Government of Canada announces judicial appointments in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador

News Release

May 12, 2017 – Ottawa, Ontario – Department of Justice Canada  

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, today announced the following appointments under the new judicial application process announced on October 20, 2016. The new process emphasizes transparency, merit, and diversity, and will continue to ensure the appointment of jurists who meet the highest standards of excellence and integrity. 

Sandra R. Chaytor, Q.C., a partner with Cox & Palmer, is appointed a judge of the Trial Division of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in Grand Bank. She replaces Mr. Justice G.A. Handrigan, who elected to become a supernumerary judge effective April 8, 2017.

Frances J. Knickle, Q.C., Acting Director of Public Prosecutions with the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Justice and Public Safety, is appointed a judge of the Trial Division of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in Happy Valley Goose Bay. She replaces Mr. Justice C.R. Thompson, who elected to become a supernumerary judge effective December 4, 2016. Due to an internal transfer by the Chief Justice, the vacancy is located in Happy Valley Goose Bay.


Madam Justice Sandra R. Chaytor was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland (B.A., 1985) and Osgoode Hall Law School (LL.B., 1988). Called to the Bar in 1989, she has over 25 years’ experience practising litigation at Cox & Palmer, and has served as Deputy Managing Partner of the firm’s St. John’s office. She was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2007 and was named a Master and Taxing Officer of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2010. Madam Justice Chaytor was twice selected to serve as co-counsel to public inquiries in the province: the Commission of Inquiry on Hormone Receptor Testing, which investigated errors in breast cancer testing; and more recently the Inquiry Respecting the Death of Donald Dunphy.

In addition to balancing a demanding career and being the mother of two very active sons, Madam Justice Chaytor has committed herself to giving back to the community. Most notably, as a lifelong asthmatic, she has taken on leadership roles with the Lung Association at both the provincial and national levels. In 2007, the Lung Association presented Madam Justice Chaytor a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her years of dedication. In addition to receiving accolades within the legal community, she was also named among the Top 50 graduates of her high school in 50 years, as a result of her professional accomplishments and her volunteer work.

Excerpts from Madam Justice Chaytor’s judicial application will be available shortly.

Born into a fishing family in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Madam Justice Frances J. Knickle studied music and theatre before pursuing a career in law. She earned her B.A. in music from Acadia University. Soon afterwards, professional roles in both stage and feature film brought her to Newfoundland and Labrador and led to a lifelong love affair with the province and its culture. After receiving her law degree from Dalhousie University, she articled with the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Justice. She has worked with the Public Prosecution Division since being called to Bar of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1992.

After many years as a front-line trial Crown, Madam Justice Knickle developed a specialty in appellate advocacy, including several appearances before the Supreme Court of Canada. In 2013, she earned her Queen’s Counsel designation. She also became a designated agent under Part VI of the Criminal Code. Her most recent role has been as Director of Public Prosecutions (Acting), where she has endeavoured to inspire excellence in the practice of criminal law.

Madam Justice Knickle has been happily married to her husband, a local author, since 1993. Their daughter now attends university and, like her mom, intends to pursue studies in music.

Excerpts from Madam Justice Knickle’s judicial application will be available shortly.

Quick Facts

  • Budget 2017 proposes additional funding of $55 million over five years beginning in 2017-2018 and $15.5 million per year thereafter for 28 new federally-appointed judges. Of these new positions, 12 would be allotted to Alberta and one to the Yukon, with the remaining 15 being assigned to a pool for needs in other jurisdictions.
  • To ensure a judiciary that is responsive, ethical and sensitive to the evolving needs of Canadian society, the Canadian Judicial Council will receive $2.7 million over five years and $0.5 million ongoing thereafter. This will support programming on judicial education, ethics and conduct, including in relation to gender and cultural sensitivity.
  • Today’s appointments are separate from the Budget 2017 announcement.
  • Federal judicial appointments are made by the Governor General, acting on the advice of the federal Cabinet and recommendations from the Minister of Justice.
  • The Judicial Advisory Committees across Canada play a key role in evaluating judicial applications. There are 17 Judicial Advisory Committees, with each province and territory represented.
  • Significant reforms to the role and structure of the Judicial Advisory Committees, aimed at enhancing the independence and transparency of the process, were announced on October 20, 2016.
  • The Judicial Advisory Committees in ten jurisdictions have been reconstituted. Most recently, Minister Wilson-Raybould announced the composition of three new Judicial Advisory Committees on April 13, 2017.
  • This process is separate from the Supreme Court of Canada judicial appointment process announced on August 2, 2016. Nominees to the Supreme Court of Canada are selected by the Prime Minister from a thoroughly vetted list of candidates.


For more information, media may contact:

Kathleen Davis
Communications and Parliamentary Affairs Advisor
Office of the Minister of Justice

Media Relations
Department of Justice Canada

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