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Indigenous judicial appointment reflects diversity on the bench

Judge Cheryl Arcand-Kootenay

“I was contacted by the Honourable Kathleen Ganley, minister of Justice and Solicitor General for the province of Alberta. (Minister) Ganley asked if I was prepared to serve the people of the Province of Alberta and I said yes.” —Cheryl Arcand-Kootenay

By Paula E. Kirman

Windspeaker.com Contributor

 

Cheryl Arcand-Kootenay was appointed to St. Paul Provincial Court on Nov. 6, one of three new judicial appointments by the provincial government.

“I was contacted by the Honourable Kathleen Ganley, minister of Justice and Solicitor General for the province of Alberta. (Minister) Ganley asked if I was prepared to serve the people of the Province of Alberta and I said yes,” said Judge Arcand-Kootenay.

Judge Arcand-Kootenay is a member of the Alexander First Nations and the third Indigenous judge appointed by the province in the last three years. She received her Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Alberta and was called to the Alberta bar in 1993.

She has spent much of her legal career appearing in different courts throughout Alberta in the areas of family law and child welfare, including as a roster lawyer for the Legal Representation for Children and Youth branch of the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, and legal counsel for AKO Child and Family Services, a delegated First Nation agency in Maskwacis.

As a youth, Judge Arcand-Kootenay contemplated a career as either an architect or lawyer. She pursued the latter when drafting classes revealed her lack of ability to draw.

“I honestly don’t know how I decided on law as a career, having had no knowledge or any contact with lawyers or the legal system. However, I’m very glad that I made that decision. That was my focus throughout my first degree in university which was a stepping stone towards law school. My first degree—Bachelor of Arts—allowed me to have a look and contact with the legal system through courses and volunteer opportunities,” she explained.

Outside of the courtroom, Judge Arcand-Kootenay enjoys spending time with her family, which includes three children, one of whom is in her third year of law school. She also takes part in kayaking and paddle boarding, as well as hiking, running, and competing in races. Besides sports, she does beading and knitting, and plans to support her two-year-old granddaughter in learning traditional dancing.

Judge Arcand-Kootnay anticipates “having criminal matters, family matters, child welfare matters and civil matters come before me in my courtroom.” Her goal is to “be a role model for the people I serve. I am hoping that when people see me in this position, they know that they too can set goals, have dreams and then achieve them.

In addition to Cheryl Arcand-Kootnenay, Melanie Hayes-Richards was appointed to Provincial Court, Edmonton Criminal. Michelle Christopher was appointed to Medicine Hat Provincial Court and is the first female judge to serve in the Medicine Hat Provincial Court.

In a media release, Minister Ganley said “Melanie Hayes-Richards, Michelle Christopher and Cheryl Arcand-Kootenay are accomplished women whose dedication and expertise make them important additions to our Provincial Court. A more representative judiciary means all Albertans benefit from a greater diversity of experience on the bench. Albertans deserve to see themselves reflected in the people who provide justice in their community.”

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