee Blocksom was born in Hanna on November 29, 1954 as the second of three children of Ken and Peg Blocksom. Patricia and her siblings experienced a classic prairie childhood, living in a small tight-knit community surrounded by a loving network of extended family. Whether playing in town or headed to a nearby family farm, they knew that they would find an open door wherever they went. Their parents taught them the importance of lending a hand to those in need and served as role models for strong and caring citizenship.
Shortly after high school, however, Patricia’s life took a challenging turn that helped to form what she refers to as her “spine of steel.” She married early and by age 19 was handling the responsibilities of being a young mother to her first child, Kyle. Patricia was also living in a desperately abusive relationship and knew that she needed to get out. With the support of her family she left the marriage and set out on a new course as a single mother. Where she once skimmed through school as a bright but unfocused student, Patricia now saw education as the road to a better life for her and her son. She enrolled at the University of Lethbridge in 1976 with the intention of becoming a teacher or a nurse.
Patricia spent the next three years caring for Kyle, earning straight A’s, taking an active role in student politics and volunteering with the Civil Liberties Association. She was beginning to find her voice. With strong encouragement from a professor who recognized her strengths as a persuasive advocate and who wanted to see more women shaping the legal profession, Patricia decided to change her major and was accepted to the University of Calgary Faculty of Law. She graduated in 1982 and was honoured with the Campbell McLaurin Award for making outstanding contributions to the law faculty while achieving high academic standards.
Patricia articled with the Alberta Court of Appeal and Court of Queen's Bench before being called to the Bar in 1983. She worked as an articled student and associate with Walsh Young in Calgary where she generated support from the firm’s leaders for her first efforts as an advocate for women in the legal profession. She also began focusing her practice on family law. In 1987 Patricia moved to the firm of Dunphy Calvert and, by 1990, she had achieved partnership and took a leadership role in the firm which is now Dunphy Best Blocksom LLP.
Patricia established her credentials as a skilled matrimonial lawyer and a powerful litigator. However, after years of witnessing the ruin families were often left in due to acrimonious court battles she chose to focus her practice on mediation, arbitration and assisted negotiations. In time, she became widely regarded as a Canadian leader in recognizing the need to settle family disputes in a non-adversarial way outside of the courtroom.
As her credentials grew, so did Patricia’s family. In 1986, just after starting her legal practice, her second child, Daniel, was born. In 1990, shortly after joining the partnership at her law firm she had her third child, Taryn. She continued to develop her career as a working mother, often coming head-to-head with the blistering pace of an industry unrelenting in its demands on practitioners and largely unable to accommodate the needs of parents.
In 1991, Patricia was asked to help address those issues as a founding member of the Canadian Bar Association’s groundbreaking National Task Force on Gender Equality in the Legal Profession. Led by Madam Justice Bertha Wilson, the task force analyzed issues facing women including the high rate of women leaving practice and wage inequities, and then identified measures to improve the situation. Many of their recommendations were adopted and resulted in policies that have helped to reshape the landscape for Canadian women and men in law, creating the opportunity of more diversity based on gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity and disability in the profession. One of the recommendations was to create a National Touchstones Award to recognize those who have made a significant impact on equality rights in Canada. The 2011 recipient of that honour was none other than Patricia Blocksom, QC. In April 2010, Patricia received a further opportunity to serve her profession when she was appointed as a member of the National Action Committee on Access to Justice.
Patricia's many contributions to the practice of law also include her work as a founding member of the Law Society of Alberta’s Gender and Equality in the Legal Profession Committee, as a speaker and sessional lecturer at the University of Calgary and as the author or co-author of respected papers on mediation and equality issues. She was inducted as a Fellow of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in 2005 and received the John Haynes Memorial Award for Excellence in Mediation in 2006.
Patricia Blocksom’s dedication to creating better lives and increased opportunities for women also shines through in her service with numerous community organizations and in her actions as an advocate for international human rights. She has been particularly ardent in her work to address the crushing poverty experienced by women and girls in Third World nations. In 2007, Patricia was inspired to take a trip overseas to see the work being done by the aid organization Partners in the Horn of Africa. She found the experience deeply moving and felt her perceptions of the world begin to shift. She became a director of Partners the next year and grew into one of its most passionate and effective fundraisers. Her frequent trips to Ethiopia allow Patricia to witness the essential work being done to fund sustainable development programs, from building rural schools and removing barriers that keep girls from attending, to creating group homes for HIV orphans and completing reforestation, clean water and hygiene projects.
In 2007, Patricia also became a Director for Future Generations Canada, which supports health care, education and community rebuilding programs in Afghanistan. Since joining the team she has spearheaded successful fundraising drives for projects such as school construction and micro-financing for women. True to the theme that has long infused Patricia’s life and career, she was drawn to both international aid organizations with which she serves because the projects are community-driven and conducted in a way that allows women, children and all members of the community to be empowered so that they can eventually become their own advocates for lasting, positive change.
Patricia sees her drive to serve others as a natural extension of the privileges she enjoys as a Canadian. She says, “our world will never be fair or just for everyone unless we, who have the greatest understanding of human rights because we live with them every day, look beyond our country to ensure that other people have those same rights. We need to do that so they can fully express themselves as human beings, so that they can go through life with the same kinds of opportunities that we’ve had in our own lives.”