Gender Equality Within Our Judiciary
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was signed into law by Queen Elizabeth on April 17, 1982. It includes, in Section 15, “Equality Rights”. The original draft of Section 15 did not specifically extend equality rights to women but, after intense and effective advocacy from womens’-rights activists, Section 15 was amended to do so.
These rights ultimately rely for their enforcement on Canadian Courts. In April 1982, however, women were almost non-existent within the ranks of the Canadian judiciary. The first female Supreme Court of Canada Justice, Bertha Wilson, had only been appointed the previous month. Here in our Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, there had never been a female Judge. Women who turned to the Courts to enforce their new rights thus almost always found themselves making their arguments before men.
How are things different now, 38 years later?
The Supreme Court of Canada has had a female Chief Justice, Beverley McLachlin, who retired in 2017 after serving in that position for 17 years. Of the nine present Judges of that Court, four are women.
Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, we have three levels of Court; Provincial, Supreme Court, General Division (including Family Court) and Supreme Court, Court of Appeal.
There are 22 full time Provincial Court Judges in our Province. Of these, ten (including Chief Judge Pamela Goulding) are female and twelve are male.
There are twenty full time Supreme Court, Trial Division Judges in our Province. Ten of these Justices are female and ten (including Chief Justice Raymond Whalen) are male.
There are six full time Judges on our Court of Appeal. Of these, four (including Chief Justice Deborah Fry) are female and two are male.
In total, then, of the 48 Judges presiding on a full time basis in Newfoundland and Labrador courtrooms, 24 are female and 24 are male. Of the three Chief Justices, two are female.
We have not, however, actually achieved such exact gender balance as the foregoing totals omit “supernumerary” and “per diem” Judges. These are senior Judges who, though retired from full time duties, continue to sit part-time. There are, among the three levels of Court, twelve such Judges and eleven are male.
Returning to the original stated purpose of Section 15, Equality Rights, no fair minded person believes that this has been achieved for women within Canada or within our legal system. It does appear, however, that significant progress has been made with respect to the presence of women within our judiciary
- Geoff Budden
Comments are closed.
The content provided on this website is intended to provide information on Budden & Associates, our lawyers and recent developments in the law. Articles, blog posts, comments and other information on our website are not intended to be legal advice, may not be up to date and do not create a lawyer-client relationship between you and Budden & Associates. If you require legal advice, please consult with one of our lawyers directly.