Justice Kristine Eidsvik from the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench held the position as a ‘judge in residence’ at the University of Calgary, Faculty of Law. In this position, she was teaching a class of second-year law students at the beginning of January and she told them a story about how uncomfortable she felt entering, “a judicial resolution room ‘full of big dark people.’” As a result of this insensitive remark, several students complained to the University. Justice Eidsvik circulated a written apology to the student body the next day recognizing that her remark was ‘wrong’ and ‘not appropriate’, and she acknowledged that it “could be construed as insensitive to racial minorities.” Justice Eidsvik resigned from her post as judge in residence and the situation has been reported to “Canada’s judicial watchdog” the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC). As per the Judges Act the CJC, “technically only has the power to recommend the removal of a judge for unfitness to remain on the bench.” This has led the CJC to ask the Federal government to amend the Act so as to provide for a spectrum of reprimands that can be administered to reported judges, rather than just the extreme option of firing a judge from their job.
Justice Eidsvik’s remark shines light on the prominent and existing issues of racial bias in our judicial system. As well, this situation further identifies that our law students and judges of tomorrow must be alive to issues of racism and sexism, and be perceptive adjudicators who represent the plurality of life experiences in Canada.