Laura McCarthy

Laura McCarthy tries to recall the “worst day.” It isn’t easy. “They were all extremely difficult, all very personal,” she tells me. She finally settles on the day her husband Lyle was formally charged with sexual assault in the fall of November 2011. “That,” she understates, “was a difficult day. I’d never wish any of that on anyone else.”

But there have been plenty of difficult days in the five years since.

She was still in law school when the police charged Lyle. She remembers the police coming by the legal aid clinic where she worked; seeing other students reading the newspapers with Lyle’s photo staring back at her from the front page; making conversation with the parents of other students in their son’s four-plus kindergarten, knowing they’d been following the story too; standing with Lyle in the line-up at the grocery store checkout, overhearing someone behind her talking into their cellphone: “‘I’m standing in the line behind Lyle Howe.’ There was more positive responses than negative,” she says, “but there were crazy people who approached us too.”

That was not exactly what Laura had signed up for when she first met Lyle in 2001. He was earning his way through high school selling sneakers at Athlete’s World in the Halifax Shopping Centre; she was a customer. He was 17, she was 15. “It started with puppy love, you know, talking on the phone, getting together, and it slowly evolved from there.” It became more serious after Laura’s mother died soon after they met, “and Lyle was there for me.” He became her first and only “serious” boyfriend.

They came from very different backgrounds. Laura, who is of mixed race, grew up in Brookside, a mostly white, middle-class suburb on the edge of Halifax where there were “very few renters and no one we knew was on social assistance.” That changed in high school when she moved to the new Halifax West, the most racially diverse school in the city.

She believes her lighter skin colour and the fact she’s a woman made it “easier for me to get along in a group of white people.” But she’s had more than a few of her own encounters with racism. “I remember Lyle and I were driving on Quinpool Road one day and he had to brake quickly because the driver in front stopped suddenly. Then the driver behind us pulled up beside our car and started making threats and yelling the n-word at us.” When she was in law school, she remembers a class discussion about accommodation. The hypothetical issue was how to maintain historical accuracy while supporting visible minorities in hiring summer students to represent the all-white Highland regiment that would have been guarding Halifax Citadel at the time. One student suggested they could hire black students, but require them to wear white make-up. “How clueless,” Laura says today. “How insensitive.”

Her decision to go to law school, she says now, had more to do with practical reality than personal desire. She’d studied science in undergrad and initially intended to go to medical school, but she became pregnant in her final year of undergrad. Becoming a lawyer took fewer years than it took to become a doctor, “and I knew what to expect from law school because of Lyle,” she explains. “I don’t want to say I ‘settled,’ but it was the right choice for my life at the time.”

By the time she’d completed her articles at Cox & Palmer, a major Halifax law firm, and joined Lyle in his practice in 2013, he was already juggling his practice while preparing for his trial on the sexual assault charge and facing increasing scrutiny from the bar society. Since then, she acknowledges, “it’s just morphed from one thing to the other.” Her own assessment of the bar society’s pursuit: “I think if you look hard enough at anyone, you’ll find what you’re looking for.”

She pauses: “To say I see light at the end of the tunnel… I just don’t know. I’m normally an optimist, but now I’m a realist. I do what I can do. I just deal with what I have to deal with.”

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  1. This message is to hopefully help somehow. I am a Registered Nurse that was bullied and harassed out of my job at NSHA and also my career. After speaking out in 2011 about abuse and harassment, I was retaliated against for the next 5 years. I have in my possession a report prepared by a 3rd party investigator. The college of nurses had to hire them as one of my bully managers now sits on the investigative team and it was a conflict of interest. You see, I am an “invisible” minority that was “labelled and discriminated” against as having a mental disorder (because I spoke out against bullies in the workplace). I never knew the corruption that exists behind closed doors of those in power over you until I received this extremely important private investigator report which, by the way, NSGEU refuses to look at and help me even though they “boast” about member’s rights and hold “anti-bullying and harassment conferences”, charge money to employers across the province to “put on their workshops” only to NOT HELP a “target” of these bullies. All under a fake persona. I had my “confidentiality” breached by Occupational Health & Safety (NSGEU have an ERO specifically working with OH&S but will do nothing for me). My confidentiality was breached more than once with my psychological independent assessment with wrong diagnosis and all my family history in it, faxed openly to my boss straight into the nurses station. I have so much evidence to show what goes on behind closed doors that no one in power wants to touch with a ten foot pole. There are no “privacy” lawyers wanting to help because they all work for the government. I so feel for Mr. Howe and what he must have went through and I know first hand all about corruption here in Nova Scotia where lawyers are all interconnected with government agencies, corporations, unions, and not for anyone seeking true justice. We know what Dr. Gabriel Horne has gone through; she had to hire a lawyer from Ontario who won her case and found NSHA guilty of malice and bad faith ruining this doctor’s reputation and career. These vultures look to “break” you. The government with their stacked lawyers spending taxpayers money like they are in a candy store, care about nothing but “winning” at all costs. God bless people like Lyle Howe, Dr. Gabrielle Horne, Leanne Tessier and my self, who has been fighting for the past 7 years, to not give up. We are loosing good lawyers, doctors, nurses and others, who truly care about people, to other provinces. We need to all band together and fight these “vultures”. Together, one by one, exposing and exposing and exposing the corruption, discrimination and culture of “impunity” here in Nova Scotia and take it from being a “secretive society” to a “society that welcomes every culture and minority there is including “invisible white minorities” like myself. I so hope justice will prevail one day.

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