Anne Rowles, a judge on B.C.’s highest court for 20 years and known as a scholar and mentor, died Wednesday at the age of 78 following a lengthy illness.
She was on the B.C. Court of Appeal from 1991 to 2011, when she retired after serving a total of 28 years as a judge.
“I found her just an incredibly good person to talk to about everything,” Afton Cayford, Rowles’ husband of 49 years, said Thursday. “We often spent time just sitting in the kitchen and talking about what was going on in the world and things. That’s something I am certainly going to miss.”
Nancy Morrison, a retired B.C. Supreme Court judge and a longtime friend of Rowles, described her as a “very, very, good” judge.
“Her contributions, particularly as an Appeal Court judge, were meaningful. In the courtroom, she displayed wonderful courtesy and respect for everybody.”
Morrison noted that Rowles had sat on a panel that dealt with the so-called Gladue decision, which resulted in new guidelines being set for the sentencing of Aboriginal offenders long over-represented in the prison population.
Rowles also gave a decision in 1991 that attracted attention. She found that a petitioner who had been denied medical coverage of his same-sex partner had had his equality rights infringed. That decision was not appealed and stood as law.
Born in the village of Empress, Alberta, she and her family later moved to the Okanagan, where her father ran a poultry farm.
“Both of Anne’s parents were gardeners, which explains Anne’s love of gardening and her ability to resuscitate plants mauled by a recent renovation at the home Anne shares with her beloved husband of 46 years, Afton Cayford, a retired mathematics professor from the University of British Columbia,” Morrison wrote in a 2016 profile on Rowles for the Advocate legal journal.
Rowles graduated from the University of B.C. law school in 1968 and after being called to the bar the following year experienced difficulty in obtaining an articling position, said the Advocate profile.
“It was a time of few female law graduates and not a lot of welcome mats.”
Once she settled in as a lawyer, family law came to be a speciality for her. In 1983, Rowles was appointed to the County Court in Vancouver and to the B.C. Supreme Court in 1986 before being elevated to the Appeal Court.
Morrison knew her friend as having a “wonderful” sense of humour and a curiosity about everything.
“She had the curiosity of a bright child and a brilliant scientist all at once. She was open to knowledge on any and every subject.”
A memorial service for Rowles is set for Nov. 21 at 3 p.m. at St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Vancouver.