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Melissa Royle would describe herself as a bit of an argumentative kid growing up. It may not be altogether surprising, then, to see the St. John's native building a career in the law profession.
"In earnest, my desire to become a lawyer came from when I was studying political science," said Royle, who completed a bachelor's degree in the latter subject before graduating from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law.
Now an associate lawyer with Benson Buffett, specializing in civil and commercial litigation, Royle wears a few different hats in her day-to-day life. A political junkie who has been quite active for several years on the social media platform Twitter, she chairs Equal Voices Newfoundland and Labrador, a group dedicated to encouraging women to become involved in politics.
"It's pretty clear that in Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada-wide, there's a disproportionately low number of women running for elected politics," she said. "I think that having representation matters, for both policy reasons and for the actual outcomes, but also so that the populace can see themselves reflected in their elected officials. ... One of the things I like about Equal Voice is that it's a multi-partisan organization. I'm non-partisan — I've never been a member of a political party or worked for one, or anything like that. What I liked about this organization was it was a way to meet a lot of people interested in politics and advocate for a cause I believe in."
Beyond her work as a lawyer and involvement in politics, Royle is a co-host of the Rogers TV talk show "Out of the Fog."
1. What is your full name?
Melissa Ann Royle.
2. Where were you born?
3. Where do you live today?
Downtown St. John's.
4. What is your favourite place in the world?
Trinity. We have a little spot there where we try to spend some weekends in the summers. It's just such a beautiful community with so much history and a really great sense of community. I think it strikes the right balance of a peaceful getaway from the city, but there's also lots to do. You can relax or you can hike or go to the theatre or meet up with the people that are inevitably coming through town.
5. Who do you follow on social media?
I would say mostly politicians and journalists, or anybody poking fun at either of those two.
6. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I'm scared of dogs. I think I had a couple of bad experiences when I was very little, and I think dogs are smart enough that they can sense that you're scared of them, so they try really hard to then win you over, but sometimes that can make you more scared. But I'm working on it. Some of my friends have really good dogs that I try to spend a bit of time around, so I'm a lot better than I was.
I had a hamster (as a child) named Webster Vanna. Webster because I wanted to be smart, so I read words in the dictionary, and Vanna because it would spin its wheel.
7. What has been your favourite year and why?
I would say 2019. Why? I would say I had some fulfilling successes professionally, and I got married in August. Obviously, I knew how much I loved my now-husband (comedic Newfoundland actor Mark Critch). That's why I agreed to marry him. But planning a fairly big wedding in rural Newfoundland really reminds you of how much you love your family and your friends and how much they're there for you at the big moments in your life.
8. What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
I would say I had some really difficult legal files where you wish you could fix deeper problems happening in your client's life. When you're arguing for them in litigation, you truly believe that they've been wronged, but there's evidentiary issues, there's recoverability issues.
9. Can you describe one experience that changed your life?
I would say studying political science at Memorial University. I was always really interested in current events and politics when I was younger, but I thought that maybe I was kind of odd and didn't have people my own age to discuss that kind of stuff with. But then when I went to political science, not only did I meet the experts who are teaching us, but also classmates who are really interested in it and they also had many different perspectives and experiences. I learned to listen to other people's opinions about issues of politics and policy ... meeting those people and then seeing how studying political science could lead you into so many different career paths where you can hopefully make a difference.
10. What is your greatest indulgence?
Twitter. I have mixed feelings on it. Certainly, it can be a time-waster and there can be lots of negativity, but it's also a place to find people who share common interests with you and see different people's perspectives and find out what's going on in your community and around the world. I think it's good and bad. I block particularly terrible people, so I don't have to see them. I can go long periods without checking it, but once I have some free time, I can scroll through and spend too much time reading it.
Shoutout to everyone currently debating serious political topics while wearing a paper crown. 🙋🏻♀️👑 #christmascracker— Melissa Royle Critch (@melissaroyle) December 25, 2019
11. What is your favourite movie or book?
"Son of a Critch" (by Mark Critch). That's my favourite book.
12. How do you like to relax?
By going on a hike or even a little walk around the neighbourhood. I spend so much time inside because of my job that if I have the time and the weather is decent, or even sometimes if it's not, I like to get outside and get some fresh air. I would say the East Coast Trail up from Fort Amherst (is my favourite), because you get a really great view of the city and of the ocean, and it's a little less crowded than some of the other trails.
13. What are you reading or watching right now?
I actually just finished Carl English's book ("Chasing a Dream: The Carl English Story"). I got it two weeks ago. It was good — it was an interesting story.
14. What is your greatest fear?
Dogs [laughs]. Other than dogs, being the last millennial left in Newfoundland and Labrador.
15. How would you describe your personal fashion?
Pretty simple. I wear a lot of dresses for work. People think you're dressed up, but it's really easier to put on one thing. And my favourite dresses are from Sooley Designs, a local designer on Water Street.
16. What is your most treasured possession?
I have a congratulations card from my uncle, Jim Royle, from when I graduated undergrad. Cancer took him from us not too long after that. He wrote a really lovely message on the inside of the card that I imagine he meant for me to take with me after he was gone, and so I keep that card pretty close.
17. What physical or personality trait are you most grateful to a parent for?
Probably their generosity and ability to balance so many roles. Both my parents worked really demanding jobs and volunteered in the community and always made time to have real conversations with me and my brother about our days, currents events, our politics, our opinions and have some fun while doing it. And reading. They were always big advocates of reading, so I'm grateful they instilled that in us at an early age.
18. What three people would you invite to your dream dinner party?
I would say Joey Smallwood, Robert Bond and Helena Squires — not Richard.
19. What is your best and your worst quality?
Best quality I would say is I genuinely love meeting new people and talking to everybody. My worst quality, I would say I'm late all the time, and I try to blame it on optimism — I can fit all these things in one day, I would get the green lights. But really, it's something I need to work on.
20. What is your biggest regret?
I don't really have regrets. I definitely learn lessons a lot. But I try to amend my decision-making in the future. ... I can't really think of any big regrets — just lots of little ones, maybe.