Government of Canada announces judicial appointment in the province of Ontario

News Release

February 22, 2018 – Ottawa, Ontario – Department of Justice Canada  

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, today announced the following appointment 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.

Karen D.M. Leef, a partner with Pender & Leef, is appointed a judge of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and a member of the Family Court in Durham. She fills a new position authorized under Bill C-44, the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1.


Madam Justice Karen Dawn Michèle Leef was raised in Ottawa. She received both her undergraduate degree (1992) and LL.B. (1995) from the University of Ottawa and was called to the Ontario Bar in 1997.

For nineteen years, Justice Leef was a partner at the law firm of Pender & Leef, specializing in the area of family law and child protection. She has been an active panel lawyer for Legal Aid Ontario throughout her career and has represented some of the most vulnerable members of our society. She was also a panel lawyer with the Office of the Children’s Lawyer, representing children in family and child protection proceedings for over fourteen years. 

Justice Leef was an active member of the legal community throughout her career. She served on many committees, including the Ottawa Superior Court of Justice Child and Family Services Act (CFSA) Bench and Bar Sub-Committee, and is the Past President of the Ottawa CFSA Defence Counsel Association. She has mentored young lawyers for Legal Aid Ontario and has participated in the planning and delivery of several continuing legal education programs, with a particular focus on the area of child protection. 

Outside of law, Justice Leef is an active volunteer with the Girl Guides of Canada and a novice dragon boat racer. She and her husband, Scott, have two young children.

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

Quick Facts

  • In 2017, the Minister of Justice made 100 appointments and elevations – the most a Minister of Justice has made in one year in at least two decades.

  • Of these appointees, half are women, four are Indigenous, and 16 have self-identified as a member of a visible minority population, LGBTQ2, or a person with a disability. 

  • Budget 2017 includes 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 have been 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

  • 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. Sixteen Judicial Advisory Committees have been reconstituted to date. 


For more information, media may contact:

David Taylor
Office of the Minister of Justice

Media Relations
Department of Justice Canada

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