Mtre Benjamin Prud’homme


Mtre Benjamin Prud’homme : The fight for equality

By Annie Boivin-Breton, lawyer
(Article published on December 10, 2019)

A law graduate from Université de Montréal, Benjamin Prud’homme was admitted to the Barreau du Québec in 2013. He joined the firm of Robinson Sheppard Shapiro in 2010 as a student and then articled there, subsequently working on the family law team after becoming a lawyer.

Benjamin began a Master’s degree in law while continuing his career and becoming socially involved. Among other things, he was chosen Lawyer of the Year in family law by the Young Bar of Montreal in 2015 and was identified as a Leading Lawyer to Watch in 2018 by the Canadian magazine Lexpert.

He left private practice in October 2018 to become an advisor to the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, then federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and also to her successor, the Honourable David Lametti. In March 2019, Mtre Prud’homme changed departments and began working for the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, then federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, acting as her advisor in human rights and multilateral relations.

Private practice – Family law

During his time at RSS,  Benjamin focused his practice on complex family law litigation. His main areas of practice were divorce, separation, custody, support payments and human rights.

He considers himself privileged to have worked on cases that raised complex financial questions as well as issues involving private international law and constitutional law. Benjamin has frequently represented clients before the Superior Court and the Court of Appeal of Quebec.

Benjamin speaks with praise, respect and gratitude of the role his mentors played in his professional career at RSS, namely the Honourable Pascale Nolin (J.S.C.) and Mtre Lynne Kassie. He describes Mtre Kassie as an exceptional litigator, an attentive boss and a lawyer whose ethics are beyond reproach. As for Madam Justice Nolin, who has become a friend, he makes special mention not only of her great competence but also of her humanity and her desire to help and to make a difference. Benjamin is grateful for the opportunities these women gave him, and also for their openness in allowing him to act pro bono in cases he felt strongly about. Benjamin is convinced that he would not be the same lawyer or the same person he is today without their advice and support.

Throughout his practice, Benjamin’s goal was always to be honest with his clients, even if that meant having difficult discussions with them and running the risk that a client might decide to go elsewhere.

Benjamin loved private practice, but does not miss the acrimonious aspect of the process. Family disputes are necessarily personal in nature, and it is hard to be detached. He found it particularly difficult to act in some cases where sometimes he felt that certain lawyers were making things worse instead of looking for solutions.

In hindsight, Benjamin realizes that victory in court, in family law, is always bitter-sweet. The debate and the process scar the parties. He is convinced that parties have every advantage to reach an agreement because most of the time, they have to continue to see and talk to each other, especially where children are involved.

Switching into politics

At one point, Benjamin realized that his social involvement in defending human and minority rights was growing in importance. This role became a priority for him and he wanted to find a constructive way of moving things forward. Politics therefore came to the fore for him in 2018.

Benjamin admits that the first few months of being a political advisor were difficult. He had left an environment where his competence was recognized by his peers, the Bench and his clients. He had to start from scratch again and prove himself.

What surprised him the most in politics was the complexity of the decision-making process and the urgency with which it was sometimes necessary to act. This is a reality that is not very visible from the outside and of which he was unaware.

He describes his work as an advisor as an exceptional opportunity to participate in the decision-making process surrounding human rights issues, including the right to equality.

As a political advisor, Benjamin is particularly proud of having been involved in files related to the defence of LGBTQ2 community rights and of having contributed to easing the HIV status non-disclosure rules. He is also happy to have had the opportunity to work on the recent reform of the Divorce Act.

Social commitment

Benjamin’s social involvement is impressive. 

Over the years, Benjamin has been involved in many community organizations, including in particular: the Centre communautaire juridique de Montréal (legal aid), the Mile End Legal Clinic and the International and Interdisciplinary Association on the Pharmaceutical Life Cycle.

Sensitive to minority rights, Benjamin co-founded and then acted as Vice-President of Québec Inclusif from 2013 to 2018, a non-profit organization that brings together and promotes an open, tolerant and inclusive Quebec. 

Benjamin has also acted as a director and counsel for Gender Creative Kids Canada. He thinks that there is still an enormous amount of work to be done for young people who are questioning, non-binary or transgender, and are still subject to discrimination.

Finally, from 2014 to 2016, Benjamin was director and treasurer for AIDS Community Care Montreal.

LGBTQ2

Benjamin’s involvement in the defence of LGBTQ2 community rights is not a coincidence. Benjamin is a homosexual and would like that this be addressed here. Coming out to the community represents a form of activism to him on a day-to-day basis. He still considers this necessary in 2019, particularly in the legal community, which can sometimes be conservative.

Benjamin states that he has been lucky and that his career path has not been prejudiced by his sexual orientation. He wishes that everyone could say the same... and makes this issue his priority in daily life.