Government of Canada announces judicial appointments in the province of Ontario

News release

January 31, 2019 - Ottawa, Ontario - Department of Justice Canada  

The Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, today announced the following appointments under the new judicial application process introduced 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.

William S. Chalmers, managing partner at Hughes Amys LLP, is appointed a judge of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario in Toronto. He replaces Justice S.R. Goodman, who elected to become a supernumerary judge effective October 22, 2018.

Shaun O’Brien, General Counsel and Executive Director at Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), is appointed a judge of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario in Toronto. She replaces Justice C.T. Hackland (Ottawa), who elected to become a supernumerary judge effective October 28, 2018. Due to internal transfers effected by the Chief Justice, this position is located in Toronto.


Justice William (Bill) S. Chalmers was born in London, Ontario and grew up in various communities across the country. He attended grade school in Halifax and high school in Vancouver before his family settled in Toronto. He studied political science and economics at the University of Toronto and attended Osgoode Hall Law School, where he received several awards, including prizes in contracts and criminal law. 

Called to the Ontario Bar in 1987, Justice Chalmers practised law at Hughes Amys LLP for over 30 years. Before shifting his focus exclusively to insurance defence litigation Justice Chalmers practiced in a number of different areas including family, criminal, commercial litigation and administrative law. As an insurance defence lawyer, he handled over a thousand cases involving a wide range of insurance disputes, including arson and fraud, personal injury, product liability, class actions and insurance coverage. He was counsel in numerous reported decisions at all levels of court in Ontario. He was selected by his peers for recognition as an expert in insurance law.

For 12 years, until his appointment to the judiciary, Justice Chalmers served as the managing partner of his firm. Over that period of time, Hughes Amys LLP grew into a culturally diverse firm where the majority of the lawyers are women. 

In addition to his busy professional life, Justice Chalmers has been active in his community. He volunteered as a Scout leader and coached many soccer, baseball, basketball and hockey teams. As a Scout leader and coach, he had the opportunity to work with hundreds of young people. Justice Chalmers and his wife Sandra have two sons who are completing their studies and are about to embark on their own careers as lawyers. 

Justice Shaun O’Brien was born in Montreal, raised in Calgary, and for many years has lived in Toronto with her husband and three children. She graduated from Queen’s University with a B.A. (Honours) in English and received her LL.B. from the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, in 1998. She clerked for the Honourable Mr. Justice Strayer at the Federal Court of Appeal and was called to the Ontario Bar in 2000. 

Justice O’Brien began her litigation career at Blakes LLP. In 2002, she joined Cavalluzzo LLP, where she practiced for 16 years in a wide range of areas, including professional regulation, civil litigation, labour law, administrative law, defamation, and constitutional law. Justice O’Brien focused on systemic human rights and Charter challenges, including a challenge on behalf of nurses in recovery from mental illnesses and a challenge to the repeal of the federal long gun registry on behalf of women experiencing violence. She also argued complex professional regulatory discipline cases, often involving sexual misconduct or incompetence. In addition, she was lead counsel in a successful Supreme Court challenge to limits on voting rights for Canadian citizens living outside the country (Frank v. Attorney General of Canada).

Most recently, Justice O’Brien was the Executive Director and General Counsel of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF). She represented LEAF in several interventions related to the equality rights of women and girls and made submissions to Parliamentary committees. Justice O’Brien is the past president of the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, which provides services to women experiencing violence. She has also prioritized mentoring young women lawyers throughout her career. 

Justice O’Brien spends most of her free time with her family and close friends, often attending her children’s events and sporting activities. She is an avid reader and enjoys running, snowshoeing, paddle-boarding, yoga, tennis, and travel. 

Quick facts

  • Since 2016, the Government of Canada has made over 250 judicial appointments.

  • Canada’s judiciary is internationally renowned and respected for its independence and diversity. In October 2016, the government introduced important reforms to the appointments process, aimed at strengthening the selection process. Of the individuals appointed under the new process, over half are women, eight are Indigenous, 20 identify as visible minorities, 13 identify as LGBTQ2, and three identify as persons with disabilities.

  • The Government of Canada is committed to promoting access to justice for all Canadians. To improve outcomes for Canadian families, Budget 2018 will provide funding of $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 provided 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.

  • In addition, the Government will invest $6 million over two years, beginning in 2018-2019, to support the judicial discipline process through which allegations of judicial misconduct are investigated. In this way, 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.

  • 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:

Célia Canon
Communications Advisor
Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Media Relations
Department of Justice Canada

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