Government of Canada announces judicial appointments in the province of Alberta

News release

March 6, 2020 – 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 judicial application process established in 2016. This process emphasizes transparency, merit, and diversity, and will continue to ensure the appointment of jurists who meet the highest standards of excellence and integrity.

The Honourable Melanie Hayes-Richards, a Judge of the Provincial Court of Alberta, is appointed a Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta. Madam Justice Hayes-Richards fills one of two remaining positions authorized further to the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1

Nathan J. Whitling, Q.C., Appellate Counsel at Aloneissi O’Neill Hurley O’Keefe Millsap Liberty Law in Edmonton, is appointed a Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta.  Mr. Justice Whitling replaces Mr. Justice K.G. Nielsen (Edmonton), who was appointed Associate Chief Justice effective May 17, 2019.

Shaina Leonard, Deputy Chief Federal Prosecutor at the Public Prosecution Service of Canada in Edmonton, is appointed a Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta. Madam Justice Leonard fills the last remaining position authorized further to the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1.


Justice Melanie Hayes-Richards was born in Pointe Claire, Quebec, and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia. After obtaining her Bachelor of Arts from Simon Fraser University in Criminology, she moved to Edmonton in 1995 and obtained a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Alberta. Since 2018, she has served on the Provincial Court of Alberta in the Criminal Division.

Before her appointment to the bench, Justice Hayes-Richards practised primarily in the area of criminal law, working as a Crown prosecutor and as Legal Counsel for the Alberta Court of Appeal. She has taught criminal law courses for police, prosecutors, law students, and others in the legal community.

When not practising law, Justice Hayes-Richards enjoys playing soccer and golf and supporting her children in their sports activities.

Justice Nathan J. Whitling, Q.C., graduated from the University of Alberta Faculty of Law in 1997, and was awarded the Horace Harvey Gold Medal in Law. In 1998, he obtained his Master of Laws degree from Harvard Law School. In 1999-2000, he served as a law clerk to the Honourable Justice John Major of the Supreme Court of Canada. Justice Whitling has recently been appointed Queen’s Counsel.

For the first 15 years of his career, Justice Whitling carried on a diverse litigation practice at two large civil firms. He then moved to a criminal defence firm, where he focused his efforts on criminal appeals.

Justice Whitling has argued cases before the appellate courts of Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario, as well as the Federal Court of Appeal. He has also argued many cases before the Supreme Court of Canada.

In 2015, Justice Whitling was named one of the “Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers in Canada” by Canadian Lawyer Magazine. He has also been awarded the Alumni Award of Excellence by the University of Alberta, the Harradence Prize by the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association, and the Canadian National Pro Bono Distinguished Service Award.

Justice Shaina Leonard was born in Saint John, New Brunswick. She graduated from McGill University in 1999 and from the University of Alberta Law School in 2002. During the summers, she worked full time as a maritime surface officer with the Royal Canadian Navy, Naval Reserve. Justice Leonard clerked with the Alberta Court of Appeal and the Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary. She was called to the bar in 2003 and joined the firm of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP in Calgary.

In 2006, Justice Leonard joined the Canadian Armed Forces as a legal officer.  In 2009, she was deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan, where she worked alongside American military lawyers as a legal mentor to the Afghan National Army. In 2012, Justice Leonard returned to the Naval Reserve and began full-time employment with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC). In 2017, she became the Deputy Chief Federal Prosecutor for the Alberta Region of the PPSC.

Inspired by her deployment to Afghanistan, Justice Leonard completed her LL.M. in 2014 at the University of Alberta with a focus on international law and post-conflict peacebuilding. For the last three years, she helped coach the University of Alberta Laskin Moot team.

Justice Leonard is fluently bilingual in French and English. In her spare time, Justice Leonard enjoys running (slowly) and playing the baroque cello and viola de gamba.

Quick facts

  • At the Superior Court level, more than 350 judges have been appointed since November 2015. These exceptional jurists represent the diversity that strengthens Canada. Of these judges, more than half are women, and appointments reflect an increased representation of visible minorities, Indigenous, LGBTQ2S and those who self-identify as having a disability.

  • The Government of Canada is committed to promoting access to justice for all Canadians. To improve outcomes for Canadian families, Budget 2018 provides 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.

  • 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.


For more information, media may contact:

Rachel Rappaport
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Justice

Media Relations
Department of Justice Canada

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