The Honourable Michelle O’Bonsawin’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 Michelle O’Bonsawin.
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: Yes
Without further training, are you able to discuss legal matters with your colleagues in
- English: Yes
- French: Yes
Without further training, are you able to converse with counsel in court in
- English: Yes
- French: Yes
Without further training, are you able to understand oral submissions in court in
- English: Yes
- French: Yes
Part 6 – Education
Names of Institutions, Years Attended, Degree/Diploma and Year Obtained:
- Laurentian University, Faculty of Arts, 1992–1995, Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
- University of Ottawa, French Common Law Program, 1995–1998, Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.)
- Law Society of Upper Canada, 1999; Member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, 2000
- Osgoode Hall, 2012–2014, Master of Laws (LL.M.)
- University of Ottawa, 2016 to present, Doctorate in Law, Expected to be obtained in summer 2018
- Consero General Counsel Health Care Forum, Miami, Florida, October 2016
- Canadian Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, Annual Conferences, 2009–2015
- Continuing legal education: Labour, Employment and Mental Health Law
Honours and awards:
- Profile in Tête à tête: Initiatives pour renforcer la compréhension dans les cours du pays (September 2016)
- Recipient of the “Lexpert Rising Stars” prize recognizing Canada’s leading lawyers under 40 (2013)
- Recognized as a leading business woman by Canada Post on International Women’s Day (2008)
- Recognized as having leadership potential in the legal field by the Laurentian University Magazine (2006)
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:
March 2009 to present: General Counsel, Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, Legal Services, Ottawa, Ontario; specializations: mental health, employment, labour, human rights, Indigenous, privacy, access to information, and commercial
July 2000 to March 2009: Counsel, Canada Post, Legal Services, Ottawa, Ontario; specializations: employment, labour, human rights, privacy, access to information and official languages
2002 to 2003: Part-time professor, University of Ottawa, Faculty of French Common Law, Ottawa, Ontario; preparing and teaching the course Les autochtones et le droit over two terms.
July 1999 to May 2000 and May 1997 to March 1998: Counsel/Researcher, RCMP, Legal Services, Ottawa, Ontario; specializations: criminal and privacy
November 1999 to March 2000 and September 1997 to May 1998: Case Review Officer/Case Worker, University of Ottawa Legal Aid Clinic, Aboriginal Legal Services, Ottawa, Ontario; specialization: Indigenous law
Other professional experience:
List all bar associations and legal- or judicial-related committees of which you are or have been a member, and give the titles and dates of any offices you have held in such groups.
Member, Mental Health and the Law in Ontario Toolkit Advisory Group (2016)
Member, Liaison and Resource Committee for the Ottawa Community (January 1, 2016–December 31, 2018 – appointed by Chief Justice Smith)
Member, County of Carleton Law Association (2015–present)
Member, Ontario Hospital Association Law Commission of Ontario Project (2012–2014)
Member, Human Resources Committee of the Canadian Association of Counsel to Employers (2012–2013)
Member, Committee of the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group and Algonquin College for providing mental health services to Indigenous students (2010–2011)
Member, Ontario Hospital Association Hospital Counsel Connection (2009–present)
Active participant, Hospital Counsel Network concerning forensic psychiatry disputes (2009–present)
Member, Ontario Hospital Association Mental Health and Addiction Provincial Leadership Council Working Group (2009–2014)
Member, Canadian Bar Association (2000–present)
Member, Ontario Bar Association (2000–present)
Member, Canadian Corporate Counsel Association (2000–present)
Member, Canadian Association of Counsel to Employers (2000–present)
Pro Bono Activities:
Member, Board of Governors and Executive Committee of the University of Ottawa (April 2015–April 2018)
Coach, Team of the Collège catholique Samuel-Genest — OBA/OJEN mock trials for Law Day (April 2015–present)
Member, Gladue Reports Drafting Committee (2014–present)
Mentor, mentorship programs of the Canadian Bar Association, the Ontario Bar Association and the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association, and to students studying common law through the University of Ottawa’s Legal Mentorship Program for women (2009–present)
Volunteer, École élémentaire catholique des Pionniers (2009–present)
Member, Event Organizing Committee for National Aboriginal Day at Canada Post (2004–2009) and at the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group (2016)
Member, Legal Aid Clinic at the University of Ottawa, Board of Directors of Aboriginal Legal Services (2001–2003)
Teaching and continuing education:
List all legal or judicial educational organizations and activities you have been involved with (e.g. teaching courses at a law faculty or bar association, the National Judicial Institute, or the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice).
November 2016: Information session for students, Holy Trinity Catholic High School, Ottawa, Ontario; Mental Health Law
October 2016: Environment and Climate Change Canada, Executive Leadership Council, Ottawa, Ontario; Mental Health in the Workplace
August 2016: Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association, Annual Meeting, Ottawa, Ontario; Judgement: The Role of the Judiciary in Mental Health Appeals
March 2016: University of Ottawa, Faculty of Common Law, Ottawa, Ontario; La santé mentale et le litige: méthodes de rechange, règlement des différends
March 2016: Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, Ottawa, Ontario; Bill 122: Amendments to the Mental Health Act Regarding Long-Term Involuntary Patients
March 2016: North Bay Regional Health Centre, North Bay, Ontario; Consent and Capacity Board Appeals to the Superior Court of Justice: Learn How to Navigate within this System
February 2016: University of Ottawa, Health Law Students’ Association, Ottawa, Ontario; Career in Health Law and Policy
February 2016: Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, Ottawa, Ontario; Psychiatric Disability and Employment Law: A Workshop for Clinicians
December 2015: County of Carleton Law Association, Ottawa, Ontario; Mental Health: The Struggle with Stigma
November 2015: University of Ottawa, Faculty of Common Law, Ottawa, Ontario; Practical Experience in Labour Law
June 2015: The Royal's First Annual Patient Safety Conference, Ottawa, Ontario; Lessons Learnt From Coroners Inquests
May 2015: University of Ottawa, Conference on penal law and criminal justice, Ottawa, Ontario; Bill C-14 — Amendments to Part XX.I of the Criminal Code: A Knee Jerk Reaction
May 2015: Ontario Hospital Association, Mental Health and the Law Conference, Ottawa, Ontario; Health Care Consent Act: Current Issues
Mars 2015: Canadian Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, Annual Conference, Québec, Quebec; Forensic Patients: Diminished Expectation of Privacy Regarding Internet Access Privileges
March 2015: University of Ottawa, Common Law Program, Ottawa, Ontario; Mental Health Law
March 2015: Institut Philippe-Pinel, Montréal, Quebec; Les principes Gladue: application et conséquences pour les patients sous la gouvernance de la Commission ontarienne d'examen
February 2015: Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, series of seminars in forensic psychiatry, Ottawa, Ontario; Bill C-14: A Knee Jerk Reaction
February 2015: University of Ottawa, Faculty of Medicine, Ottawa, Ontario; When and How to Use Legal Services (Core Curriculum for 4th Year Psychiatry Residents)
2009–2015: Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, Annual Labour Law Update, Ottawa, Ontario; Recent Caselaw in Labour Relations
November 2014: Superior Court of Justice (Ontario) Fall Education Session, Toronto, Ontario; Treatment and Compliance: What Works?
November 2014: University of Ottawa, Common Law Program, Ottawa, Ontario; Practical Experience in Labour Law
November 2014: Canadian Bar Association and Canadian Corporate Counsel Association, Ottawa, Ontario; Privacy Law in the Health Care Profession
September 2014: The Canadian Institute's Forum for Corporate Counsel, Toronto, Ontario; Creating a Collaborative Work Environment: Establishing How the Legal Team Relates to Other Departments; Q & A with Industry Leaders
September 2014: Canadian Psychiatric Association, Toronto, Ontario; Psychiatric Disability and Employment Law: A Workshop for Clinicians
May 2014: Ontario Review Board 14th Annual Education Session, Toronto, Ontario; A Review of Charter Issues and the Jurisdiction of the Ontario Review Board; Gladue Principles: Application and Implications for Patients Under the Review Board
May 2014: Canadian Policy and Procedure Network Conference, Ottawa, Ontario; The Cohort of Four: Synergistic Human Resources Policies
March 2014: Bande abénaquise d'Odanak, Odanak, Quebec; Des clés à la portée de tous
March 2014: Canadian Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, Annual Conference (keynote speaker), Lake Louise, Alberta; Mental Health Law: A System in Transition — We've Come a Long Way Baby!
February 2014: University of Ottawa, Common Law Program, Ottawa, Ontario; Bill C-14: An Act to Amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act
February 2014: University of Ottawa, Health Law Students’ Association, Ottawa, Ontario; Le litige en santé mentale
November 2013: Human Services and Justice, 4th Bi-annual Conference, Toronto, Ontario; Gladue Principles and the Socioeconomic Marginalization
November 2013: Insight Information's Mental Health in the Workplace Conference, Ottawa, Ontario; Removing the Stigma: Practical Ways to Help Employees Return to Work
May 2013: Ontario Hospital Association, Mental Health and the Law Conference, Toronto, Ontario; Legal Frameworks for Hospitalization & Assessment Under the Mental Health Act
March 2013: Pacific Psychiatry and the Law, 9th Annual Conference, Vancouver, British Columbia; Gladue Principles and their Applications in Criminal Justice and Mental Health Systems: A Symposium
February 2013: Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, a series of seminars on forensic psychiatry, Ottawa, Ontario; Basic Law for Psychiatrists
February 2013: University of Ottawa, Common Law Program, Ottawa, Ontario; Mental Health Litigation
May 2012: Lancaster House Pre-Conference Workshop, Mental Illness in the Workplace, Ottawa, Ontario; Mental Health, Labour/Employment and Human Rights Law
2009: Canada Post, Annual Industrial Relations Conference, Ottawa, Ontario; New Trends in Labour Law
2008: Canada Post, International Women’s Day event, Ottawa, Ontario; Women and the Law
2008: Algonquin College, Conference on Aboriginal Peoples and the Law, Ottawa, Ontario; Aboriginal Law
2006: Canadian Bankers Association, Toronto, Ontario; Privacy Laws' Impact on Business
Community and Civic Activities:
List all organizations of which you are a member and any offices held, with dates.
April 2015 to present: Member, University of Ottawa, Board of Governors and Executive Committee, Ottawa, Ontario
2001 to 2003: Member, University of Ottawa’s Legal Aid Clinic, Board of Directors of Aboriginal Legal Services, Ottawa, Ontario
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?
My experience in mental health enables me to work in an area of law that is becoming more and more common before the courts. When I started working as General Counsel with the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group (the Royal), I specialized in labour, employment, human rights, Indigenous and privacy law. However, shortly after I started, I became aware and quickly recognized that there was a need for legal services for health professionals regarding files before the Consent and Capacity Board and the Ontario Review Board. Before I started at the Royal, psychiatrists attended most of their hearings without a lawyer. My advice and legal opinions were needed, given the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R v. Conway, 2010 SCC 22,  1 S.C.R. 765 (that judgment gives review boards jurisdiction to grant remedies under subsection 24(1) of the Charter), which has complicated these hearings a great deal more.
As I attended those hearings more frequently with treating psychiatrists, others took note of the legal services I provided and contacted me regularly for help. Clearly, the issues before the tribunals were becoming more legal and beyond mere treatment plan discussions. In addition, psychiatrists are not trained, nor should they be, to properly defend their treatment decisions that can have legal implications. Some family members contacted me with the treating psychiatrist before hearings to discuss their points of view, which helped me better understand the family dynamics and the impact that the mental illness had on the family. Consequently, I always keep everyone’s perspective in mind at these hearings, since review boards should be more inclusive than adversarial. The boards deal with important issues – the person’s mental health, well-being and autonomy – but, first and foremost, their decisions help remove stigma from mental health.
Since I started at the Royal, I have appeared before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, the Consent and Capacity Board, the Ontario Review Board, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the Ontario Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Appeal in mental health matters. As a result, I have developed a deep understanding of legal issues related to mental health. Because of that valuable experience, Chief Justice H. Smith invited me to be a member of the Liason and Resource Committee made up of members of the public and the judiciary. On that Committee, we identify specific issues and points of law, which help the Superior Court of Justice, Family Court, to run more smoothly. As part of the committee, I was able to share my knowledge of mental health and create a booklet on mental health and a resource guide for better mental health, which had been requested by Chief Justice H. Smith and Justice J. McKinnon of the Family Court.
My experience in mental health law also led me to make many presentations (for example, discussing mental health in the workplace at the Executive Leadership Council of Environment and Climate Change Canada, explaining the role of the judiciary in mental health appeals at the annual meeting of the Canadian Superior Court Judges Association, legal updates at the Canadian Academy of Psychiatry and the Law’s conferences, etc.). I worked a great deal on providing training to my clients, to the Institut Philippe-Pinel in Montréal, to the Ontario Review Board and to others on applying the Gladue sentencing principle to our people who have been found NCR or unfit to stand trial. I have also put together a team to create appropriate training for social workers and other health workers on how to properly write useful Gladue reports. In addition, I am currently leading a partnership program between the Royal and Algonquin College providing training opportunities at the Royal and providing mental health services to Indigenous students.
My goal is to continue to educate and raise awareness in as many groups and individuals as possible regarding the very specific and distinctive components of legal issues related to mental health. I would like to ensure that the stigma associated with mental health is reduced and one day completely eliminated. This applies not only to the general population but also to the judiciary. Thanks to these efforts, people appearing before tribunals and courts will hopefully receive the attention they need from mental health professionals. Quickly identifying mental health problems at the start of any legal proceeding would help individuals more quickly access the appropriate treatment they need to improve their mental health and to become productive members of society.
Accordingly, my biggest contribution to the law and the pursuit of justice in Canada is my efforts to help all stakeholders in the mental health field and others to clarify legal issues in order to have an inclusive and compassionate legal system for legal cases involving mental health.
2. How has your experience provided you with insight into the variety and diversity of Canadians and their unique perspectives?
As an Abenaki woman, I have a deep appreciation of the situation of Indigenous peoples. When I was a young Indigenous girl growing up off reserve, my family was discriminated against. I had a memorable conversation with my father when I was 8-10 years old. He asked me whether the other children laughed at me because I was Indigenous. I remember telling him that they made fun of my name, which was obviously very different from the others in my small Francophone community. My father had a sad look in his eyes and said that, when he was a child, the other children at his school laughed at him, pointed at him and said that he came from [translation] “that family” that lived on Sunnybrae Street. A teacher even told him [translation] “you have a last name for sleeping outdoors.” When I moved to Ottawa to study law, my world as an Indigenous person changed. Many recognized my family name (which actually means Pathfinder in Abenaki) as a renowned Indigenous name, which was made famous by a cousin, who is a filmmaker and an Order of Canada recipient, Alanis O’Bomsawin. I joined the Indigenous Law Students Association and began to get involved in Indigenous cases.
I also taught the course “Les Autochtones et le droit” for two semesters in the French Common Law Program at the University of Ottawa. I also gained perspective on obstacles faced by Indigenous women when I attended an event for International Woman’s Day in Odanak as a guest speaker. I have also remained in touch with my reserve. Thanks to my work at the Royal, I am responsible for the Indigenous Relations Program. I am constantly meeting with various Indigenous groups and institutions, such as Algonquin College, to work collaboratively in providing mental health services to Indigenous students.
I have seen how the Indigenous perspective can be different from that of the rest of Canada’s population, while recognizing that all our unique perspectives are at the heart of our country. Such experiences have also shown me that all Canadians are different and unique, while we all have common elements at the core of our points of view. By seeing these common points, I recognize that those are the elements we should focus on rather than any other points of view or beliefs. As Canadians, we must stop focusing on our differences and embrace diversity to move our country forward.
I also grew up in a Francophone community within an Anglophone-majority area. During my childhood and my adult years, I personally experienced how some people can include you while others exclude you and are insensitive towards your heritage. Even though I have been in such situations, I still believe that, as a nation, we are more inclusive and diverse than ever before. It is thanks to such experiences that a person can really be aware and perceive the unique perspective of Canadians.
In addition, I am a mother. As such, I have become aware of the life of young people and what it is to be a parent, which has helped me in the field of family law. I often meet as well with families in preparing for hearings on mental health. As a mother, I can better understand the family members’ concerns, which helps me appreciate them.
My extensive experience in legal issues related to mental health provides me with a window into a group of individuals that make up part of Canada’s diversity and variety. It also provides me with a glimpse into their unique perspectives. Thanks to my work at the Royal, I deal every day with mental health issues by meeting with psychiatrists, patients and their family members, and community groups. I regularly encounter diverse points of view from people who are suffering from or affected by mental health issues. With the constant increase in efforts to raise awareness in Canada’s population and to destigmatize mental health, my experience will help me to review all cases with an open mind. It is essential that our judicial system recognizes and supports the efforts made to raise the general public’s awareness of mental health.
It is important to address mental health problems to deal with criminogenic factors. Unfortunately, some criminal offences result from mental health issues. People who suffer from mental illness need appropriate specialized care, even when they are accused of a crime. With my experience in mental health law, I can share my understanding that treatment is the key to help reintegrate these people into the community.
As I stated above, my experience as a Francophone Indigenous woman, mother and professional working in the mental health and Indigenous law fields gives me the perspective that Canada is diverse because I am part of that diversity. My experience is a clear example of the rich diversity that makes our country so special to me and my family. My experiences have taught me that discrimination still occurs in Canada, but by being aware of these experiences and through my work in mental health, I believe that I can contribute to making our country a more inclusive society that is fair and just for all.
3. Describe the appropriate role of a judge in a constitutional democracy.
The role of a judge in a constitutional democracy requires the judge to be always objective and mindful of the pillars of the Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Charter). A judge must put aside all of his or her preconceived notions regarding all issues, groups etc. to ensure that he or she is objective throughout the process. The judge must be sensitive to the circumstances surrounding the issues before him or her. The judge must ensure that the decision rendered complies with the rights enshrined in the Constitution and the Charter. In the process of making the decision, the judge must recognize that “every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability” (section 15 of the Charter). It is essential to remove distinctions between groups and categories of Canadians. The judge must also be mindful that the Charter provides for the freedom of mobility (section 6) and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty (section 11). In addition, section 16 of the Charter is dedicated to Canada’s official languages. This applies to the judicial process, and I am convinced that every Canadian citizen has the right to be heard in either official language, French or English.
In addition, a judge must always interpret the Constitution as a living document, which must reflect the beliefs and aspirations of generations since its original coming into force. The Constitution must not be used as an obstacle to individual rights and must be interpreted in such a way as to deal with new issues unforeseen when the Constitution was first drafted. However, the principal aim of the Constitution is to treat everyone equally under the law, and the only way a judge can do this is to have an open mind and to interpret it as a living document.
A judge must demonstrate great skill in striking the delicate balance between the needs of the public and the rights of the individual. This is not always an easy task and it must be carried out by an independent and objective judge. Accordingly, a judge must remain free of influence or pressure. He or she must not engage in public discussions regarding matters before the court and avoid commenting on political issues.
One criticism that is often heard is that judges are out of touch. Things are constantly changing and the judge must adapt to respond to this change. A judge must keep abreast of changes in his or her country. Knowledge and flexibility will enable the judge to hear and consider the evidence to make a final finding on an issue. Furthermore, as matters progress through the judicial system, the judge must be able to ensure they move at a good pace and that all parties, witnesses, counsel and members of the public are courteous and respectful. Sound case management is key for an efficient judicial system. A judge must also take into account the recent judgment in R. v. Jordan (SCC 2016), which imposes a ceiling of 30 months on criminal matters at the Superior Court of Justice after a preliminary inquiry. Consequently, courts must be used appropriately and efficiently to ensure an appropriate process in a constitutional democracy.
The value of case law as precedent is the foundation of our democratic justice system. Precedent is an important feature of legal reasoning. A judge must properly assess whether the fact situation and the evidence before him or her fall under precedent, and if not, the judge must provide solid legal reasoning for disregarding the existing case law. A judge must therefore possess solid analytical and writing skills.
A very important role of a judge in a constitutional democracy it to bear in mind that his or her decisions may help protect vulnerable populations, those that cannot speak for themselves and are often exploited. It may be a person suffering from mental illness appearing before a court, a child who is caught up in a custody battle, an uneducated person who signed a lease with a residential facility, etc.
In addition, a judge must remain politically neutral. This is especially important at the Federal Court of Canada, which often interprets federal statutes and government initiatives. There is a delicate balance between constitutional and legislative powers.
Based on the above, it is clear that the role of a judge in a constitutional democracy is essential and vast and that it must constantly respond to change. It is crucial to enable access to justice in a politically neutral way and without external influence.
4. Who is the audience for decisions rendered by the court(s) to which you are applying?
The audience of the decisions rendered by the Superior Court of Justice and the Federal Court of Canada is varied. The parties to the litigation are the main recipients of the decision. This may include parents, children, guardians, accused and victims of various crimes, who are all present in court with different questions, concerns, fears and stories. A judge is, first and foremost, the first audience to the stories of the various parties. A judge must bear in mind that the members of his or her audience are the original tellers of the story that provides the building blocks of a decision. Appropriate consideration and reflection must be undertaken in this respect when a decision is made. The secondary audience may include the public, the legal profession, the government, academics, peers and the media. Because the audience of a decision is varied, a judge must write in language that is clear, concise and easy to understand. It is important to note that the judge is authorized to interpret legislation and case law that has an impact on the parties. The judge must be mindful that the public may be very well educated, somewhat educated, or uneducated. Clarity is key to rendering an appropriate decision, which must be solid and supported with good reasoning.
Structured analysis and critical thinking must be shown at the hearing, since there are expectations of a judge’s decision. The decision must be concise and show that the judge has thoroughly analyzed the evidence, which is clearly communicated to everyone. The judge must avoid using critical language, since the parties to the litigation have a personal interest in the outcome of the decision. It must be objective and based on a careful analysis of the evidence with the subsequent application of legislation and case law. The public must be able to easily understand the reasoning process behind the judge’s decision and to conclude that the judicial proceeding was fair. A judge should keep the attention of the audience during the entire reading of the decision.
A judge has a mandate to apply the law. His or her decision must be supported with good analysis and good reasoning with a careful review of the statement of important facts at issue and a review of the evidence, the parties’ arguments, appropriate review of the law, application of the law to all of the facts and a conclusion. The decision must have a solid basis and be an example of well-written legal reasoning so as to stand up to judicial review. Accordingly, the judge must speak to a wide audience, including academia.
In addition, a judge must provide answers to the arguments proposed by the losing party. The judge must be clear in his or her reasons to show that party the reasons why it did not succeed. The judge must also be mindful that the decision may be strongly criticized by the media and the academia; thus, the reasoning must be solid. A judge must not succumb to public pressure to make a decision that may be popular instead of basing it on existing legislation. The judge’s role is to interpret the laws enacted by the House of Commons or by the provincial legislatures, since the members of these legislative bodies were elected to legislate laws that reflect voters’ feelings and beliefs. As such, the judge should not make laws, but rather interpret them and counsel the legislatures through decisions when they must amend or even enact laws that reflect current needs. Accordingly, legislatures are also part of the audience for the decisions rendered by the judge, so consideration must be given when a ratio has significant effects.
Finally, past and future generations are also part of the audience for decisions rendered by a judge. The judge must follow the stare decisis principle, which provides predictability and consistency, while also working to move society forward progressively and in accordance with the law. Future generations are part of the audience because current decisions will have an impact on them. This guarantees a society that complies with the respective laws and reflects constantly changing beliefs that are inclusive and continue to lead Canadian society to evolve for the improvement of all its citizens.
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.
Public service has always been a field of great significance to me, and I have worked as an in-house lawyer throughout my whole career. I began my career at the Department of Justice, RCMP Legal Services; I was counsel with Canada Post; and I am now general counsel with the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group (the Royal), which manages two of the main mental health centres in Ontario.
As General Counsel with the Royal, I was able to meet the substantial requirements of the position while taking the time to finish my master’s degree in law at Osgoode Hall and being a mother to two wonderful boys. I am currently enrolled in the doctorate program in law at the University of Ottawa. In order to pursue my graduate studies, I am constantly balancing and successfully managing my schedule between work, university, and my personal life. I also frequently speak about mental health issues at numerous regional. provincial and national conferences, such as the fall session of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and annual meetings of the Canadian Association of Superior Court Judges and the Canadian Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. Through sharing my knowledge of mental health law with my peers, I firmly believe that mental health problems will be better understood and dealt with.
I also actively participate in varied community work, which provides me with the various perspectives of individuals and institutions. I have an open mind and I am a great listener. This is important to better understand the parties who appear before the justice system. I am a member of the Ottawa Community Liaison and Resources Committee; a mentor to lawyers from the Canadian Bar Association, the Ontario Bar Association, and mentorship programs of the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association and for common law students and the mentorship program for women at the University of Ottawa; and a coach for the Collège catholique Samuel-Genest team. I am also a member of the University of Ottawa’s Board of Governors and its Executive Committee, a former member of the Aboriginal Legal Services of the University of Ottawa’s Legal Aid Clinic, and a member of the committee on drafting Gladue reports.
My curious but stubborn mind has always led me towards tough research questions until I am convinced that I have found the appropriate solution. I am skilled in various fields of law: mental health, criminal (Part XX.1 of the Criminal Code), labour and employment, human rights, Indigenous, privacy protection, access to information, and corporate law. Since I have often appeared before courts and administrative tribunals, I am familiar with the various civil and administrative procedures. I have a focused and intelligent perspective on issues, which is essential for correctly assessing the value of evidence.
I am respectful of and sensitive to the realities of others because of my work experience with a vulnerable clientele at the Royal. I believe these are important qualities for a member of the judiciary. I am known as a professional who always advocates for the interests of my clients, while recognizing that a fair and equitable process must always be applied in all situations. I always interact with my fellow legal professionals in a respectful, collegial and ethical manner.
My main fields of interest concern issues affecting Indigenous people and people suffering from mental illness. I am constantly meeting with these populations to better understand their needs. I have worked diligently over the years to provide services to these populations, which are neither well-served nor well-understood, by means of Gladue Reports and the provision of mental health services.
My experience as litigation counsel will also be beneficial as a judge. I am a dedicated lawyer, and I have regularly appeared before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, the Consent and Capacity Board, the Ontario Review Board, the Superior Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal for Ontario, all of which see me as a reliable lawyer. I also have excellent writing skills. I regularly draft various legal documents, including submissions, memoranda and agreements, which I am able to interpret and apply correctly. I have authored and co-authored numerous documents, such as “Canada's Bill C-14 [NCR]: A Knee Jerk Reaction to Sensationalized Not Criminally Responsible Cases”; “Mental Health Checklist: A Guide for Members of the Judiciary, 2016 — Le livret sur la santé mentale: un guide pour les membres du système judiciaire, 2016; Better Mental Health: A Judicial Resource Guide, 2016; and Better Mental Health: A Resource Guide, 2016.
I believe that my strengths would allow me be an active, progressive and productive member of the judiciary.
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