Dorothy-Jean, LLB, MA O’Donnell

February 10, 2021
1951-2021 ~ Dorothy-Jean passed away in Langley Memorial Hospital, February 10, after a year with ovarian cancer. She worked tirelessly as a lawyer for workers, parents and marginalized people for nearly 30 years; and as a political activist for a lifetime.
Dorothy-Jean grew up in Vancouver, attending Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, where she learned the difference between right and wrong. When she was a child, playmates would exclaim “You ought to be a lawyer!”
As a teenager, she babysat the children of leaders within the provincial Social Credit, Liberal, and federal Liberal parties. Still a teenager, she represented Canada and addressed the United Nations World Youth Assembly at the UN in New York. She was the first student to be elected to the Senate at UBC, the academic governing body of the university.
Dorothy-Jean interrupted her university studies to organize an international women’s conference opposing the Vietnam War. She worked in Richmond, Vancouver, Prince George, Toronto, in various service-sector jobs, as well as industrial jobs in the woods industry.
She played hockey and sang in community choirs. As a bus driver in Northern BC, she made friends with her passengers, many of whom were women of East Indian origin, and whom she defended against racist attacks.
She joined the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), now the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada. Its philosophy became her life-long “ground of being,” inspiring her peaceful and ceaseless organizing. She was an active learner and took courses where possible – whether in philosophy, first aid, chemistry, music theory or history.
In the mid-1980s, Dorothy-Jean returned to Vancouver, where she cared for her aging parents, completed her Bachelor of Arts and then law degree, after which she was admitted to the Bar. She was the editor of the Lawyers for Social Responsibility newsletter for close to a decade. Her pro-bono work continued into her retirement in December of 2020.
Dorothy-Jean pressed for systemic change. There was the challenge she was for Mum and Dad but there was, just as truly, a radicality with which she loved them to their last heartbeat – equalled by their love for her.
Dorothy-Jean was predeceased by her parents, Anna-Marie and Dr. Joseph P. O’Donnell, and by her brother Marcel. She will be sorely missed by her wife Cardy Chapman, by her siblings Margaret, Brian (Maria), Eileen (Bruce), and Eleanor, and by her “new sister” Louise (Mayer); and by beloved Nadine; by nieces Jennifer, Mariko, Emiko (John), Sachi, and Kasia (Charlie), by nephews Matthew (Nina), Toshiro (Susanna), and Toryn; and her great-nephews Felix, Fyfe, and Kai.
The family gives thanks to Cathy, Evelyn, Debra, Joshua and Jiada, to her many comrades, clients, and devoted friends, neighbours, businesses and helpers in Hope, Chilliwack, Langley, Richmond, Vancouver, and Victoria. Heartfelt gratitude to the doctors, nurses, technicians, health-care coordinators, home-care aids, transportation volunteers and others in Hope, Chilliwack, Abbotsford, and Langley, at the hospitals, Cancer Centre, and at Fort Langley Seniors Community.
A memorial may take place in the future. Donations in her memory could be made to the Hope Care Transit Society (Reg. Charity 830860 128RR0001) or the Living Language Institute Foundation (Reg. Charity 119207389RR0001). Anyone who reads this and who so decides, could engage deeply and respectfully with a view contrary to your own.


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