Dianne Martin www.gypsycanine.com

Dianne Martin – Lawyer Teacher Advocate

 Dianne Martin – 59

 March 19, 1945 – December 20, 2004

Dianne Martin www.gypsycanine.com

I didn’t know Dianne Martin. I had just started coming to Cherry Beach in 2004 and her bench was in the process of being installed. It was the first memorial bench at Cherry.

She is described as a force in the legal world, an advocate for women, the underprivileged, and wrongly accused.

One of a handful of female criminal lawyers, Martin was called to the bar in 1978 and was trail blazer for women in the profession.

Martin died of a heart attack on December 20, 2004. She was 59.

I spoke with Ingrid Gadsden, Ramsay’s mom, who remembers walking Cherry Beach with Dianne and her two collies, Magic and McLeod for many years.

 “When Dianne died, her family didn’t want either dog, so Linda Howard (Dianne’s closest friend) took McLeod, and I took Magic who was about 14 or 15 yrs at that time.  Magic lasted till the end of June 2005  cancer got her in the end. McLeod lasted about 2 years and had to be put down due to a fast-moving  tumour that was cutting off his  breathing, it was inoperable.  Broke Linda’s heart and mine to see him go.”
Gadsden goes on to fondly describe Martin as someone who could “really argue” and was so proud of her students working on the Innocence Project.
“Dianne and her Innocence Project students worked on cases to free the wrongfully convicted – cases as varied as Romeo Filion, (served 31 years);  Donald Marshall (served 11 years); David Milgaard (23 years); Guy Paul Morin (served 10 yrs); and Rubin Carter (The Hurricane boxer, served almost 20 yrs); – all of them innocent of the crimes they’d been convicted of.
Dianne was a true force behind getting justice for all these men, I miss our conversations to this day – and there were lots of others she helped and fought for too – one of them was the “Jane Doe” case against the Toronto Police Services.  She even introduced me to Jane Doe!  That was a thrill.”

Gadsden spearheaded the bench for Martin and collected donations from fellow CB’ers. Here’s an excerpt from the notice informing people of the project

“While we all still miss Dianne, we know she’d be pleased to be remembered this way. More than anything in the world, Dianne loved sharing this park – and her space with dog lovers. A bench in her honour will give us all a chance to sit and remember how she once filled this park with laughter and good times”

Gadsden’s memorial published in the Globe and Mail mid 2005 describes a wonderful person and friend, her admiration for Martin shines through

“Friend, lawyer, teacher, dog lover, Cherry Beach 

Born March 19, 1945 in Regina, Sask.

Died Dec. 20, 2004 in Toronto of a heart attack, aged 59.

Since her death, many have written about Dianne’s extraordinary legal career, her dedication to the Innocence Project, a program she co-founded at York University, and her love of teaching law – all of them outstanding achievements in what was a rich and satisfying life. There were, however, other facets of her life that made her memorable to many who had little familiarity with her professional life. To most of those folks, she was simply “Dianne – Magic and MacLeod’s mom”.

Magic and MacLeod are Dianne’s beloved collies. Almost every morning for more than eight years, she walked them in the off-leash park at Toronto’s Cherry Beach. Clad in gloves, boots, parkas and toques in winter, sandals and colourful drapey smocks in summer, Dianne was a familiar, welcoming sight. For the first few years she’d arrive as close to sunrise as possible, hiking through snowdrifts, mud puddles or knee-high grass to stand at the point and watch the sun rise over the Leslie Spit. It was like watching a painting come to life, she’d say.

Dianne never lacked for walking companions at Cherry Beach – humans or dogs. She drew them to her through her strength of personality and the affectionate, generous spirit she exuded. Pockets jammed with plastic poop-bags and homemade, organic liver treats, she discovered the names of hundreds of dogs long before she knew their owners. For that alone, she earned our admiration, but as the years slipped by, we loved her for so much more. She attracted us, like bees to pollen.

Walking the dirt paths in all kinds of weather, she entertained us with eye-popping stories and opinions on everything from cross examination techniques to butterfly migration and the science behind DNA. There wasn’t a topic she couldn’t talk about intelligently. Plot swings on The West Wing, (her favourite TV show), gardening, herbal remedies, Prairie politics, and the birth of the feminist movement – Dianne shared her ideas and listened to ours. Conversations were always spirited, passionate and invigorating. Full of life and with a razor-sharp mind, she adored a good argument and a well-phrased retort. Topics segued effortlessly, one into another, often punctuated by rollicking bursts of laughter.

Cherry Beach was her special place, a gift of nature that she treasured. As the seasons changed, there was always something different to see, something new to talk about. Flocks of geese in a ‘V’ formation, or a blustery northwest wind reminded Dianne of her prairie days. Pale green buds on trees in spring, buttercups and daisies in summer, Monarch butterflies and masses of chicory blossoms and St. John’s Wort in fall – all these were catalysts for discussions that went on for weeks and morphed into dozens of unrelated, equally fascinating topics. Dianne left us far too soon.

Today, Magic, Dianne’s 13-year old tri-colour collie lives with Ingrid. MacLeod, her 18 month old sable collie sleeps on the sofa at Linda Howard’s home. We love and nurture them the same way Dianne did. We walk with them along the same paths we walked with Dianne, but these days the park seems quieter and a little emptier. Dianne had a powerful and unforgettable presence. That’s why, in her honour, the Cherry Beach dog owners are donating funds to buy a permanent bench that will overlook the Leslie Spit at the entrance to the Eastern Gap. It was Dianne’s favourite viewing point. We’ll inscribe it with her name, a token of our affection for a remarkable, generous and inspiring friend who left us with heaps of enduring memories.”

by Ingrid Gadsden and Linda Howard


Jim Smith, Bella’s dad and a former student of Martin’s, echos Gadsden’s account of the Innocence Project and elaborates further

 “Dianne was a criminal defence lawyer, much-loved professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, expert in evidence law, and one of the founders of the Innocence Project and the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted – she was a key player in getting Guy Paul Morin cleared, and led a dedicated team of students each year in finding cases of wrongful conviction and pursuing them (way before it was trendy or hip like in National Public Radio’s “Serial”).

She fought to have midwifery get established, to put limits and accountability on police, to get wrongly convicted people out of jail, and a whole bunch of other neat causes. There is now a yearly Dianne Martin Medal awarded for contributions to social justice through law.

She was a dog lover throughout.

She was also my evidence law professor, gave me one of my few A+ in law school, and tried to get me an articling spot with another woman criminal lawyer. She had a huge presence, and a wonderful, wonderful laugh . She lived alone with her two dogs she was devoted to them and walked them every day at Cherry Beach – which is where I discovered her when I started bringing Bella down as a puppy around Christmas 2003.” 

For further information on Martin’s brilliant career and contributions visit yFile York University’s Daily News

A big thank thank you to Karen Lewis for her research contribution


5 thoughts on “Dianne Martin – Lawyer Teacher Advocate”

  1. Kelly, thanks so much for this. Dianne was a woman I just know you’d have loved. She was a powerhouse walking, and someone I’ll never forget, ever. What a great job you’ve done with this — glad I was able to help a bit! hugs to you hon!

    Ing, Miss Sophie and Ramsey

  2. What a great remembrance of Dianne – Kelly thank you so much, and thanks to Ingrid for sharing her memories. There are little tears in my eyes as I read and remember all this, but they are good tears, of gratitude that people like Dianne exist, and that our love for dogs brings us together in amazing ways.

Thanks for reading. I'd love to know your thoughts.