First fe­male judge ap­pointed to Medicine Hat Pro­vin­cial Court

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Alberta - CON­TRIB­UTED

The Al­berta gov­ern­ment has ap­pointed three new judges to the Pro­vin­cial Court of Al­berta to en­sure Al­ber­tans have more timely and rep­re­sen­ta­tive ac­cess to jus­tice.

Ch­eryl Ar­cand-Koote­nay was ap­pointed to St. Paul Pro­vin­cial Court and Me­lanie Hayes-Richards was ap­pointed to Pro­vin­cial Court, Ed­mon­ton Crim­i­nal. Michelle Christo­pher was ap­pointed to Medicine Hat Pro­vin­cial Court – the first woman ap­pointed to that ju­di­cial district in the his­tory of Al­berta.

“Me­lanie Hayes-Richards, Michelle Christo­pher and Ch­eryl Ar­cand-Koote­nay are ac­com­plished women whose ded­i­ca­tion and ex­per­tise make them im­por­tant ad­di­tions to our Pro­vin­cial Court. A more rep­re­sen­ta­tive ju­di­ciary means all Al­ber­tans ben­e­fit from a greater di­ver­sity of ex­pe­ri­ence on the bench. Al­ber­tans de­serve to see them­selves re­flected in the peo­ple who pro­vide jus­tice in their com­mu­nity.”

Kath­leen Gan­ley, Min­is­ter of Jus­tice and So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral

The three ap­point­ments will fill va­can­cies in each court lo­ca­tion. In ad­di­tion to en­sur­ing the ju­di­ciary bet­ter rep­re­sents the pop­u­la­tion they serve, the new judges will hear more cases and in­crease Al­ber­tans’ ac­cess to jus­tice ser­vices.

“Ev­ery day, we hear from women in our pro­grams about how dif­fi­cult their court­room ex­pe­ri­ences can be – and their strug­gle to con­vey the se­ri­ous­ness of the vi­o­lence they and their chil­dren ex­pe­ri­ence. With the gov­ern­ment’s new fund­ing for vic­tims of crime, we are im­prov­ing how vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions are treated and seen in the court­room and, with this his­toric ap­point­ment, we are also pro­vid­ing role mod­els that have never ex­isted in our com­mu­nity be­fore. said Natasha Car­valho, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor, Medicine Hat Women's Shel­ter So­ci­ety.

Un­like Court of Queen’s Bench and Court of Ap­peal jus­tice po­si­tions, which the fed­eral gov­ern­ment ap­points and funds, the prov­ince both cre­ates pro­vin­cial court judge po­si­tions and ap­points judges to those po­si­tions. Of the 27 pro­vin­cial court judges the Gov­ern­ment of Al­berta has ap­pointed since 2015, more than half are women. Ch­eryl Ar­cand-Koote­nay is the third In­dige­nous judge ap­pointed in the last three years and Michelle Christo­pher is the first fe­male judge to serve in the Medicine Hat Pro­vin­cial Court.

Michelle Christo­pher, QC, was born in Drumheller. She re­ceived her bach­e­lor of laws de­gree from Dal­housie Law School and her mas­ter of laws from Os­goode Hall Law School. Called to the Al­berta bar in 1987, Christo­pher has ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence in the ar­eas of fam­ily, crim­i­nal and civil law, in­clud­ing as a pri­vate prac­ti­tioner in

Cal­gary, as youth crim­i­nal de­fence coun­sel with Le­gal Aid Al­berta and as a me­di­a­tor with the Pro­vin­cial Court of Al­berta and the Al­berta Court of Queen’s Bench. Prior to her ap­point­ment, she served as ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Stu­dent Le­gal As­sis­tance, fac­ulty li­ai­son for Pro Bono Stu­dents Canada and as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of law at the Univer­sity of Cal­gary. In ad­di­tion to her le­gal work, Christo­pher has served on the boards of nu­mer­ous ini­tia­tives and or­ga­ni­za­tions within the le­gal com­mu­nity, both lo­cally and na­tion­ally.

The Al­berta Ju­di­cial Coun­cil screens can­di­dates for pro­vin­cial court ap­point­ments. The Pro­vin­cial Court Nom­i­nat­ing Com­mit­tee (PCNC) then in­ter­views can­di­dates. The com­mit­tee pro­vides its rec­om­men­da­tions to the Min­is­ter of Jus­tice and So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral.

The Al­berta Ju­di­cial Coun­cil has rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Al­berta Pro­vin­cial Court, Court of Queen’s Bench, Court of Ap­peal and the Law So­ci­ety of Al­berta. It also in­cludes two in­di­vid­u­als ap­pointed by the Min­is­ter of Jus­tice and So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral.

The PCNC has 11 mem­bers rep­re­sent­ing the Al­berta Pro­vin­cial Court, the Law So­ci­ety of Al­berta, the Cana­dian Bar As­so­ci­a­tion (Al­berta Branch) and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the prov­ince’s le­gal com­mu­nity and the pub­lic ap­pointed by the Min­is­ter of Jus­tice and So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral.

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