The Honourable Anne Louise Kirker’s Questionnaire

Backgrounder

Under the new judicial application process introduced by the Minister of Justice on October 20, 2016, any interested and qualified Canadian lawyer or judge may apply for federal judicial appointment by completing a questionnaire. The questionnaires are then used by the Judicial Advisory Committees across Canada to review candidates and submit a list of “highly recommended” and “recommended” candidates for consideration by the Minister of Justice. Candidates are advised that parts of their questionnaire may be made available to the public, with their consent, should they be appointed to the bench. The information is published as it was submitted by the candidates at the time they applied, subject to editing where necessary for privacy reasons.

Below are Parts 5, 6, 7, and 11 of the questionnaire completed by the Honourable Anne Louise Kirker.

Questionnaire for Judicial Appointment

[...]

Part 5 – Language

Please note that in addition to the answers to the questions set out below, you may be assessed as to your level of language proficiency.

Without further training, are you able to read and understand court materials in:

  • English: Yes
  • French: No

Without further training, are you able to discuss legal matters with your colleagues in: 

  • English: Yes
  • French: No

Without further training, are you able to converse with counsel in court in: 

  • English: Yes
  • French: No

Without further training, are you able to understand oral submission in court in: 

  • English: Yes
  • French: No

Part 6 – Education

Name of Institutions, Years Attended, Degree/Diploma and Year Obtained:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing, University of Alberta, 1987
  • Bachelor of Laws, University of Calgary, 1991

Continuing Education:

I have attended a number of continuing legal education seminars over the years (I have not kept track of them all). Most recently, I participated in Law Society of Alberta adjudicator training, including:

  • "Effective Decision-Making and Decision Writing", Law Society of Alberta, Tribunal Office, June 2016
  • "Assessing Credibility and Challenging Hearing Scenarios", Law Society of Alberta, Tribunal Office, October, 2016
  • "Decision Writing: Reasons", Foundation of Administrative Justice, September, 2012

Honours and Awards:

  • 2016 - Inducted as a Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers
  • 2014 - Women's Executive Network: Top 100 Most Powerful Women Award
  • 2012 - Queen's Counsel appointment
  • 2011 to 2017 - Best Lawyers in Canada (peer review): recognized in the areas of Appellate Practice (Lawyer of the Year, 2016); Corporate Commercial Litigation (Lawyer of the Year, 2017); Insurance Law (Lawyer of the Year, 2012); Legal Malpractice Law (Lawyer of the Year, 2014); Personal Injury Litigation; Product Liability Law
  • 2013 to 2017 - Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory (peer review): recommended in Litigation – Commercial Insurance and Professional Liability
  • 2004 - Lexpert’s “Top 40 Under 40” Lawyers in Canada
  • Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, 1st place Memorial and 4th place Canadian oral competition, 1991
  • William McGillivray Shield, University of Calgary, Faculty of Law, 1991
  • Gale Cup Moot Court Competition, 1st place Factum and 2nd place Canadian oral competition, 1990
  • Graduation address, University of Alberta, Faculty of Nursing, 1987

Part 7 – Professional and Employment History

Please include a chronology of work experience, starting with the most recent and showing employers’ names and dates of employment. For legal work, indicate areas of work or specialization with years and, if applicable, indicate if they have changed.

Legal Work Experience:

  • 1998 to present - Norton Rose Fulbright LLP (formerly Macleod Dixon), litigation associate/partner
  • 1991 to 1998 - MacKimmie Matthews, articling student/litigation associate

Non-Legal Work Experience:

  • 1987 to 1990 - Calgary Children's Hospital, Pediatric Nurse (full time prior to starting law school and during the summers after 1st and 2nd years; part time during the school year)

Other Professional Experience:

List all bar associations, legal or judicial-related committees of which you are or have been a member, and give the titles and dates of any offices which you have held in such groups.

  • Alberta Law Reform Institute, Board member (2010 - present) - see Part 8 below for list of ALRI Reports in which I have been involved.
  • Alberta Lawyers' Insurance Exchange, Advisory Board member (2014 - 2017)
  • American College of Trial Lawyers, Fellow (2016 - present)
  • Canadian Bar Association (1992 - present), Alberta Branch Chair, Insurance Law Section South (2001-2002)
  • Canadian Lawyers' Insurance Association, Law Society of Alberta Representative (2012-2014)
  • Law Society of Alberta, volunteer committee member/Bencher/President (1998-2017)
    • President (2016-2017)
    • President-Elect (2015-2016)
    • Access to Legal Services Steering Committee (2016)
    • Appeal Committee (2012-2016), Chair (2015)
    • Bencher and Volunteer Education Task Force (2013-2013), Chair (2014)
    • Budget and Financial Affairs Committee, Vice Chair (2014)
    • Claims Committee (2005-2014); Chair (2014-present)
    • Conduct Committee (2006-2008), Vice-Chair (2013-2014); Chair (2014-2015)
    • Credentials and Education Committee (2009-2014)
    • Executive Committee (2014-2017)
    • Finance Committee (Assurance Fund Adjudications) (2012-2017)
    • Gender, Equality and Equity Committee (1998-2001)
    • Governance Committee (2015-2017)
    • Innovation in Regulation (formerly Alternative Business Structures) Task Force  (2015-2017)
    • Insurance Committee (2003-2005), Chair (2012-2014)
    • Judicial Advisory Committee (Provincial Court) (2016-2017)
    • Non-Bencher Adjudicator Task Force/Selection Committee, Chair (2014-2016)
    • Policy Committee (established 2016), Chair (2016-2017)
    • Practice Review Committee (2002-2003; 2011-2012)
    • Strategic Planning Task Force (2016)
    • Trust Safety Committee (2012-2014)
    • Viscount Bennett Scholarship Selection Committee (2015-2016)
  •   Litigation Counsel of America, Fellow (2013-present)

Pro Bono Activities:

In addition to supporting Pro Bono Alberta through my work with the Law Society of Alberta, I have volunteered for many years as a mentor through the Law Society Mentor Program. The program provides less experienced lawyers with the assistance of more experienced counsel to ensure the public receives quality legal services. I have also acted on a pro bono basis for a number of individuals through the course of my career.

Teaching and Continuing Education:

List all legal or judicial educational organizations and activities you have been involved with (e.g. teaching course at a law faculty, bar association, National Judicial Institute, or the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice).

  • Instructor, Legal Education Society of Alberta, Intensive Trial Advocacy Course, 2011, 2012, 2017
  • Instructor, Legal Education Society of Alberta, Professional Practice and Ethics (Bar Admission Course), 2010, 2012, 2014
  • Instructor, "Running Your First Questioning", Legal Education Society of Alberta, 2014
  • Instructor, "The Rules of Court Interpreted - Class Actions, Amendments, Transitional Matters, Contempt and Abuse of Power," Legal Education Society of Alberta, 2011
  • Instructor, Civil Advocacy Skills Series - Motions, Legal Education Society of Alberta, 2010
  • Instructor, Civil Advocacy Skills Series - Final Arguments, Legal Education Society of Alberta, 2010
  • Chair, “e-Discovery & e-Evidence in Litigation,” Legal Education Society of Alberta, 2009
  • Chair, “Boot Camp - Basic Training for New Defence Lawyers,” Canadian Defence Lawyers, 2007
  • Panelist, “Negotiating Ethics and Best Practices in Civil Disputes,” Canadian Bar Association, Alberta and Saskatchewan Mid-Winter Meetings, 2007
  • Presentation, "Ethical Tug-o-war: The Tripartite Relationship between Insured, Insurer & Defence Counsel," Canadian Defence Lawyers' Boot Camp, 2007
  • Instructor, "Damages Developments and Trends - Assessment of Fatal Accident Damages: Impact of the decision of the Alberta Court of Appeal in Ferraiuolo v. Olson," Legal Education Society of Alberta, 2006
  • Sessional Instructor, Law and Medicine, University of Calgary, Faculty of Law, 2001- 2005
  • Instructor and mentor in Norton Rose Fulbright LLP professional development and diversity and inclusion programs

Community and Civic Activities:

List all organizations of which you are a member and any offices held with dates. [...]

  • Board member and Vice Chair, Salvation Army Health Council, which operated as the governing body of Agape Hospice and as an advisory board to the Calgary Health Region in the operation of the former Grace Women's Health Center (approx. 1997-2004)
  • Lakeview Community volunteer (Brownie leader 2000-2002)

Part 11 – The Role of the Judiciary in Canada’s Legal System

The Government of Canada seeks to appoint judges with a deep understanding of the judicial role in Canada. In order to provide a more complete basis for evaluation, candidates are asked to offer their insight into broader issues concerning the judiciary and Canada’s legal system. For each of the following questions, please provide answers of between 750 and 1000 words.

1. What would you regard as your most significant contribution to the law and the pursuit of justice in Canada?

When I went to law school, I didn’t know any lawyers, and I didn’t fully understand or appreciate the important roles lawyers and the courts play in our society. I was a pediatric nurse working at the Children’s Hospital in Calgary. I had worked through the illegal nurses’ strike in 1988 because I felt my professional duties prevented me from breaking the law, and instead required me to continue to care for my patients and their families notwithstanding the union's position in the labor dispute. I understood and respected the views of my colleagues who held a different view, and most understood and respected mine. We all appreciated that none of the issues, at any level, were easy to resolve.

My desire to understand how difficult issues like those at the center of the dispute could be resolved, without an erosion of professionalism or respect for the law, led me to apply to law school. By graduation, I had begun to understand the fundamental importance of our justice system as the underpinning of our democracy, the rights and freedoms of our citizens, and of the environment in which we conduct business and commerce. After my articling year, I remained in private practice, where my continuing interest in dispute resolution, professional practice and ethics, and the rule of law helped shape my career and led me to volunteer in a variety of capacities, including with the Law Society of Alberta, where I had the privilege to think carefully about, and to serve, the public interest.

While I have made what I hope are meaningful contributions to the development of the law in the context of my practice, and as a member of the Alberta Law Reform Institute, I believe my most significant contribution to the pursuit of justice in Canada has been as a Bencher of the Law Society. In that capacity, I learned about the forces of change affecting the administration of justice and had the opportunity to help lead the profession in responding to it. Without diminishing the significance of the work done by those who came before me, or that which remains to be done by those who follow, I am very proud of what the Benchers and professional staff at the Law Society accomplished during my tenure, including our work to:

  • promote diversity and equity in the legal profession;
  • respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action in a thoughtful and collaborative way that strengthens the profession's relationships with Alberta’s Indigenous communities;
  • support lawyers to achieve the standards the Law Society sets and to be proactive in avoiding complaints, with early intervention and resolution in situations where a formal regulatory response is not necessary to rectify the problem and protect the public;
  • assist the Provincial Government in its review of the legal aid system in Alberta and with the development of guiding principles the Law Society maintains should inform the analysis, including: protecting the independence of counsel; preserving the competence of legal service delivery; promoting the development of jurisprudence, especially for the vulnerable; and, promoting access to justice more generally; and,
  • increase the level of engagement of members of the profession in addressing the issues of our day.

Justice depends upon the unique role of lawyers in our society, just as it depends upon the important role of the courts. My work as a Bencher was directed at protecting the independence of the legal profession and ensuring that public confidence in the profession is maintained. These values are the cornerstones of the individual and collective public trust needed for lawyers to continue to discharge their fundamental role in the administration of justice.

2. How has your experience provided you with insight into the variety and diversity of Canadians and their unique perspectives?

My father came to Canada from a small industrial town in the north of England. He had nothing but his education. He found a mining job in Red Lake, Ontario and soon afterward, my mother joined him. They did not face the language barriers that many immigrants face, but my parents did overcome cultural and financial barriers to build a life for our family here. I have always respected their courage and perseverance. They instilled in me the belief that with the privilege we enjoy as citizens of this country comes great responsibility – the responsibility to work hard, and to respect and help others.

Also shaping my perspective is the fact that my husband and I have raised two wonderful children, who are now young adults finding their own ways to contribute. Having spent my career in a predominately male professional environment, I am acutely aware of the challenges my daughter and other women may face because of gender. I know that great and positive progress has been made in this area; however, true gender equality is not yet a reality. I have also learned about some of the unique challenges faced by the LGBTQ community and gained a deeper understanding of what it means to be marginalized, because my son is gay.

Beyond these personal influences, my professional experience, both as a nurse and as a lawyer, has given me insight into the diversity of Canadians and into the unique perspectives and challenges many face.

As a nurse, I cared for children and families from widely diverse backgrounds. I observed how race, religious beliefs, family status, gender, physical and mental disabilities, language abilities and barriers, and socio-economic factors can all have a profound effect on the well-being of people in our society.

Through the course of my legal career, I have had additional opportunities to meet and learn from a wide variety of people involved in equity and access issues within the justice sector. For example, I have been a participant in the Law Society of Alberta Justicia Project, including a recent education session with Caren Ulrich Stacy, the Founder of Legal Talent Lab and On Ramp Fellowship, which highlighted some of the retention and re-engagement challenges that persist in preventing gender diversity in the legal profession.

I have participated in Federation of Law Societies conferences and workshops, gaining insight into the difficulties faced by those who cannot afford or navigate the justice system. As part of that work, I have had the opportunity to meet with staff and volunteers of community organizations here and in other parts of the country that assist vulnerable people address legal problems, and to participate in a United Way poverty simulation that reinforced my perception about the degree to which poverty, at a very practical level, prevents access to legal and other services.

I have also had the opportunity to learn about the perspectives of Canada's Indigenous peoples. I participated in the 2016 Alberta Law Conference, Law Society of Alberta Plenary addressing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action. Following that session, the Benchers of the Law Society of Alberta had the benefit of an education session with Chief Wilton Littlechild, QC. I attended the Law Society of British Columbia Benchers' retreat last year which was focused on the TRC recommendations. We had the opportunity to listen to a number of Indigenous lawyers talk about their perspectives; Judge Marion Buller also gave an informative presentation about First Nations Courts, stressing the need for improvements to Indigenous sentencing considerations, and the possibility of extending principles from R. v. Gladue, [1999] 1 SCR 688, and R. v. Ipeelee, 2012 SCC 13, to Indigenous child welfare cases.

Finally, I have had the honor to participate in a Canadian Citizenship Ceremony. Talking to new Canadians from around the world about their backgrounds and hopes for the future in Canada was illuminating and inspiring.  

3. Describe the appropriate role of a judge in a constitutional democracy.

In a keynote address to Osgoode Hall Law School in 2000, Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella (as she then was) opened her remarks about the judicial role in a democratic society with a brief, but compelling, description of what a democracy is. She observed that "...the components of democracy are most starkly revealed in comparison to its antonym, totalitarianism. What democratic societies promote – and repressive ones do not – are the rights of its citizens and their participation in decision-making about the rules they will be governed by. Democracy promotes choice, voice and access to rights. Totalitarianism promotes none of those."

I share Justice Abella's view that this is a good place to start, and I can say it no better than she has done.

In our constitutional democracy, it is the Constitution (Constitution Act, 1982) that defines the roles and powers of each of the three branches of government – legislative, executive and judicial – and protects the rights of our citizens. It anchors the key values upon which our collective sense of freedom and safety relies; democratic governance, respect for fundamental rights and the rule of law, and accommodation of difference. (Supreme Court of Canada, “Word of Welcome from the Chief Justice of Canada”).

Within this simple framework, it is at once easy to see how the roles of the legislative and executive branches of government and of an independent judiciary complement one another to strengthen the values of a free and democratic society, and also hard to comprehend how so many countries struggle to achieve the peace we enjoy. Certainly, when we pause to reflect on the abuses of power, intolerance, and erosion of respect for the rule of law we see daily in the international news, it is difficult to understate the important role judges serve in our country.

Judges are responsible for resolving the legal disputes that citizens and the state ask them to decide. They are called upon to apply the law, impartially and on the basis of the facts as they find them. Some cases heard by the trial court involve disputes between private parties about the rights and obligations they owe to one another. Others involve conflicts with the state. Some cases require the court to apply, or advance as may be required, the common law. Others require the interpretation of statutes which reflect the will of the legislature. In any case where the parties themselves are unable to resolve the dispute, the courts provide a peaceful means for doing so.

In deciding the questions brought before them, judges play a critical role in supporting the rule of law – the principle that no person or institution is above that law, but rather must be guided by it – and they safeguard the essential elements of democratic governance. Judges are called upon to interpret the Constitution in defining the division of powers between the federal and provincial governments. They play a supervisory role over administrative tribunals created by legislators, and for those who believe a government, or those who act on its behalf, have violated their rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982), the court will rule upon the validity of the law or government action. If an infringement of rights has occurred, judges decide what remedy is appropriate. In adjudicating these claims and intervening when government conduct is not lawful or reasonable and demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society, or where an accused person's rights have been violated during an investigation such that use of the evidence would bring the administration of justice into disrepute, judges play an important role in defining the scope of and protecting the Constitutional rights of Canadians.

As more succinctly described by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, "... [a] strong and independent judiciary guarantees that governments act in accordance with our Constitution. Judges give effect to our laws and give meaning to our rights and duties as Canadians. Courts offer a venue for the peaceful resolution of disputes, and for the reasoned and dispassionate discussion of our most pressing social issues.” (Supreme Court of Canada, supra).

4. Who is the audience for decisions rendered by the court(s) to which you are applying?

The audience for any particular decision depends, to some degree, upon the nature of the issues in dispute and the significance of those issues for the parties involved and for others, including the public and government.

In all cases, the parties themselves can and should expect to understand the reasons for the decision made, particularly the party whose arguments have been rejected. In many cases at the trial court level, the audience for the decision may not extend beyond the parties, or perhaps the appellate court, given the trial judge's role to hear evidence, make findings of fact and then apply settled law to the particular facts as found. In other cases, court rulings during a hearing – as well as the ultimate decision – may attract broader interest and scrutiny.

Beyond an audience of other judges and lawyers, decisions in the civil litigation context regarding – for example, the interpretation of a contract – are important to the parties and may have implications for others in the same industry. A decision interpreting a statutory provision may impact other litigants and attract the attention of the government. Some cases engage issues of such economic, social or political consequence as to attract a wider audience within the community, including business leaders, advocacy groups and the media as well.

The same is true of administrative law decisions. At the narrow end of the spectrum are decisions that do not have significant implications beyond the unique factual circumstances of the case. Others, like the Court's decision in Alberta (Information and Privacy Commissioner) v. University of Calgary, 2013 ABQB 652, overturned by the Alberta Court of Appeal (2015 ABCA 118) and ultimately heard by the Supreme Court of Canada (2016 SCC 53), engage questions of broader concern, particularly for the legal profession and governments. At the widest end of the spectrum are decisions like those rendered by the superior courts in British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia addressing the question of accreditation of a proposed law school at Trinity Western University and the student covenant forbidding sexual relations outside of a heterosexual marriage. Those decisions are of importance to many across the country –including, in particular, members of the LGBTQ community and those with different religious beliefs. Lawyers and judges, prospective students, legal regulators, educators, academics, the media, and the public in general, also follow cases such as these with great interest.

Criminal cases are similarly multifaceted and represent one of the most closely watched areas of the courts' work. The reasons for decisions in criminal cases must be understood by the accused and those affected by the crime, but are often of interest to the media and the public at large. In this area of law, perhaps more than in others, court proceedings and decisions are the subject of media reports and social media commentary, with people sharing their thoughts and perspectives about the court process and outcomes. With social media revolutionizing the way people communicate and understand the world around them comes an increasingly wide audience of people from all walks of life attempting to comprehend what the courts are doing in some cases, and a new dimension to a judge's responsibility to conduct him or herself in a way that maintains public confidence in the justice system.

Whatever the case, I believe it is the judge's responsibility to listen respectfully and with an open mind, to ask questions as required to get to the heart of the issues and to understand the arguments, and to render thoughtful and informed decisions with clear and cogent reasons that the parties and others with an interest can understand.  

5. Please describe the personal qualities, professional skills and abilities, and life experience that you believe will equip you for the role of a judge.

My decision to apply for a judicial appointment is an extension of my desire to continue to learn about and contribute to the law and the pursuit of justice in Canada.

I believe I have earned respect from my clients and from my colleagues for my work ethic, my analytical abilities and skill as an advocate, and for my professionalism and ethics. Those who know me well would describe me as inquisitive and discerning, empathetic and reflective. I am patient and courteous, although I can be firm and direct when required. I am an astute listener. I am open minded and take care to avoid hasty judgment, but have no difficulty making, explaining and standing by my decisions. I am not afraid of addressing issues I don't immediately understand or of acknowledging what I don't know. I am, instead, curious and comfortable in my ability to learn. I take my work, but not myself, seriously.

I care deeply about my family and about my friends. I also care about the justice system and the people it serves, which I believe I have demonstrated with my work on behalf of the profession and in the public interest.

I understand that some degree of isolation is inherent in the role of a judge. Apart from the workload that requires long hours (which I am accustomed to), judges have a responsibility to avoid activity, association or public comment that may reflect adversely on their impartiality or interfere with the performance of judicial duties (Canadian Judicial Council, "Ethical Principles for Judges"). I am committed to and comfortable with achieving the high standards of conduct required.

The Supreme Court of Canada has said that "...the personal qualities, conduct and image that a judge projects affect those of the judicial system as a whole and, therefore, the confidence that the public places in it. Maintaining confidence on the part of the public in its justice system ensures its effectiveness and proper functioning. But beyond that, public confidence promotes the general welfare and social peace by maintaining the rule of law." (Therrien (Re), 2001 SCC 35, at para 110). All litigants should come away from court knowing that they were heard and treated courteously and fairly by an honorable, diligent and competent judge. Should I be asked to serve in a judicial role, I believe I have all of the personal and professional qualities to discharge my obligations with the impartiality, integrity, courage and skill required, while showing appropriate concern and respect for those whose lives bring them before the Court.

6. Given the goal of ensuring that Canadians are able to look at the justices appointed to the bench and see their faces and life experience reflected there, you may, if you choose, provide information about yourself that you feel would assist in this objective.

Please see my answer to question 2 above, and thank you for considering my application.


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