About Jessica

I was born and raised in Calgary until I was 12.

I was born in Calgary in 1983, the second of Mardy and Dan’s five children, and happily surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins around my age. I participated in children’s choirs, Brownies, and church variety shows. In Grade 7, my best friend and I became the Environmental Concerns Directors at our school (which primarily meant that we could get out of class to take out the recycling). It was during these formative years in Calgary that I began to really take notice of the environment and climate around me.

I finished school, went to University, and started a family in the States.

The summer after I finished Grade 7, when I was 12, my family moved to Winchester, Indiana – a three-stoplight, blue collar town in rural America. When we moved, it was in the midst of a heatwave, not unlike the one we’re all languishing under right now, but there was no ocean, and there were no clean rivers we could cool ourselves off in (the water there is so polluted that inhabitants are cautioned never to eat the fish). And it was humid – the air stuck to you, and no shade or shelter could cool us off. People died from the heat that summer, mostly elderly people who lived alone. That fact sticks with you, too.

Our first winter there was brutal: sub-zero temperatures, frequent whiteout conditions, and no electricity or running water meant my family huddled around the fire inside, cooked what we could over it, played charades by its light, and went to bed early – my sisters and I all sleeping together in one bed for warmth, and my younger brothers were with my parents. We got a generator after that, but now we had an idea of what it was like to go without.

For many, though, the situation is annual, and deciding whether to buy medicine or keep the home warm is a very real problem. By the time we got to Winchester, the factories were closing and the jobs were gone – shipped overseas to be done cheaper. Unions were dead, and options after high school were limited. If you couldn’t afford college, the military was the best choice. I was lucky. In 2000, I graduated at the top of my class and received a full tuition scholarship to the University of Indianapolis, where I double-majored in German and Psychology, earning my BA in 2004. I stayed on there to earn my MA in Clinical Psychology, before starting law school in 2006, fulfilling my mom’s long-time prophecy of the career I would take.

But I was always going to come back.

Around 2009, when I graduated with my JD, I started planning my return to Canada in earnest. I had never become an American citizen, and I didn’t ever feel like I belonged there. My aunt and uncle lived in Nanoose Bay, and I fell in love with the Island on our visits to see them. In 2014, right on schedule with my five-year plan, and on the heels of a divorce, I packed up and moved. I was a newly single mom and had a 13-month-old on my hip – it was hard. My Auntie Allana and Uncle John graciously gave us room and board with them, and I got a job as a secretary in Nanaimo. I was back on my feet and finally saving some money. But I was lonely. I missed my family and my friends, and I moved back before US Immigration would have an excuse to get really persnickety.

Even if it took more than one try.

In 2015, I married Jon, my best friend and law partner. Our wedding was in Lake Louise, and we had our daughter in North Bay, Ontario (I was 39½ weeks pregnant when the results of the 2016 Presidential Election were announced, and we wanted our child to be Canadian first, so we drove up there, my Auntie Diane and Uncle Bobby lovingly opening their home to us). Our resolve to move our family back to Canada intensified as the Trump years wore on. In 2019, we applied for Jon’s permanent residency and listed our house – we decided that when our house sold, it would be the Universe’s signal to us that it was time to move.

But our house didn’t sell. Then the pandemic began, and then George Floyd was murdered. Protests and riots erupted across the Country, and our law firm offered pro bono representation to anyone arrested peacefully protesting in Chicago, Indianapolis, or Louisville. The offer went viral, and Jon’s phone was ringing off the hook with people asking for help. He also got death threats. They started out kind of vague, but then someone phoned Jon, gave him our home address, and said he was coming for him. I took the kids away to my parents’ to be safe. When it became clear that the U.S. had completely flubbed its pandemic response and our son would not be able to attend school, we punched our ticket and left.

We love being back in Canada.

We didn’t want to move back to Canada because it was more affordable, because it isn’t. We didn’t want to move back to Canada because all citizens are treated with dignity and equality, because they’re not. And we didn’t want to move back to Canada because it’s a beacon of progressive policies and a government capable of acting independently of deep-pocketed corporations, because it is neither of those things. We wanted to move back to Canada because it still can be those things. There is so much potential for good here, and there is still a chance to make it better.

And we gratefully and humbly acknowledge that we live, work, and play on the Unceded traditional territory of the K’omoks First Nation, the traditional keepers of this land.

The Importance
of Family

Family plays an enormous role in my life. I come from generations of men and women who have stood up for important ideals and marginalized people. My grandfather, a United Church minister, was an outspoken critic of prejudicial and cruel policies. My maternal grandmother, paralyzed from childhood polio, advocated for the rights of people with physical disabilities. My paternal grandmother volunteered with Meals-on-Wheels for decades, sometimes with me in tow. My dad, a family physician in rural, underserved communities, taught me to treat all people with dignity and respect, and my mother (the daughter of a “cripple”) taught me that sometimes, you have to fight for what’s right.

And Families are worth fighting for. Grandparents are worth fighting for. Parents are worth fighting for. Our children are worth fighting for.

Hobbies

I love to be outdoors – camping, canoeing, fly fishing, trail running, hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing are a few of my favourite things to do. On indoor days, I enjoy sewing, crocheting, and cross-stitching. And during any and all of these activities, or as an activity in itself, I love to sing.