Jordana Goldlist has been a Criminal Defense lawyer in Toronto for just over a decade, and has been running her law firm JHG Criminal Law since 2015. She’s also worked with Lifted by Purpose (LBP) for three years as a guest speaker at past Tattoo Stories events. Earlier this year she talked to us about why she believes that LBP work is so vital in our community.
“It’s so unique, there are so many community-based groups that are targeting the same audience, but LBP comes about it in a different way. Take the Tattoo Stories, for example. So many of us are tattooed and telling our story through our tattoos. And it’s often a story of struggle or things we’ve had to overcome or situations of adversity. For Lifted by Purpose to approach youth and young people and give them a platform to tell their story through exhibiting their tattoos, I think is brilliant.” Being tattooed herself, she talks about how she also was afraid of the stigma tattoos can bring, especially into a work environment, and how much change has happened with the stigma around tattoos. “It’s amazing the rate of change. I remember when I first started working as a lawyer, I was hired in 2008, and I was so paranoid for anyone in the profession to know I was tattooed. And back then, I had less than a half sleeve and the back of my neck tattooed. I would not wear a t-shirt in the office. I would not wear a tank top even though it was like a thousand degrees. With the sun shining into my office, I would have my blazer on to hide the fact that I was tattooed. And now I have a full sleeve, right down to my hand, and I go to court without a second thought. People don’t think about it the same way they used to, which means we are breaking down the stigma.”
When she’s not defending people in court or public speaking at events, she currently runs several different non-profit programs, including her brand Who Judges the Judge? She came up with the concept of Who Judges the Judge? not to insult the role of a judge or our justice system but to create more balance for the people she represents. By using the Who Judges the Judge? concept as her platform, she can create a space to sell merchandise with her logo where the proceeds go to other organizations. For example, her t-shirts were created by The Royals, with all proceeds going to Enough is Enough, an organization geared at helping those impacted by gun violence in Toronto. The hoodies are designed by Get Drippd, and all proceeds go to Sheen for She, an organization aimed at helping young women who are marginalized, stigmatized, and experiencing homelessness. They prepare boxes of hygiene products, and sort of everyday products that women need and distributing them to women on the streets.
Jordana also discussed the importance of talking about mental health and why she believes we should keep the conversation going. “I think those suffering from mental health issues need to understand that they can talk about it in order to get help, to make it sound so basic. People that are ashamed to even admit they are struggling are not going to get help; so they are more likely to spin out. And whether that results in self-harm, suicide, violent, aggressive behavior, drug addiction, there’s a host of issues that flow from mental health struggles. I think the conversations around mental health forces people who are healthy see the signs of someone who is struggling, and they can reach out and try to help, recognizing this is in fact an illness. So, I think that for us as a society to open up the conversation helps everyone on both sides of the equation.”
She also discussed the importance of keeping a routine, especially during a pandemic, which has been a crucial part of her mental wellness. “For me, what was important was maintaining a routine, especially when the courts were locked down. It was hard. I’m someone who thrives on having a strict regimen. So, when I didn’t have anything in place to keep my daily routine going, I really struggled. I tried to maintain getting up around six o’clock every morning and working out for at least 30-45 minutes to get my day started. Then, I would get ready for myself for the day. I still had virtual meetings, calls from clients, and some remote hearings to attend. I just had to make sure that I had things in my schedule during what would normally be court hours.”
Jordana also talked about the need to make sure each day is filled with productive and positive things so that when looking at the calendar there is something to look forward to each day: “I think a part of mental health and wellness involves the way that we think, and right now it’s really easy to get caught up in negative thinking. We have to take control of the way we see the world around us in order to make sure we have a positive space to exist in.”
To see more of Jordana’s work, please check out her Instagram account @jordanagoldlist and her website: www.JHGcriminallaw.com
Written by: Michaela Wong