3 of the 4 recent Nova Scotia provincial court judicial appointees announced on March 31 are women, and 2 of the 4 new judges are African Nova Scotian’s. This has been praised as a great step forward towards gender balance and racial diversity on the Nova Scotia bench. Justice Minister Diana Whalen has advocated for a bench that better reflects the people it judges. Many have praised these appointments as encouraging this better reflection of Canadian society. One of the purported benefits of gender and racial diversity, in addition to fostering a variety of experiences and perspectives, is that it will hopefully increase public confidence in our legal system.
Of the 38 full time provincial and family court justices in Nova Scotia, 18 are now women. This is the closest Nova Scotia’s bench has ever been to gender parity, and is a very welcome change from the decline in female judges the province has been in the past number of years.
The appointments likely have in some ways been influenced by the Marshall Inquiry. The Inquiry took a critical look at the wrongful conviction of Donald Marshall, including potential harm that the judiciary may have done. The criminal justice system needed reformation, and this has been welcomed by many people as a stride forward. One reform that critics are still pushing for is having the potential list of judges made public. Currently it is kept secret.
In January, Catherine Benton became Nova Scotia’s first female Mi’kmaw judge. That same day, Ronda Van Der Hoek, a female African Nova Scotian was appointed as well.
Undoubtedly, there are much needed changes that have not yet been realized, but these appointments can certainly be praised.