In honour of Catherine, Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP is releasing highlights of Catherine’s numerous accomplishments as a legal professional.

Catherine Helen MacLean

Catherine Helen MacLean

Catherine MacLean started an extraordinary legal career in 1977, when she was hired as a junior lawyer to assist the firm’s founder, John Nelligan.

Catherine quickly became one of Canada’s leading labour lawyers in her own right, specializing in the complex field of federal public service law. Catherine made countless appearances for unions and employees in precedent-setting cases before the Supreme Court of Canada, the superior courts, and various administrative tribunals.

In 1982, Catherine represented Canada’s Air Traffic Controllers in a hotly-contested legal battle over their right to strike.

In 1986, Catherine convinced the Federal Court of Appeal that statutorily-required wage increases of 6% and 5% applied not only to salaries, but also to certain allowances. This victory was worth about $50 million in pay for the affected public servants.

In 1990, Catherine represented the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada at the Supreme Court of Canada, in the leading case on whether the Charter of Rights protects the right to engage in collective bargaining.

In the early 1990’s, Catherine was counsel for the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada in the biggest pay equity case ever litigated in Canada, and her efforts led to a very favourable settlement for her clients.

In 1996, Catherine successfully argued that Treasury Board could not discriminate against a gay man by denying him bereavement leave following the death of his male partner. This was one of the first cases to overturn this kind of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Catherine’s work for unions extended well past the courtroom. She was appointed in 1999 to the Advisory Committee on Labour/Management Relations in the Federal Public Service. This committee conducted a thorough review of union-management relations and collective bargaining relationships between the federal government and the public service unions. Catherine has also made presentations to parliamentary committees on Public Service reform.

Catherine also taught the art of advocacy to union representatives and to law students at the University of Ottawa.

As a member of the Board of Directors for NAV Canada, she ensured that the interests of unions were taken into account in the business decisions of that large federal employer.

Catherine was also a member of the Advocates’ Society of Ontario, the Canadian Association of Labour Lawyers, and the Canadian Bar Association.

Catherine will be remembered by all who knew her as vivacious, caring, quick witted and an extremely intelligent individual who was considered by her peers a top labour law lawyer.