Government of Canada announces judicial appointments in the province of Alberta

News release

May 4, 2018 – 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.

James T. Neilson, Q.C., a partner at Parlee McLaws LLP, is appointed a Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta in Edmonton. He replaces Mr. Justice E.F. Macklin, who elected to become a supernumerary judge effective April 6, 2018.

Nancy Dilts, Q.C., Vice President of Legal and Corporate Services at Ferus Inc., is appointed a Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta in Calgary. She fills a new position authorized under Bill C-44, the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1.

Anne Kirker, Q.C., senior partner at Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP, is appointed a Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta in Calgary. She fills a new position authorized under Bill C-44, the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1.

Jane A. Fagnan, Legal Counsel at the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, is appointed a Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta in Edmonton. She replaces Madam Justice J.E. Topolniski, who elected to become a supernumerary judge effective April 8, 2018.

April D. Grosse, a partner at Bennett Jones LLP, is appointed a Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta in Calgary. She fills a new position authorized under Bill C-44, the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1.


Justice James T. Neilson was born and raised in Paris, Ontario. He is a graduate of Trinity College, University of Toronto (Hon. B.A. 1976, majoring in history) and Osgoode Hall Law School (LL.B. 1979). Since his call to the Alberta Bar in 1981, he has practiced with the firm of Parlee McLaws LLP in Edmonton, primarily in the area of civil litigation at all levels of court in Alberta. His professional experience has involved a wide range of commercial and insurance-related disputes, including complex multi-party litigation. In addition, he has acted as counsel for residential school survivors in the Residential Schools Independent Assessment Process. He was certified as a Qualified Arbitrator by the ADR Institute of Canada and has practiced as an arbitrator in commercial and insurance cases. He has also been a member of the Bar in the Northwest Territories and Ontario. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2010.

Justice Neilson is past president of the Edmonton Bar Association and was a volunteer instructor in civil litigation for the Legal Education Society of Alberta (LESA) Bar Admission Course. He was a sessional chair and instructor at the LESA Civil Litigation Refresher Course at Lake Louise. He has served on several committees of the Law Society of Alberta, including the Practice Advisory, Audit and Conduct Committees. For the past ten years, he has been a volunteer legal advisor with the Edmonton Legal Centre and has also volunteered with the Civil Court Duty Counsel project. He has been a member of the Edmonton Community Legal Centre Board of Directors and the Board of Directors for the Legal Archives Society of Alberta.

Community service has been an important part of Justice Neilson’s life. He has contributed in many capacities to different non-profit organizations, including the Edmonton Community Foundation, the United Way of Edmonton and District, the City of Edmonton Historical Board, and Big Brothers Association of Edmonton District.

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

Justice Nancy Dilts earned her B.A. (Honours, High Honours) in 1995 and her LL.B. in 1988, both from the University of Saskatchewan. She began her career as a litigator, articling with the federal Department of Justice in Saskatoon and, after moving to Calgary, working at Milner Fenerty (now Dentons). In 1995, Justice Dilts joined Gulf Canada Resources as litigation counsel. In this role, she oversaw litigation across Canada and the US on oil and gas matters, environmental issues, shareholder disputes, regulatory licensing, and employment and human rights complaints. In 2001, Justice Dilts was named Vice President Legal and General Counsel of ConocoPhillips Canada. Since then, she has served as a senior executive with a number of energy companies, overseeing departments including legal, shared services, human resources, regulatory and government affairs.

Justice Dilts had the privilege of serving as an elected Bencher of the Law Society of Alberta (LSA) from 2012 to 2018. She acted as chair or vice chair of major committees including Practice Review, Credentials & Education, Conduct and Governance, and served as an adjudicator within the LSA’s regulatory mandate.   Justice Dilts has also served on the Boards of ALIA/ALIEX, the Alberta Lawyer’s Assistance Society (ASSIST) and the University of Calgary Law Faculty Council. Justice Dilts was awarded her Q.C. in 2012 and was named one of Canada’s Leading Women Lawyers in 2013.

While her profession is a big part of her life, family is at Justice Dilts’ core. She is the proud mother to three remarkable children, wife to Dave, daughter to Bob and sister to Barbara.

Excerpts from Justice Dilts’ judicial application are available.

Justice Anne Kirker holds a B.Sc. in nursing and worked as a pediatric nurse before attending law school at the University of Calgary. After her call to the Alberta Bar, she spent 26 years in private practice handling complex commercial and professional liability matters, earning recognition as one of the leading lawyers in her field. Through the course of her career, Justice Kirker appeared at all levels of court in Canada. She was frequently called upon to represent other lawyers and law firms, handling a broad range of legal issues arising in areas of contract and commercial transactions, insurance, family law, personal injury, real estate, conflict of laws, class actions, wills and estates, tax and criminal procedure.

In addition to her work as a partner with Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP and as chair of the firm’s Calgary litigation group, Justice Kirker has volunteered in various capacities in her community and worked to uphold standards of legal practice and improve the administration of justice. She served as a Bencher and President of the Law Society of Alberta, as a board member of the Alberta Law Reform Institute, and as a member of the Alberta Lawyers’ Insurance Exchange Advisory Board. A mentor to many young lawyers, she also volunteered her time as an instructor of trial advocacy, civil procedure, and professional practice and ethics, and published numerous continuing legal education articles.    

Justice Kirker was honoured with a Queen’s Counsel appointment in 2012. In 2016, she was inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a distinction extended to a limited number of experienced lawyers who have demonstrated excellence and whose careers have been marked by the highest standards of ethical conduct, professionalism and civility.

Excerpts from Justice Kirker’s judicial application are available.

Justice Jane A. Fagnan has resided for over 35 years in Edmonton. She received a B.Mus. from the University of Alberta in 1986, completed one year of the Français langue seconde program at Université Laval in 1987, and obtained an LL.B. from Université Laval in 1990. After writing common law transfer exams in 1991, she was admitted to the Alberta Bar in 1992, and articled and practised for several years at Snyder & Company. In 1998, Justice Fagnan accepted a position as legal counsel with the Court of Queen’s Bench in Edmonton and worked continuously for the Court for almost 20 years. In 2011, she obtained an LL.M. from Osgoode Hall Law School with a double concentration in criminal law and health law.

In her position at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Edmonton, Justice Fagnan worked with over 75 judges on substantive matters involving issues in criminal, administrative, family, commercial, estate and other areas of law. She was also involved in the work of various Court committees, created educational resources, provided language assistance on French files, and played a primary role in the administration of the Court’s articling program.

During her legal career, Justice Fagnan taught legal research and writing as a sessional instructor at the University of Alberta. She was active in the Research Section of the Canadian Bar Association and in the Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Alberta. In the community, she has participated as a member, volunteer, and fundraiser with Edmonton organizations such as Kids with Cancer, Toastmasters, the Mustard Seed, and the Chorale St. Jean.

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

Justice April D. Grosse grew up in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. She received her law degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 1997, where she was awarded the Law Society of Saskatchewan Gold Medal. Justice Grosse served as law clerk to the Honourable Justice John Sopinka and the Honourable Justice Ian Binnie at the Supreme Court of Canada before joining Bennett Jones in Calgary. She spent her whole career at Bennett Jones, joining the partnership in 2006 and the firm’s Board of Directors in 2015.

Justice Grosse maintained a diverse litigation practice, with particular experience in commercial, estates, policing and administrative law matters. She has been recognized by publications such as Chambers Global, Lexpert and Benchmark’s Top 25 Women in Litigation in Canada.

Prior to attending law school, a passion for languages led Justice Grosse to study French at the University of Saskatchewan (B.A. 1994) and l’Université du Québec à Chicoutimi. She remains committed to maintaining proficiency in both official languages and has enjoyed volunteer work with organizations that promote bilingualism, such as the Laskin Moot and French for the Future.

Justice Grosse has also volunteered in the legal and wider community through roles with the Calgary Bar Association, the Supreme Court Advocacy Institute, the Centre for Professional Legal Education and the Scarboro Community Association. She is a former player in the South Alberta Women’s Hockey Association. Justice Grosse is married with two young children, who deliver daily professional development courses in areas such as scheduling, dispute resolution, patience, wonder and love.

Excerpts from Justice Grosse’s judicial application are available.

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. 
  • The Government of Canada is committed to promoting access to justice for all Canadians. To improve outcomes for Canadian families, Budget 2018 proposes $77.2 million over four years to support the expansion of unified family courts, beginning in 2019-2020. This investment in the family justice system will create 39 new judicial positions in Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • In addition, Budget 2018 proposes funding for a further seven judicial positions in Saskatchewan and Ontario, at a cost of $17.1 million over five years.
  • The funding outlined in Budget 2018 comes on top of resources allocated under Budget 2017, which created 28 new judicial positions across the country.
  • Additionally, the Government will ensure that a robust process remains in place to allow Canadians to voice their concerns and submit complaints about judicial conduct to the Canadian Judicial Council and the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs. This investment of $6 million over two years, beginning in 2018-2019, will support the judicial discipline process through which allegations of judicial misconduct are investigated.
  • 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
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Media Relations
Department of Justice Canada

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: