Elizabeth Sanderson


Elizabeth is the author of Government Lawyering: Duties and Ethical Challenges of Government Lawyers (LexisNexis, 2018), written with over 35 years of experience in Justice Canada and Justice Nunavut.

Elizabeth was the Nunavut Government’s Deputy Minister of Justice from 2014 until early 2016.  In Iqaluit, she led the Government of Nunavut’s interface with courts and RCMP, and was responsible for detentions and inmate custody, victim services, the Coroner, and provision of legal services.  

Upon her return to Ottawa, she taught Public and Constitutional Law at University of Ottawa Law School.

For well over three decades, Elizabeth held numerous positions in Justice Canada, including assignment as the Justice Public Servant-in-Residence at UOttawa, where she developed and taught courses focussed on the practice of law in government, Torts, and Legal Ethics.  She was also an Ottawa Law Review Faculty Advisor.

From 2002 to 2010, she was Justice Canada’s Assistant Deputy Attorney General, Aboriginal Affairs Portfolio, leading coordination of Indigenous legal issues involving the federal Crown across Canada.  During the Residential Schools Class Actions settlement process, her substantive focus was resolution of numerous civil claims, healing of former residential schools students, and truth and reconciliation more broadly. 

From 1996 to 2002, Elizabeth was Senior General Counsel, Public Law Policy Section, responsible for the Minister of Justice’s non-criminal law policy mandate, including reform of the Canadian Human Rights Act, federal access to information and privacy laws, judicial affairs, and other civil law policy matters.   Her Section also managed Canada’s international private law files, including relations with UNCITRAL, Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCPIL), Unidroit, and Organization of American States-CDIP, and oversaw implementation of international private law instruments in Canada.

She was also Justice Canada’s Employment Equity Champion from 1999 to 2005.  In 2002, she was awarded a Queen’s Jubilee Medal for her work on diversity and employment equity.

In 1993-94, Elizabeth was Executive Director, Task Force on Service to the Client which involved an inclusive process to improve service in context of fiscal restraint.  The resulting report laid the foundation for the 1995-96 Department of Justice reorganization and shift to a service orientation. 

Elizabeth was Justice Canada’s Legal Coordinator during the 1990-1992 “Canada Round” of constitutional reform that culminated in the Charlottetown Accord and October 26, 1992 national referendum.  As well as coordinating legal advice and support to the Government of Canada during the reform process, she worked with then Justice Deputy Minister, John Tait, to conceptualize and develop equality and “Canada clause” elements of the Accord.  Subsequently she chaired the Task Force on Individual Rights, Equality & Community Interests, and developed principles to address individual rights in relation to protecting community interests, including official languages and Indigenous collective rights.  

She was counsel in the Human Rights Law Section, Public Law Branch, during the early development of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Amongst other files, she chaired the Justice Marital and Family Status Task Force to study marital and family status distinctions in federal laws and policies in context of Charter sections 15 and 1. The final report laid the foundation for subsequent government work on personal relationships and sexual orientation.   

Elizabeth was also counsel in several government departments, including Human Resources Development, External Affairs, and Secretary of State departments as then known.

She is currently a Board member of the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre, that provides both primary health care and drug addiction services to vulnerable individuals in Ottawa.

Elizabeth was born and raised in B.C.’s Similkameen Valley and attended several universities across Canada.  She has a BA in history (MCGill) and MA in Canadian Studies (Carleton) and graduated in law from UOttawa in 1979.  She became a lawyer in 1981.

She has been a resident of the Ottawa Gatineau area since 1975 and speaks French fluently.  She is the proud mother of three sons and thrilled grandmother of six adorable grandchildren.