Photo by Whitehorse Star
Photo by Whitehorse Star
The territory has its first-ever female chief justice of the Supreme Court of Yukon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Thursday.
Suzanne Duncan was originally appointed to the court in 2018.
As chief justice, Duncan replaces Ron Veale, who retired on July 25 after 20 years on the bench.
“I want to thank the outgoing chief justice, the Honourable Ronald S. Veale, for his service and dedication to the people of Yukon,” Trudeau said.
“Chief Justice Duncan brings almost 16 years of experience practising law in Yukon, and she will be the first woman to hold this position. I am confident that she will continue to serve Yukoners well in her new role.”
Chief justices and associate chief justices in Canada are responsible for the leadership and administration of their courts.
They also serve as members of the Canadian Judicial Council, which works to improve the quality of judicial service in the superior courts of Canada.
Chief justices and associate chief justices are appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the cabinet and the recommendation of the prime minister.
The Supreme Court is the highest trial court in the territory, with broad jurisdiction to try a wide range of civil and serious criminal matters.
Prior to her appointment to the court, Duncan was the in-house legal counsel for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation.
Previously, she worked for the Department of Justice in Toronto in 2001, before transferring to Whitehorse in 2006.
Throughout her time in practice in the Yukon, Duncan gained extensive litigation experience before Yukon courts, with a focus on Aboriginal law and Crown liability.
From 1993 to 2000, she was an associate and then partner with McCarthy Tétrault in Toronto.
During this time, she handled a range of labour law and civil litigation matters, and developed an immigration practice, including representing refugee claimants on a pro bono basis.
Duncan has also served on the executive of the Law Society of Yukon, as first vice-president and chair of discipline.
She has been a member and chair of the board of directors of the Yukon Legal Services Society, working to improve access to justice for people with low and modest incomes in Yukon.
In 2018, she was appointed chair of the Yukon Employment Standards Board, which hears appeals and provides recommendations on the minimum wage amount in Yukon.
Duncan previously served on the board of the Homes First Society, an agency in Toronto that provides stable shelter and support to individuals who are among the hardest to house. She is also a co-author of the book The Law of Privilege in Canada.
Born in Oakville, west of Toronto, she received a Bachelor of Arts from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., in 1982 and a Bachelor of Laws in 1985, as well as a Master of Laws from Osgoode Hall Law School in 2000.
She was called to the Yukon Bar in 2004.
Before beginning his two decades on the bench, Veale practised law in Whitehorse after moving here from Ontario in the 1970s.
He served as the Liberal MLA for Riverdale South and as the leader of the Yukon Liberal Party in the early 1980s.
Veale was also the territory’s unsuccessful Liberal candidate in the 1984 federal election, losing to then-Conservative incumbent Erik Nielsen.
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