2019-2020 Mtre Mélanie Dugré
Mtre Mélanie Dugré: Getting involved for others… and for yourself!
By Pierre-Luc Beauchesne, lawyer
(Article published on June 9, 2020)
Each year, the Prix Pierre-Fournier is awarded to an individual who has distinguished him- or herself by making an outstanding contribution to the Bar and its activities. This year, the outgoing Bâtonnier, Mtre Alexandre Forest, should have presented the award at the annual general meeting, but the pandemic thwarted his plans. Nevertheless, he was pleased to announce that the Council, with the support of the Conference of Former Bâtonniers, had decided to give the award to Mtre Mélanie Dugré, who, among other things, has chaired the Member Relations Committee since 2013 and has introduced us to some lawyers with remarkable profiles thanks to the numerous Figure de maître features she has written. Today, it is her turn to step into the spotlight.
Admitted to the Bar in 2001, Mélanie has always practised in litigation. After studying law at McGill University, she began her career at McCarthy Tétrault, first as a student, then as an articling student and finally as a lawyer. In 2007, she left private practice, where she had worked primarily in medical liability, to join the Legal Affairs team at The Canada Life Assurance Company, where she gradually rose through the ranks to the position of Assistant Vice-President and Senior Legal Counsel, which she has held since January 2020. For Mtre Dugré, it is clear that the transition from private to in-house practice has allowed her to devote more time to her family and to be the kind mother she wanted to be. The mother of three – Alexandre (15), Étienne (12) and Laurence (9) – feels fulfilled both personally and professionally.
Within Canada Life’s Legal Affairs team, her practice remains focused primarily on litigation, but extends to other areas, including managing the team of legal assistants and paralegals. In addition to acting in insurance law cases, Melanie provides legal support for human resources, which also allows her to practise in labour law. After more than 13 years, she still enjoys the collaboration between the different specialized teams and feels that she can make things happen by putting together everyone’s areas of expertise. More than anything, she appreciates the fact that senior management respects the opinions of her lawyers and recognizes the added value they bring to the company.
In 2010, a colleague told her about the “Write for Justice” contest committee and encouraged her to join. The Bar of Montreal therefore owes the recruitment of this extraordinary volunteer to the Honourable Suzanne Courchesne, now a judge of the Superior Court of Quebec. Mélanie jumped at this opportunity, which allowed her to combine her strong interest in writing with her desire to contribute to her Bar. She still sits on this committee, which has since merged with the public speaking competition, an activity for which, unsurprisingly, Mélanie agreed to use her talents to help CEGEP students by acting for a few years as moderator.
As the Chair of the Member Relations Committee, Mélanie is particularly proud of having headed up unifying projects, such as the “C’est mon barreau” campaign, which introduced lawyers from various backgrounds who were all committed to the activities of their Bar, and the “EN-TÊTE pour un juste équilibre” campaign to break the taboos surrounding mental health and raise lawyers’ awareness about the importance of living a balanced life. For her, these two Bar of Montreal initiatives send a clear message: The Bar of Montreal serves all the members of the section, and it is committed to their well-being.
However, this dynamic lawyer’s involvement does not end there. In collaboration with Dr. Martin Juneau, cardiologist and Director of Prevention at the Montreal Heart Institute, Mélanie and the Member Relations Committee will launch a new campaign in the coming months. As she points out: “After our EN-TÊTE campaign on mental health, the EN-CORPS campaign will raise lawyers’ awareness about the importance of being physically fit, especially during the difficult time we are now experiencing”. Mélanie invites members to participate in their Bar’s activities, but especially to share their ideas: “We want a unifying barreau, which backs projects that make sense for its members. Hence the importance of their sharing their ideas with us.”
If Mélanie is so committed, it’s to give back a little of what she has received. Prominent figures have crossed her path: her parents, the Honourable David Lametti who, while teaching at McGill University, convinced her that her place was in the Faculty of Law, and former colleagues at McCarthy Tétrault, Mtre Julie Chenette and the Honourable Catherine Mandeville and the Honourable Marie Anne Paquette, who were a great source of inspiration to her, as well as Mtre Sylvia Reiter, the founder of the Legal Affairs Department at Canada Life, a demanding manager and an invaluable mentor.
From 2011 to 2016, Mtre Dugré also worked with the “Débats” section of the daily newspaper La Presse and published a collection of writings entitled Lumières du Phare, benefiting the pediatric palliative care centre, the Lighthouse, Children and Families. It is obvious that writing is central to Mtre Dugré’s commitment, and is a perfect example of a person contributing to society while following her passion. For Mélanie, being involved must be done wholeheartedly and be beneficial to oneself as well as others.
For the Bar of Montreal, this volunteer has contributed immeasurably to it. Moreover, Mrs. Gislaine Dufault, Communications Director and Special Advisor, who has been on the receiving end of Mélanie’s dedicated efforts since 2010, told the writer of this article that she was impatiently awaiting the legalization of human cloning for worthwhile endeavours, so that multiple copies could be made of Mélanie!
Congratulations, Mtre Dugré, and thank you for showcasing our profession.