The Honourable L. Bernette Ho’s Questionnaire
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 L. Bernette Ho.
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:
- University of Calgary, 1988-1992, B.A. (Honours) conferred in 1992
- University of Alberta, 1992-1995, LL.B. conferred in 1995
Honours and Awards:
- Alexander Rutherford Scholarship – 1988
- Crest Fund and Rocky View School Division Scholarship – 1988
- University of Toronto Book Award – 1988
- Alberta Heritage Scholarship (Louise McKinney Award) – 1991
- Faculty of General Studies – Dean's List – 1991 and 1992
- University of Calgary President's Award of Academic Excellence – 1992
- Faculty of Law – Dean's List – 1994
- Gordon C. Wright, Q.C. Memorial Award – 1995
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:
Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP (formerly Macleod Dixon LLP), from July 1995 to present, “Litigation and Dispute Resolution” and “Employment and Labour” practice groups: Over the first 5 years of my career, I had broad exposure to a variety of commercial litigation matters including insurance (personal injury), tort, breach of contract, corporate, real estate, employment, real estate and wills and estates. I spent two years working almost exclusively on a major litigation file for an oil and gas company, and then worked for another two years almost exclusively as hearing counsel on the Mackenzie Gas Project. Most recently, I have specialized as energy counsel engaged in regulatory and litigation matters, and I regularly advise provincially regulated employers on a number of privacy, human rights and employment law issues. I also provide support to our corporate department in relation to employment law issues in the context of commercial transactions.
Non-Legal Work Experience:
- Golf Shop Assistant, Bearspaw Golf and Country Club, May to September (1987-1992, 1994)
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.
- Law Society of Alberta – Professional Responsibility Committee, 2012 to 2014
- Law Society of Alberta – Assurance Fund Adjudications (Finance) Committee, 2015
- Law Society of Alberta – Conduct Committee, 2016 to present
- Law Society of Alberta – Justicia Project, Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP, Calgary office representative, 2015 to present
Pro Bono Activities:
- Volunteer, Ask A Lawyer legal clinic, Pro Bono Law Alberta, 2015 and 2016
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).
- Volunteer Instructor/Assessor, Legal Education Society of Alberta (LESA)/Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education (CPLED), 2001 to present
Community and Civic Activities:
List all organizations of which you are a member and any offices held with dates.
- Calgary Inter-Faith Food Bank volunteer, 2016 to present
- Calgary Salvation Army volunteer, 2016 to present
- Volunteer Consultant, Junior Achievement – Southern Alberta, 1999 to 2005
- Volunteer, Nationwide Tour, 2003 to 2005
- Director, Street Teams Society (Calgary), 1998 to 2000
- Volunteer, Olympic Oval Organizing Committee, 1990 to 2000
- Volunteer, Canadian Tour, 1999 to 2000
- Volunteer, Canadian Bar Association, Alberta Branch, Law Day, 1997 to 1998
- Volunteer, Calgary Winter Festival, 1989 to 1990
- Volunteer, Calgary Winter Olympics, 1987 to 1988
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?
I believe that I made my most significant contribution to the law and the pursuit of justice when I was acting as counsel to the proponent of a major resource infrastructure project (the “Project”). During the hearings specifically held to receive the views of the directly affected community members, I worked hard to promote access to and facilitate participation in the regulatory process.
Between 2005 and 2010, I was fortunate enough to be an integral part of the legal team acting on behalf of the proponent of the Project. If approved and constructed, the Project would have resulted in the largest pipeline system constructed and operated in Canada's North, consisting of over 1,800 kilometres of pipeline and related infrastructure being installed.
An unprecedented regulatory process was established in order for the Project to be scrutinized. Agreements were entered into between the National Energy Board ("NEB"), federal government agencies, and several Northwest Territory and Mackenzie Valley regulators in order to establish the single agency tasked with coordinating the review of the Project. Other agreements and terms of reference were developed in order to establish the Joint Review Panel ("JRP") tasked with conducting the environmental impact assessment of all aspects of the Project. From a legal perspective, the Project presented a myriad of legal issues and challenges, which cannot be readily summarized. Ultimately, a schedule for hearings before both the JRP and NEB was established in order to consider a wide variety of engineering, economic, environmental and socio-economic factors. Over the course of 2006, the NEB held 47 days of hearings in 15 communities throughout the Northwest Territories and northern Alberta, and in Whitehorse. Between February 2006 and November 2007, the JRP held 117 days of hearings in 26 different communities in the same geographic territories. The travel and work schedule was demanding, but incredibly rewarding and personally fulfilling.
While I have always regarded consultation as an important aspect of project development, working on the Project instilled in me a greater appreciation for the role I could play in facilitating consultation and open communication with community members. As we were travelling and, at times, spending weeks at a time in remote northern communities, I had a greater opportunity to interact with community members. During this time, my initial impression of Northerners being warm, caring and community-minded people proved to be true. I gained a better appreciation for the significance of their cultural practices, and in particular, those related to traditional harvesting and hunting methods. This allowed me to better understand the community members' views of possible Project-related impacts, both negative and positive, as questions were asked about how individual trapping lines might be affected by construction, how migration habits of wildlife may be impacted by operations, how communities might be impacted by the migrant construction workforce and how communities might benefit from business opportunities. In order to encourage community members to participate in the legal process established to receive their views and concerns formally, I tried to lessen the intimidation factor associated with participating in the formal hearing process. I explained to community members how to participate, what would happen when the hearing commenced, and how each individual would be called upon. I also tried to ensure that community members, and particularly the Elders, knew that translators were available in order to ease concerns regarding language barriers and promote participation. My goal was to encourage community members to participate in the process and ensure community members understood that the hearing process represented their opportunity to be heard.
Over time, I was better able to anticipate the types of questions and concerns that would be raised and tried to address those questions up front. I felt it was my responsibility to be an approachable, friendly face amongst the "traveling road show", before, during and outside of the formal hearing process. It was my responsibility to facilitate "access to justice" by promoting participation by community members in the Project's regulatory process, and by doing so, contribute in my own way to a more robust consultation process.
While massive infrastructure projects like the Project always create some measure of controversy, and there will always be areas of continuing disagreement, I firmly believe that a better project (and ultimately, regulatory decision) results from a thorough consultation process. By listening and facilitating communication about a project as significant as the Project, I believe that I made my most significant contribution to justice in Canada. As I reflect on my legal career to date, it is this body of work, and this specific contribution to the Project, of which I am most proud, because I believe that I did my best to serve the public interest, while at the same time serving my client's interests in advancing the Project.
2. How has your experience provided you with insight into the variety and diversity of Canadians and their unique perspectives?
I have had the benefit of a number of experiences which have provided me with insight into the variety and diversity of Canadians and their unique perspectives, some of which have been referred to in response to other questions contained in this application.
As outlined in the response to Part 11, Question 6, I am able to draw on my own personal experience for insight into the challenges presented to immigrants who move to Canada hoping for better things for themselves and their loved ones. I understand the drive to work hard and succeed. In addition, as a woman of Chinese origin, I understand and appreciate the cultural traditions and values instilled in me by my parents, including having unwavering respect for family elders and taking personal responsibility for the ongoing care and financial support of one's parents. Unfortunately, I also have insight into the perspective of Canadians who experience discrimination on the basis of skin colour or ethnicity.
My professional experience has also provided me with an opportunity to gain insight into the diversity of Canadians and their perspectives. As described in the response to Part 11, Question 1, I spent a significant amount of time in several Northern communities over a two-year period. This presented me with a tremendous opportunity to regularly interact with the incredibly warm and caring people who lived close to the proposed facility sites and along the pipeline. The vastly different geographic features and resources within the Northwest Territories also resulted in different concerns being expressed, as different traditional harvesting and hunting practices stood to be impacted differently by the proposed Project. I quickly realized that each community we visited had different views on the Project and potential Project-related impacts. While some viewed the Project as providing an opportunity for greater financial security, others viewed the Project as posing an unacceptable threat to their way of life, which they continue to fight to maintain. Therefore, in order to be effective counsel and promote Project consultation, it was critical to appreciate the unique issues and perspectives held by the different Indigenous communities located along the proposed facility sites and pipeline corridor.
I have also been fortunate to gain insight into the variety and diversity of Canadians through some of my volunteer experiences. I serve as our firm’s liaison with our Partnership in Education school, a school with a high English-as-a-second-language population. I have served in this capacity for the last ten years. One of the programs we initiated at the school is a writing contest. At times, students provide submissions which describe their lives prior to moving to Canada. It is eye-opening to gain insight into some of the experiences these students have had to live through. Some have fled war-torn territories and have lived as refugees. Others have left countries with restrictive religious practices or plagued by corrupt government regimes. I have appreciated the opportunity to gain insight into these students' background in order to better appreciate our interactions at the school, and better understand the experiences of these future Canadian citizens.
In addition, between 1998 and 2000, I sat on the Board of Directors of a non-profit corporation dedicated to providing young girls engaged in prostitution with resources and opportunities to leave Calgary street life. The Executive Director and two outreach workers spent hours making contact and engaging with the girls, trying to earn their trust and get to the point where the girls would consider accepting assistance despite their fear of or dependence on their pimps. As Board Members, we received regular updates regarding each of the girls in the outreach program. This afforded us the opportunity to understand how each girl came to be in her situation. We learned that the path to vulnerability and dependence was different for each girl. Some girls came from low-income homes, others from middle-income homes. Some girls had pre-existing drug dependency issues, or developed them courtesy of their pimps. Some girls dealt with self-esteem, depression or other mental health issues. Although my time with the Board was relatively short, it was incredibly rewarding because of the people I had an opportunity to work with and learn from.
I believe that my personal, professional and volunteer experiences have provided me with insight into the variety and diversity of Canadians and their unique perspectives. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that there are many other views and unique perspectives held by Canadians. If fortunate to be appointed as a Justice of the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench, I understand that it would be important to appreciate and consider different perspectives, as well as to look actively for opportunities to continue to gain insight into such perspectives through judicial education or other efforts.
3. Describe the appropriate role of a judge in a constitutional democracy.
To this day, I have a distinct memory of my grade ten social studies teacher likening the fundamental principles of a constitutional democracy to a three-legged stool, where each of the three legs of the stool represents a branch of government (legislative, executive and judicial) and the top seat of the stool represents the Constitution. Thus, stated simply, the role of a judge in a constitutional democracy is to play its part in upholding the country's Constitution. My teacher went on to explain that each of the three legs also had to work properly, which included respecting the important role played by the other legs in order to ensure that the stool remained balanced, or else the stool would no longer be an effective one. While my understanding of the role of the judge in a constitutional democracy has evolved over time, in my view, the analogy drawn between a stool and a constitutional democracy continues to be compelling.
In resolving disputes between parties, judges are necessarily and appropriately bound by the law as outlined in the Constitution, legislative instruments and the common law. Judges must fulfill the significant responsibilities associated with the office of judge in accordance with expected and established principles and norms. Where legislation or binding precedent is clear, then a judge must, in an independent and impartial manner, assess the evidence before the court, arrive at findings of fact and apply the law.
There are, of course, many occasions when the parties before the court have differing views as to what the applicable law is, or what the law actually stipulates. In such instances, a judge is called upon to use his or her own intelligence, skill and judgment to make a determination regarding the state of the law. In a case where legislation is at issue, it is important for a judge to interpret the legislation in accordance with established rules of statutory interpretation and binding precedents. Where there may be competing rules of interpretation or a lack of precedent, then it may be appropriate for a judge to be guided by the legislature's intent in enacting the statute. In this way, the judge will be respecting the role played by the legislative and executive branches of government, whose elected representatives are responsible for making the policy decisions reflected in legislation.
Judges also serve as a "check and balance" relative to the legislative and executive branches of government, since the legislative and executive branches of the government, as legs of the stool, are equally responsible for upholding the Constitution. An example of the interplay between the executive branch, the judiciary and the Constitution may currently be observed in the United States, as the judiciary reviews President Trump's executive order instituting a 90-day travel ban which has the effect of barring entry to the United States of people from seven Muslim-majority countries. If the courts in the United States ultimately determine that President Trump's travel ban violates the Constitution, some will criticize the courts for interfering in the political realm. Such criticism is, however, unjustified, as it is precisely the judiciary's responsibility to ensure that the Constitution prevails and it is important for the legislative and executive branches to be respectful of this important mandate. Further, judges must be able to make decisions free from undue influence and free from fear of reprisal from the government.
That said, it is important for the judiciary to be mindful of its role, as opposed to the role of the legislative and executive branches of government, and not usurp the legislative and executive functions. While a judge may determine that President Trump's executive order is unconstitutional, the judiciary should not actually re-write or re-draft the executive order, because that would represent a failure to recognize the different functions of the judicial, legislative and executive branches. There must be recognition that legislation and executive actions properly represent the policy decisions and directions made by the members of the government acting on their authority as the elected representatives of society.
To be clear, it is not improper per se for judges to make laws. Indeed, it is a judge's responsibility to make laws where such authority is left with the courts by the legislative and executive branch of government, or where interpreting the Constitution itself. Indeed, judges are tasked with the responsibility to make sure the laws change with the times. This is why it is important to appoint judges reflective of the diversity of Canadian society. Where judges are making new law, government and society as a whole have a right to expect such decisions to be reflective of and consistent with societal values. In a constitutional democracy, each branch of government must perform the responsibilities uniquely assigned to that branch of government. The three branches must also operate effectively relative to one another.
4. Who is the audience for decisions rendered by the court(s) to which you are applying?
There are a number of audiences for decisions rendered by the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench, starting with the immediate party litigants and ultimately, everyone in Canada.
The primary audience would be the parties directly involved in the cases heard by the Court of Queen's Bench. By way of example, in criminal matters, the most directly impacted parties would be the Crown, the accused, the victim and the lawyers representing each of those parties. The audience would also include the accused and the victim's own community, consisting of families, friends and supporters. Lay and expert witnesses, and perhaps a jury, may also be involved.
In civil matters, the most directly impacted would be the plaintiffs and the defendants (or applicants and respondents). Where any of the litigants are individuals, then again the individual's community, made up of his or her own circle of family and friends, also form part of the audience. Where litigants are corporations or entities, then directors, shareholders, employees, members, partners and associates, among others, may form part of the audience for that particular decision.
Governments, regulatory boards, tribunals and agencies may also be litigants before the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench, and so stakeholders involved in or impacted by any matters before such boards, tribunals or agencies are part of this Court's audience.
Of course, the audience for the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench is broader than just the immediate party litigants, because Canada employs a common-law legal system. Therefore, each decision represents a statement of the law which should be followed in accordance with the principle of stare decisis. This means that decisions made by the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench should be viewed by other courts as a precedent to be followed in other similar cases, and indeed, are binding upon the Alberta Provincial Court.
The significance of decisions as precedent within a common-law legal system cannot be understated. Lawyers review decisions in order to understand and advise clients as to the state of the law. Lawyers also use precedent as a means of predicting what decisions may be made in cases to be presented to the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench, or advocating what laws should be made in future decisions where circumstances have changed and new law is required. In order to function efficiently, lawyers and their clients must be able to rely upon previous decisions and know that a similar situation will not be decided in a materially different manner. It is critical that there be a degree of certainty and stability in the legal system in order to promote public confidence in the administration of justice.
Ultimately, in its broadest form, the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench's audience includes everyone in Canada. Canada's legal system is fundamentally premised on being open and transparent. The general public and the community-at-large have a right to know what is happening before the courts, as it is critical that the public have confidence in the justice system. Such confidence will only be instilled when the public considers that matters and issues are being addressed in the justice system in a timely and fair manner by judges at every level of court who are independent, impartial and acting in accordance with the rule of law. Members of the public also have a right to know what decisions are being made and express a view regarding such decisions.
The media and the prevalence of social media results in the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench being connected to its broader audience more than ever before. The live broadcast of the delivery of the verdict in R v Vader and the media's Twitter updates from the highly publicized R v Garland trial means that the public has unprecedented, timely access to what is happening before the Court. While Lord Chief Justice Hewart's statement from R v Sussex that it "[...] is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done" was written in the context of avoiding the appearance of bias, this statement could be read in a more modern and broader context to mean that the Court needs to be more aware than ever of the public perception of the administration of justice.
It is clear that the audience for the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench is broad and diverse. Different members of the audience will have different interests in the outcome of any decision, and audience members will almost certainly have differing views as to what decision should be made. While judges do not, and should not, make decisions based on what would be "popular" amongst the most, or even certain, audience members, in my view, it is nevertheless important for the Court to be mindful and considerate of all members of its audience when making its decisions. Regardless of an audience member's particular perspective, the audience must be able to review a decision and have confidence that the administration of justice, and the public interest as a whole, have been served.
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.
I believe that I have a number of personal qualities that equip me for the role of judge, beginning with the qualities I learned from my parents at an early age. After immigrating to Calgary, my parents opened one of the first Chinese restaurants in Calgary and everyone in my family was expected to help in any way possible. When I was old enough, I too went to the restaurant to help with anything I could, which first meant preparing cutlery roll-ups and wiping glasses. In time, my responsibilities increased to hanging coats and taking reservations. As a consequence, my siblings and I gained a sense of responsibility at an early age, and together, we learned the value of hard work, as well as the importance of treating customers with courtesy, honesty and respect. As my parents' restaurant started to experience success, my parents continued to stress the importance of these values, adding that it was important that we remain humble and be thankful. I remain thankful that my parents instilled such values in me and in my siblings. I maintain that having a true understanding of hard work and "service" has served me well in the legal profession, not only in relation to clients, but to the community at large as well.
I have long believed in the value of community service. In this regard, my older siblings served as role models, guiding me at a young age to understand the importance of becoming involved in my school community by participating in extra-curricular activities such as students' council, sports teams and school clubs. Later, my siblings volunteered outside of school, and so I followed suit volunteering for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and for the 1988 Olympic Games. I have attempted to serve my community whenever possible even to this day. Despite my busy practice, I continue to volunteer with the Calgary Inter-Faith Food Bank and the Calgary Salvation Army. I also take on volunteer initiatives through the firm, acting as partner liaison in our Partnership in Education with a Calgary junior high school and promoting our internal gender and diversity initiatives. Further, I volunteer with the Law Society of Alberta and spend countless hours mentoring junior lawyers, as I try to pass along the lessons imparted to me throughout my career.
I have spent my entire career practising with Macleod Dixon, which is now Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP. I have been fortunate to work with and learn from an incredibly talented group of professionals, both junior and senior to me. With respect to substantive legal experience, I had the good fortune of having broad exposure during the first 5 years of my career, working on a wide variety of civil matters that would be dealt with before the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench. I gained familiarity with personal injury, insurance, tort, breach of contract, corporate, real estate, employment and wills and estates matters. In time, I started to work in energy regulatory matters before the National Energy Board, the Energy Resources Conservation Board (now Alberta Energy Regulator), the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (now the Alberta Utilities Commission) and Joint Review Panels considering major energy infrastructure projects and rate matters. I now spend most of my time acting for provincially-regulated employers in relation to employment, human rights, privacy and disability issues. I also continue to act for energy companies in a wide variety of litigation and regulatory matters. Being exposed to a wide variety of matters and issues over the course of my career has forced me to be a quick learner. I am also able to distill significant amounts of information and focus only on the most important or relevant evidence. I feel I have proven time and again that I am intellectually capable of dealing with complicated factual scenarios and legal issues.
As most will attest, private practice also affords a great education in managing and navigating people and expectations. Communicating effectively is paramount and a skill I have worked hard to develop. A good communicator must be an active listener, be perceptive and be able to adapt to use a variety of communication styles in order to effectively engage with a particular person or audience. It is critical to be able to communicate effectively with witnesses, clients, governmental authorities, regulators, judges, members of the public, as well as other lawyers.
Another important skill to have as judge is the ability to assess a person's character, and I have had many opportunities to develop and apply this skill. As a litigator, it is important to work with witnesses and it is equally important to assess witnesses called by other parties in order to keep clients apprised on how the case is progressing. In addition, I have conducted investigations which require that I meet witnesses to alleged incidents, conduct interviews and make determinations as to what occurred and whether disciplinary action is required. I have also spent over 15 years participating in recruitment activities for the firm, acting as Chair of our Student Committee for 6 years. I have conducted countless interviews for summer and articling student positions. More recently, I have served on the firm's Promotions Committee, the committee tasked with interviewing and assessing the applications of senior associates to be admitted to the partnership. In both of these internal roles, I was entrusted by my partners to assess applicants' character in order to make decisions critical to building the firm.
Given all of the above, I believe that I have skills and abilities that equip me for the role of judge. These skills include the ability to listen, be thoughtful, be a good communicator and be a good judge of character. These, among others, are skills that I use and continue to develop on a daily basis, both in my professional life and in my personal life.
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.
In late 1969, before I was born, my parents made the momentous decision to immigrate to Canada from the Philippines in hopes of providing greater opportunities to their children. Both of my parents are of Chinese origin, and when they finally arrived in Calgary, Alberta in early 1971, they opened one of the first Chinese restaurants in the city. They were constantly reminded of the small size of the Chinese population in Calgary at the time but worked hard in order to build a successful business. They were firmly of the view that the path towards successful integration into Canadian society consisted of hard work, humility, and treating everyone in a respectful manner, and my parents were constant role models of this behaviour.
I was only 6 months old at the time my family immigrated to Canada, and so my early childhood was in many ways similar to that of a lot of Canadian children: I learned that both Mommy and Daddy went to work every day; I loved to get bundled up and play in the snow with the other kids in the neighborhood; and I grew up watching The Friendly Giant and Mr. Dressup on CBC.
When I was 5 years old, our family moved to the outskirts of Calgary, and so when it was time for me to start elementary school, I dutifully climbed on a yellow school bus to attend Andrew Sibbald Elementary School in Cochrane, Alberta. At the time, the grade one population consisted of approximately 60 students, 4 of us being visible minorities. Thankfully, despite being a "chubby" Chinese girl with a bad home perm, I was fortunate to form some strong friendships and maintained those friendships throughout elementary and junior high school. Although I was keenly aware of the fact that I was a visible minority, and proud of my Chinese and Filipino heritage passed along by my parents, I also felt as though I was well on my way to becoming a normal Canadian teen.
One day, when I was in grade seven and walking down the school hallway in between classes, another student blocked my way and called me a "chink". He yelled it out loud, right in my face and in front of two or three others who stood by and laughed. He then proceeded to sing, poorly, a line from a then-popular pop song, "Tokyo, I'm talking to you now", while pulling the outside of his eyelids in an upwards direction. Apparently, the student considered all Asians to be the same. In any event, while my parents had warned me of occasions when they had been called "chink" walking around Calgary, I was shocked. It had never happened to me personally and I had gone through six years of elementary school with essentially the same group of students without incident. Perhaps more disconcerting to me was the fact that I had known the student who yelled at me, as well as the onlookers, since grade one and we shared common friends. I was at a loss for words and was not sure how to react. In the end, I put my head down and walked to the bathroom in order to quietly hide in a bathroom stall. Eventually, I simply went to my next class and pretended the incident never happened.
I never spoke of the incident to anyone at the time. I was afraid to tell my parents because I did not want them to contact the Principal. I was afraid to tell my siblings because I did not want them confronting the student, believing that would just make things worse. I did not particularly agree with my older sister's view of "justice" since, at the time, she demonstrated a propensity for using her Kung Fu skills. I decided that my best course of action was to try to ignore the student. Though he continued to call me "chink" or "slanty eyes", and would occasionally tell me to "go home", I refused to give him the satisfaction of any sort of reaction. I pretended that his words were not affecting me, though I found them humiliating and hurtful. I was even more distressed by the fact that others in school found his behaviour funny. After a few months, he stopped and his family moved away from Cochrane after that school year, but I remained painfully aware of the fact that others in my school simply laughed and condoned his behaviour.
Thankfully, since then, I have only been directly confronted with such hateful comments on a few subsequent occasions, and never since entering university. It saddens me, though, to know that openly discriminatory and hateful remarks continue to marginalize so many in our society because of their skin colour, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability. We need to move past treating each other poorly based on meaningless differences, and at the same time, we need to appreciate each other for who we are. This is why it is important to have a Bench with justices reflective of the diversity of Canada, because that will signify an appreciation within the justice system of such differences and unique perspectives. In this regard, I have no doubt that if I am fortunate enough to be appointed, my appointment would further the objective of ensuring that the Bench has justices with faces and life experiences reflective of other Canadians.
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