Why She’s a Top 40: For using her skills in criminal law to stand up for people and animals in vulnerable conditions
Last year, an Alberta farmer who let more than 100 horses starve, some of them to death, was sentenced to a record-setting fine of $12,000 and a lifetime ban on owning horses. The Crown prosecutor on the side of the tortured animals was Moira Vne, a dynamic arts lover and part-time competitive roller derby player, who fully lives up to the stock phrase “spunky redhead.”
When Vne, a former vice-president of the Alberta Crown Attorney’s Association, shows up at the Edmonton Law Courts on her maroon scooter and walks up the steps to the entrance, it’s hard not to picture her doing it to the song “Bad to the Bone” – because she’s there to make sure justice is served.
It’s an urge instilled by her Nova Scotian mother, a teacher, and her Czech father, who was jailed and forced into labour at a coal mine because he defected from his homeland. “The experience of growing up in the home of someone who escaped from communism gave me a really fine-tuned sense of what’s just in the world,” Vne says.
She describes herself as someone with a “strong pull to help people [and animals] who are not necessarily in a situation to help themselves.” Before budget cuts forced Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development to end her contract, she was lead prosecutor for the last three years on all charges related to the Animal Protection Act. Vne still does some animal protection work, but is also taking on more occupational health and safety cases. Like the costly punishments she helped lay down on animal rights offenders, she says dollar signs are a way to make companies that neglect preventable onsite injuries pay attention. “So you need to make sure the penalty for these kinds of offences is more than the cost of doing [unsafe] business,” she says. Vne also offers volunteer support to women in the sex trade through the organization Crossroads.
In those moments of pondering another career – and Vne has them, just like anyone else – she thinks of the victim in one of her first cases as a crown prosecutor, an 11-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted. Six years ago, the girl handed a victory angel statuette to Vne, then 25, and thanked her for helping her through the process. “I still have it at work on my desk.”