Beverley McLachlin reflects on being a role model and the role the Queen played in her life

The former Chief Justice and author of the thriller Full Disclosure takes The Next Chapter's version of the Proust questionnaire.
Former Chief Justice of Canada drew from her extensive career to craft her debut thriller, Full Disclosure. (Jean-Marc Carisse/Simon & Schuster Canada)

In 2017, Beverley McLachlin left her post as the 17th Chief Justice of Canada. She was the first woman to hold this position and was the longest-serving Chief Justice in the nation's history. A year later, she published her first novel. Full Disclosure is a legal thriller that follows an ambitious defence lawyer who takes on a high-profile murder trial. She started the novel years ago and returned to it as she was nearing retirement.

Below, McLachlin answers The Next Chapter's version of the Proust questionnaire.

Tell me about your favourite character in fiction.

"One of my favourite characters is Jane Austen's Emma. I don't know why I like her so much — she's a woman in a very constrained world where certain kinds of behaviour are demanded. She tries to fit within that world, yet she's always breaking out of it. Her spirit somehow comes through the constraints of society. She is a very flawed person. She has her faults and sometimes she doesn't struggle enough to overcome them. In the end, she comes to terms with them. I love that character."

If you could change something about yourself, what would it be?

"I would have fewer self-doubts. I am always second-guessing myself, questioning myself. But then I have to say perhaps that's a good thing because it's certainly not paralyzing. In the end, I'm always able to move on."

On what occasions do you lie?

"Hardly ever. I'm a very bad liar, I really can't do it well. My husband would back me up on this. He would sometimes say, 'Fudge it up. You don't have to tell them that you actually forgot that there was a dinner date tonight, you could make up an excuse.' I say, 'Ok, you can do that. You tell a lie, because I know I can't do it very well.'"

What is your principal defect?

"Impatience. I'm very driven. I want to get things done and I go too fast. That can make it difficult for those who are obliged or choose to live or work with me. I have to constantly tell myself, 'Slow down! Savour the moment.' I'm getting better at that. I'd like to think that, before I die, I may even curb my excessive impatience, but we'll see."

What is your greatest fear?

"I don't have very many fears. I don't spend much time worrying. My greatest fears is perhaps I won't do the best I can do or that I'll let somebody down."

Who are your favourite heroes in real life?

"Queen Elizabeth II is a wonderful hero to me. I've been a bit of royalist since the time I was eight and she was getting married. I used to get my parents to buy the Toronto Star so I could cut out the pictures and make scrapbooks. I was a little girl with no great female role models and here comes this beautiful princess, who is also engaged in the world and doing important things. She's always been a hero of mine and it was a great pleasure to sit beside her at dinner on her Jubilee anniversary and exchange my memories of her with her memories."

What is your greatest achievement?

"I think my time on the Supreme Court of Canada will be the greatest achievement in my life. That's not just for the work, but for the role model that I discovered I was providing. After I was named Chief Justice, families, little girls and young women would come up to me and say, 'Because of your example, I have a dream.' I thought, 'I didn't do anything!' But somehow, just being in that position was an influence for the good on people's lives."

Beverley McLachlin's comments have been edited and condensed.