For this feature, Globe B.C. borrows from Marcel Proust (and media that have popularized the French author’s famous questionnaire) as a way to get to know notable people around the province. Here is Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the province’s former child and youth advocate who was recently tapped to lead the University of British Columbia’s new Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre. In her new role, Dr. Turpel-Lafond, an Indigenous lawyer and former judge who will also join the university’s law school, intends to help survivors of residential schools gain access to their records and ensure all Canadians are aware of the intergenerational consequences created by the racist system.
If you could live anywhere in British Columbia, where would it be?
My tugboat, on the hook, near to one of the Gulf Islands, ideally with a good view of Mount Baker.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Same as above.
Which talent would you most like to have?
Play the mandolin.
Bike, walk or drive?
Dog or cat?
Brutus – a dog – who likes to go for walks.
An object you still own from your childhood?
A doll wrapped in a velvet beaded papoose with her cradleboard.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Hawaii vacation with the kids.
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
The occasions (many of them) when my sisters make me laugh to the point of tears.
What is your greatest fear?
The susceptibility of seemingly ordinary people to inhumane violence toward others.
What is the best present you’ve ever been given?
My late father gave me a 1974 VW Bug for my 16th birthday. He included a trunk full of spare parts and then told me, “Figure it out for yourself.”
What restaurant have you eaten at the most?
If you could be a fictional character for one day, who would it be?
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Lisbeth).
What is the greatest issue facing Vancouver?
Reconciliation with the First Nations on whose territories Vancouver was built.
If you had $1-million to give to a charity, what cause would you select?
A charity for children to exit foster care and get permanent homes and families, preferably to locate kinship relatives willing to be permanent loving caregivers.
What life lesson have you learned this year?
I should have found the puppy much sooner – he makes me incredibly happy.
When and where were you happiest?
In the delivery room when I marvelled at the blessing of each of my four children just after they were born.
What is your most treasured possession?
My late father’s glass eye.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Rumination over things I can’t change.
What is your motto?
Complaints will be politely ignored.