Linda Long has been a family law lawyer in Alberta since 1986, a Registered Family Mediator since 1995, and a Registered Collaborative Lawyer since 2000. Most recently, she added Family Arbitration to her ADR
toolbox. She has also appeared before all levels of the Alberta Courts.
In 2006, the legal profession and the Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Alberta recognized Linda’s many contributions to the Canadian community with a Queen’s Counsel appointment (Q.C. appointments are made on the basis of merit). ‘Giving back’ is clearly a foundation value in her life.
For example, Linda served on the board of the Alberta Family Mediation Society between 1994-1996. The 17 Board members’ contributions
were later recognized with a John Haynes Award for their work in advancing protection for the public using mediation processes and establishing the “Registered Family Mediator” credential in Alberta.
She has also chaired various sections of the Canadian Bar Association and currently serves as the Membership Committee Co-Chair of the Association of Collaborative Professionals (Edmonton). As well, the Canadian Red Cross Society acknowledged Linda for her exceptional contributions to the 1987 “Black Friday” Edmonton Tornado Relief Effort between 1987 and 1993.
In 1993 Linda was honored to receive an eagle feather from Grandma Grizzly, a Cree elder. The Red Road Healing Society in Edmonton also recognized her with an eagle blanket, a star blanket, an honor dance
and a drum. Even today, these are some of her most prized possessions.
As a granddaughter of Alberta homesteaders, Linda inherited a keen
interest in the value of building a strong Canadian multicultural society.
She is committed to the principles of equal access to justice and opportunity for everyone and has helped a number of foreign workers with employment abuse problems, without charge.
Linda has been a mentor and informal foster parent for a severely mentally ill man for more than two decades and spearheaded two refugee sponsorship's to Canada. Her first ‘sponsee’ was a family of eight Cambodian refugees who had languished in a refugee camp in Thailand for 11 years after the Vietnam War. Her second was a Rwandan man who had escaped the genocide that had claimed his other family members.
Today, all of her former ‘sponsees’ have strong family values and are hardworking and law-abiding Canadian citizens. “It has enriched me so much to have had the privilege of bringing newcomers to Canada and to nurturing their integration into our community,” the collaborative family law lawyer says.
Q: Why did you add Appropriate Dispute Resolution (ADR) to your‘Family Law Help’ services?
LL: ADR is all about the partners’ and their children’s need for some form of healthy, respectful relationship post separation and divorce.While court adjudication brings certainty, and has an important and necessary place, using court as the first tool in the dispute resolution tool box, brings polarization, severance of post-court relationships,bitterness and revenge cycles.
"My mission is respectful family restructuring."
Respectful, interest-based negotiation processes go hard on the problems, but not on the people. Where professionals in the family law world are conscious of the importance of choosing wisely from among the many dispute resolutions options before rushing to court, the impact of their good choices may promote lasting constructive outcomes in families.
Q: What are some of the risks associated with rushing to court?
LL: It ‘restructures’ the family system like a sledgehammer used to kill a fly sitting on a precious family heirloom. This inevitably results in a lot of collateral damage. The heirloom is typically not salvageable, and if glued back together, it never looks or functions exactly the same.
Families are precious heirlooms. Relationships are interconnected through generations and memories, shared history, and shared hopes. When a relationship changes and the commitment to a marriage or common law relationship is lost, families are faced with the task of creating a new ornament from the old - dividing it in two, and restructuring into new families, often with different people added to the relationship matrix. To start the disengagement process by smashing the ornament to get at the fly seems so disrespectful to the human beings at the center of the conflict.
Q: Is court adjudication ever a good option?
LL: Sometimes court is the only option where there are controlling behaviors, family violence, malicious refusal to support children or spouses, or children caught in toxic conflict and who must be protected. Even then, strategic use of litigation to bring the parties to the negotiation table is still an option to reach settlement and to try and minimize the damage that litigation cycles cause.
Q: Would it be fair to say that you take a people-first approach to Family Law?
LL: In the first four years of my practice, I was only exposed to litigation based Family Law. In 1990 I decided I needed to find a different way to practice law or I would have to leave the profession. Mediation was the answer because it took a people-first approach to Family Law, and focused on helping people have important conversations with each other, rather than bashing each other in court. In other words, mediation went hard on the problem and soft on the people.
Q: I understand you spent some time in the military. Did your Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) career inform your approach?
LL: I spent nearly 11 years in the military. My service in the CAF built upon my desire to contribute something tangible to my community and to the Canadian mosaic. But mostly I joined when I was 19, when the thought of going off to see the world was very appealing.
I traveled all over the world for several years on Department of National Defense transport aircraft, bringing troops and families in and out of war and peace-keeping zones. I learned first hand the importance of mediated solutions in places like Cyprus and Egypt, where the formal peace-keeping role of Canada’s Armed Forces prevented war and kept the local civilian populations safe. These experiences became the foundation of my dispute resolution value system, which I now bring to Family Law.
In 1990, Canada’s Minister of National Defense appointed me to the Minister’s Advisory Board on Women in the Canadian Forces. During my three-year appointment, I advised the Minister on gender integration policy such as the role of women in combat. I believe my efforts helped to lay a foundation for young men and women of Canada to serve their country equally and without discrimination.
Q: What is life like for you today?
LL: My husband, Peter, and I have been married for 39 years and have proudly raised our three adopted aboriginal sons to adulthood. Today,we enjoy spending time with our seven grandchildren.
I am also ‘Mom’ to whippets ‘Champ’ and his sister ‘Risk’ who both accompany me to work. Because Risk is still a puppy, much of my time and attention is spent on ‘Risk management.’ I am grateful for every opportunity to demonstrate the value of patience and love. Recently I was called upon to demonstrate that patience while discussing the importance of not chewing my shoes, my grandson’s present, my antique bench, etc. She is a smart pup, but with expensive tastes – My glasses, my coffee table have all succumbed to her many charms and have led to her nickname – “High-Risk.”
Suzen Fromstein is the author of Suits and Ladders, Ten Proven Ways to Keep Your Job Safe - with a few jokes thrown in. Suits and Ladders was an Amazon Best Selling Book in the Career Guides Category
Long Family Law Group
201, 9333 – 47 Street