Tillie Taylor

Tillie Taylor, daughter of Sarah Goldenberg and renowned lawyer J.M. Goldenberg, was born in in Saskatoon in 1922.

Tillie was a Jewish-Canadian judge who had a lifelong commitment to social justice. Growing up amidst The Great Depression, she became passionate about the need for peace and economic opportunity for all. Her efforts began when she joined the Canadian arm of the International Youth Congress Movement, where she met her husband, George Taylor.

In 1941, Tillie received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Saskatchewan. Shortly after, she was married to George, a communist, despite her parents’ disapproval. Tillie worked as a secretary and supported her husband until he finished law school. George and Tillie both remained active in politics, supporting the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (later, the New Democratic Party).

After the birth of her two daughters, she returned to school. Despite being the only female in her class, she earned her own LLB in 1956. At a time when there were very few females in the legal workforce, Tillie took on a job as a deputy registrar in the Saskatoon Land Titles Office, where she worked until 1960.

In 1960, she became the first woman to be appointed as a Provincial Magistrate in Saskatchewan. The Magistrates’ Court presided over civil and minor criminal misdemeanours. In this position, Tillie became aware of the connections between poverty and crime, specifically involving young people and aboriginals. Although, in her capacity as Magistrate, she was not allowed to be involved in party politics, she began to fight for change through organizations such as the Medical Care Insurance Commission of Saskatchewan, the John Howard Society, and the Provincial Commission of Inquiry into Legal Aid. Working alongside Roger Carter, dean of the College of Law at the University of Saskatchewan, Tillie advocated for reforms that would provide opportunities for Aboriginals to become involved in the legal field.

In 1972, the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission named Taylor their first Chairperson. She became a pivotal player in the development of its mandate, while also campaigning for fair and equal treatment for all people of the province and chairing numerous boards of inquiry into alleged human rights violations. Although many people condemned her for having the commission include abortion as a human right, the decision was upheld by Tillie and the Commission.

Following her term as Chairperson, Tillie served as Director of the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women and began a decade-long term on the Board of Governors of the Canadian Council on Social Development. Over the course of her life, Tilly was devoted to advancing justice for all through numerous different organizations, earning her the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in 1996.

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