The Hon. Gladys J. Young receives Proudly UNB Alumni Award of Distinction | NEXUS Magazine | Alumni | Faculty of Law | UNB

Global Site Navigation (use tab and down arrow)

Faculty of Law

The Hon. Gladys J. Young receives Proudly UNB Alumni Award of Distinction

The Hon. Gladys J. Young (LLB’72) has been honoured as a 2023 recipient of the Proudly UNB Alumni Award of Distinction. Gladys received the award in recognition of her trailblazing career and outstanding service to the legal profession in New Brunswick and beyond.

When Gladys attended UNB Law, the landscape was markedly different. In a graduating class of over 60 students, she was one of only five female law students. Despite their small numbers, these women were a formidable force.

“I take great pleasure from the fact—pride really—that we all pursued a career, which was not the expectation at the time. Many believed we would get a degree and ‘go home with it.’ Cherrill Shea, Janette Blue, Maureen Whelly, Lynda Farrell—we all practiced.”

In 1972, Gladys became the first woman in New Brunswick to be named a provincial crown prosecutor, serving the Gloucester and Restigouche counties covering Bathurst, Campbellton, Caraquet, Tracadie, and Shippagan. She also served as a federal crown attorney responsible for prosecuting offenses under Federal Legislation, such as the Narcotics Control Act and Income Tax Act.

“This was obviously quite novel at the time,” shared Gladys. “There was a lot of skepticism because it was in the criminal field. There was the concern that a female would find it difficult to prosecute some offenses effectively, such as sexual assaults, for example.”

For the next five years, Gladys served the courts throughout the North Shore, primarily in French.

“People in the area, for the most part had never dealt with a woman lawyer, particularly in the field of criminal law. It was so unusual, as a matter of fact, that I was not always referred to by my name, but sometimes was called la créature—the creature.”

For a short period, Gladys left the Department of Justice and went into private practice with her brother. She ran the practice in Bathurst while he covered Tracadie. She then returned to the DOJ as a regional crown for Northeastern New Brunswick, serving Campbellton and Bathurst. In 1984, she became a member of the Canadian Sentencing Commission in Ottawa. The Commission, made up of prominent judges, lawyers, and researchers, published a comprehensive report, Sentencing Reform: A Canadian Approach, recommending significant reforms to Canadian sentencing laws and practices.

Gladys was appointed to the Provincial Court of New Brunswick in 1986. As a bilingual travelling judge, she spent the next nine years serving the northern—mostly francophone—communities. In 1995, she was appointed as Justice of the New Brunswick Court of King’s Bench (Queen’s Bench at the time), where she presided over trials in both the Family and Trial divisions for the judicial district of Restigouche. She served the court until her retirement in 2015.

“I was with Queen’s Bench for 17 years. It was challenging handling both divisions. For many years, I was the only sitting judge for the bailiwick. Often times, the lawyers who appeared before me were specialists in their field. As a generalist, it was demanding to adjudicate on such a full gamut of legal issues.”

In addition to her judicial duties, Gladys had a keen interest in the advancement of continuing legal education, and she lectured future law enforcement officers at Holland College in Prince Edward Island, senior police investigators at RCMP headquarters in Fredericton and enforcement officers within other provincial departments. Gladys also lectured law students in the New Brunswick Bar Admission Courses at the University of New Brunswick and in French language Bar Admission Courses at l’Université de Moncton. At the judicial level, she taught newly appointed judges with the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice and was a faculty member at numerous conferences presented by the National Judicial Institute and the National Federation of Law Societies.

“Continuing education was really my second passion. When I had the occasion to lecture, whether it was at J Division, Holland College, or with enforcement officers with Natural Resources and the Department of Fisheries, I always did. I continued this work during my time on the bench. I realized that continuing legal education applies at every stratum. I was a part of the education committee for the Provincial Court, and when presenting at the national level, I was speaking to jurists from across the country. This work enhances the understanding of the judicial system, the court process, and the underpinnings of judicial decisions.”

Speaking at the spring Proudly UNB Alumni Awards dinner, Gladys’ former classmate and lifelong friend Cherrill Edwina Shea (LLB’72) shared the following kind words.

“Gladdie had ambition, purpose and tremendous drive. She was a trailblazer for women in the law. She has devoted herself to a lifetime of public service. Gladys has unending curiosity and a commitment to lifelong learning. She has core values that are inalterable—Gladdie believes in the fundamental value of all people, the necessity to action based upon the facts and study, the related necessity of freedom of expression and the critical importance of fairness to everyone. I believe her tenacity, integrity, and professional excellence have helped to pave the way for and to inspire those that have followed in her footsteps.”

Gladys herself was surprised but honoured to receive this recognition from her alma mater.

“It is a wonderful and deeply appreciated recognition, especially for a foot soldier, so to speak. I always felt that I was just labouring away in relative obscurity. The courtroom was where I was most comfortable, it was where I spent so much of my time.”

One thing that stands out for Gladys is her incredible connection to her community.

“My friends and colleagues from across Canada were always absolutely amazed by the fact that I was able to stay in this area, with such a small population, for 26 years as a judge. To go out in the community, function, and interact with everyone. When I left the house, I would frequently meet someone who had been affected directly or indirectly in a positive or negative way by my work. However, never once was I subjected to critical remarks. I think this really speaks to quality of our community here in Northern New Brunswick.”