Shawna Hoyte, QC (LLB'94)

A day in the life

Shawna Hoyte, QC (LLB'94)

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We are all presented with challenges in life. I believe that what’s for me won’t go by me, as long as I have a positive attitude and believe in myself.

Using her knowledge to help others

Born in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia and raised in Truro, Shawna Hoyte lived in Toronto for over a decade before returning to NS in the early 1990s to study law at Dalhousie. During her last term, Ms. Hoyte enrolled in the clinical law program at Dalhousie Legal Aid Service and as a consequence, she didn’t return to Toronto to pursue a career in labour law as she’d intended.

“As a result of my time at Dal Legal Aid Service, I reconnected with the community,” Ms. Hoyte says. “I enjoyed the work and the people, and decided to stay in Halifax.”

Graduating and being called to the Nova Scotia Bar were important milestones for many reasons. “I raised two children on my own while studying,” Ms. Hoyte explains. So she’s quick to offer assurance to young women in a similar situation: “It’s doable as long as you develop a network of support and use services available in the community.”

In 1995, Ms. Hoyte joined Dal Legal Aid Service as a community legal worker and in 1996 she was offered a position as staff lawyer—and she hasn’t looked back. “As a young woman on the Dalhousie campus in the 1970s, I was always interested in social justice issues,” she says. “I felt Dal Legal Aid was the right place to do the work I wanted to do on behalf of African-Nova Scotian community.”

But Ms. Hoyte’s road to becoming a lawyer wasn’t always smooth. “I thought law school was going to answer all my questions,” Hoyte says. “But there were challenges.”

Dalhousie’s Indigenous Blacks & Mi'kmaq (IB&M) Initiative was established in 1989. When Ms. Hoyte began her degree in 1991, she says she “became more aware of issues of classism, sexism, and racism. But I found support in the law school’s staff and alumni, and from my peers and some professors.”

Regardless, Ms. Hoyte says, “I knew a law degree would open doors for me and I could use my legal knowledge and skills to help others. So Dalhousie Legal Aid was the right choice for me. It’s been a blessing and I’ve had much success.”

Ms. Hoyte is also very proud of having merged two professional careers: clinical social work and law. “They’re closely connected to the work I do here,” she says. “I’ve worked a lot with families and children. It’s been a challenge, but I’m always up for a challenge! It sure makes life interesting!”