Province appoints first female judge to Medicine Hat Provincial Court

By Charles Lefebvre
November 8, 2018 - 11:17am Updated: November 8, 2018 - 7:14pm


MEDICINE HAT, AB — The Alberta government has appointed three new female judges to the Provincial Court, including the first even woman appointed as a judge for Medicine Hat.

Michelle Christopher, Cheryl Arcand-Kootenay and Melanie Hayes-Richards were all announced as the latest judicial appointments on Tuesday, with Christopher being appointed to Medicine Hat provincial court. Arcand-Kootenay will be hearing cases in St. Paul Provincial Court, while Hayes-Richard was appointed to Provincial Court, Edmonton Criminal.

“Melanie Hayes-Richards, Michelle Christopher and Cheryl Arcand-Kootenay are accomplished women whose dedication and expertise make them important additions to our Provincial Court,” said Kathleen Ganley, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, in a statement. “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.”

The three new judges are filling vacancies in each court location, and will be able to hear more cases and help increase access to justice services for Albertans.

“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,” said Natasha Carvalho, executive director of the Medicine Hat Women’s Shelter Society, in a news release. “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.”

Christopher, who was born in Drumheller, was called to the Alberta bar in 1987, and has extensive experience in the areas of family, criminal and civil law. She has worked as a private practitioner in Calgary, a youth criminal defence counsel with Legal Aid and has served as a mediator with the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. Before her appointment, she was executive director of Student Legal Assistance, a faculty liaison for Pro Bono Students Canada and an associate law professor at the University of Calgary.

The provincial government creates provincial court judge positions and appoints judges, while the federal government appoints and funds judges in the Court of Appeal and the Court of Queen’s Bench. Since 2015, the province has appointed 27 provincial judges, with more than half being women, according to a news release from the province. Arcand-Kootenay is also the third Indigenous judge appointed in the past three years.

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