Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada announces a judicial appointment in the Northwest Territories

News release

May 8, 2023 – Ottawa, Ontario – Department of Justice Canada  

The Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, today announced the following appointment under the judicial application process established in 2016. This process emphasizes transparency, merit, and the diversity of the Canadian population, and will continue to ensure the appointment of jurists who meet the highest standards of excellence and integrity.

Sheila M. MacPherson, a partner at Lawson Lundell LLP in Yellowknife, is appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories. Justice MacPherson replaces Justice S. Smallwood, who was appointed Chief Justice effective September 24, 2022.


“I wish Justice MacPherson every success as she takes on her new role. I am confident she will serve the public well as a member of the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories.”

—The Hon. David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada


Justice Sheila M. MacPherson was raised in northern Canada (Inuvik and Frobisher Bay, now Iqaluit). She graduated from Dalhousie Law School in 1987 and was called to the NWT bar in 1988. 

Justice MacPherson has spent her entire legal career in northern Canada, beginning with the law firm of Cooper Johnson (and its successor partnerships). When that firm merged with the regional law firm Lawson Lundell LLP in 2002, she continued as the senior partner within Lawson Lundell’s Yellowknife-based office. She was responsible for the management of that office and also carried on an active civil litigation experience. She was Law Clerk to the NWT Legislative Assembly for over 25 years.  She had extensive experience working in both the NWT and Nunavut in the area of child protection as well as family law.

Justice MacPherson was actively involved in the regulation of the legal profession, twice serving as President of the Law Society of the Northwest Territories as well as President of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada. She has a strong interest in human rights, having served as a commissioner with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. She was passionate about mentoring young lawyers and was a member of the organizing committees for the delivery of the intensive trial advocacy programs in both the NWT and iNunavut. 

Justice MacPherson is married and is the proud mother of a daughter, who is currently studying nursing.

Quick facts

  • At the Superior Court level, more than 605 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, 2SLGBTQI+, and those who self-identify as having a disability.

  • To support the needs of the courts and improve access to justice for all Canadians, the Government of Canada is committed to increasing the capacity of superior courts. Budget 2022 provides for 22 new judicial positions, along with two associate judges at the Tax Court of Canada. Along with the 13 positions created under Budget 2021, this makes a total of 37 newly created superior court positions. Since Budget 2017, the government has funded 116 new judicial positions.

  • Changes to the Questionnaire for Federal Judicial Appointments were announced in September 2022. The questionnaire continues to provide for a robust and thorough assessment of candidates but has been streamlined and updated to incorporate, among other things, more respectful and inclusive language for individuals to self-identify diversity characteristics.

  • 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.

  • The Government of Canada is committed to promoting a justice system in which sexual assault matters are decided fairly, without the influence of myths and stereotypes, and in which survivors are treated with dignity and compassion. Changes to the Judges Act and Criminal Code that came into force on May 6, 2021, mean that in order to be eligible for appointment to a provincial superior court, candidates must agree to participate in continuing education on matters related to sexual assault law and social context, which includes systemic racism and systemic discrimination. The new legislation enhances the transparency of decisions by amending the Criminal Code to require that judges provide written reasons, or enter them into the record, when deciding sexual assault matters.


For more information, media may contact:

Diana Ebadi
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Justice

Media Relations Office
Department of Justice Canada

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