Kim Pate was appointed to the Senate of Canada on November 10, 2016. First and foremost, the mother of Michael and Madison, she is also a nationally renowned advocate who has spent nearly 40 years working in and around the legal and penal systems of Canada, with and on behalf of some of the most marginalized, victimized, criminalized and institutionalized — particularly imprisoned youth, men and women.
Senator Pate graduated from Dalhousie Law School in 1984 with honours in the Clinical Law Programme and has completed post graduate work in the area of forensic mental health. She was the Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS) from January 1992 until her appointment to the Senate in November 2016. CAEFS is a federation of local societies who provide services and work in coalition with Aboriginal women, women with mental health issues and other disabling conditions, young women, visible minority and immigrant women, poor women and those isolated and otherwise deprived of potential sources of support. Prior to her work with CAEFS, she worked with youth and men in a number of capacities with the local John Howard Society in Calgary, as well as the national office. She has developed and taught Prison Law, Human Rights and Social Justice and Defending Battered Women on Trial courses at the Faculties of Law at the University of Ottawa, Dalhousie University and the University of Saskatchewan. She also occupied the Sallows Chair in Human Rights at the University of Saskatchewan College of Law in 2014 and 2015.
Kim Pate is widely credited as the driving force behind the Inquiry into Certain Events at the Prison for Women in Kingston, headed by Justice Louise Arbour. During the Inquiry, she supported women as they aired their experiences and was a critical resource and witness in the Inquiry itself. She also persuaded the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to initiate the Self-Defence Review and appoint the Honourable Madam Justice Lynn Ratushny to review the convictions and sentences of women jailed for using lethal force to defend themselves and/or their children against abusive men. She then worked tirelessly in pursuit of the implementation of the many positive recommendations from both. Senator Pate has been instrumental in building coalitions across the country with other equality-seeking women’s, anti-racism, anti-poverty and human rights groups and organizations; and, in this capacity, has worked with feminist legal scholars, lawyers, other professionals and front-line advocates and activists — from Indigenous communities to transition house and rape crisis centre workers.
Kim Pate is a member of the Order of Canada, a recipient of the Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case, the Canadian Bar Association’s Bertha Wilson Touchstone Award, and six honourary doctorates (Law Society of Upper Canada, University of Ottawa, Carleton University, St. Thomas University, Nipissing University and Wilfrid Laurier University) and numerous other awards. Her extensive list of publications, national and international speaking engagements and her strategic intervention and advocacy for substantive equality testify to her commitment to broader social, economic and cultural change. She continues to make significant contributions to public education around the issues of women’s inequality and discriminatory treatment within social, economic and criminal justice spheres.
Senator Pate strongly believes that the contributions of women who have experienced marginalization, discrimination and oppression should be recognized and respected and she seeks to credit and empower women. She maintains contact with women in prison through her numerous visits to Canada’s federal prisons and strongly encourages other advocates, scholars, service providers, judges and parliamentarians to ground their efforts in a similar way.
Senator Pate lives in Ottawa, Ontario.