OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appointed Alberta-based judge Sheilah Martin to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Born and raised in Montreal, Martin was trained in both civil and common law before moving to Alberta to pursue her career as an educator, lawyer and judge.
She served on the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta in Calgary until June 2016 when she was appointed as a judge of the Courts of Appeal of Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
The Prime Minister’s Office cited her strong focus on education, equality rights and increasing the number of under-represented groups in law schools and the legal profession.
“I am confident that, with the wealth of experience she has gained over a distinguished 30-year career, she will be a valuable addition to the Supreme Court, an institution well respected in Canada and around the world for its strength, independence, and judicial excellence,” Trudeau said in a statement.
Martin worked as a researcher and law professor before being called to the Alberta bar in 1989. From 1991 to 1996 she was acting dean and then dean of the University of Calgary’s faculty of law. She taught courses about subjects ranging from commercial transactions to feminist legal theory.
From 1996 to 2005, she practised criminal and constitutional litigation in Calgary. Martin was appointed to the Court of Queen’s Bench in 2005.
Martin was married to lawyer Hersh Wolch, known for his tireless advocacy on behalf of wrongfully convicted Canadians, including David Milgaard. Wolch died of a heart attack in July at the age of 77.
Martin’s nomination to the Supreme Court ensures the nine-member bench will remain at full strength after Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin retires Dec. 15.
Last year, the Liberal government brought in a new Supreme Court appointment process to encourage more openness and diversity, which also requires justices to be functionally bilingual.
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould noted this week that the government sought applications from judges in western and northern Canada to fill the opening.
On Monday, the House of Commons justice committee will participate in a hearing during which Wilson-Raybould and Kim Campbell, chair of an independent advisory board for Supreme Court appointments, will explain the selection process and the reasons Martin was nominated.
The Commons justice committee and the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee — as well as representatives of the Bloc Quebecois and the Green Party — will be invited to participate in a question-and-answer session with Martin on Tuesday.
McLachlin is stepping down after 28 years on the court, including almost 18 years as chief. A new chief justice is expected to be named soon.
McLachlin is the first woman to hold the top job on the high court and is also Canada’s longest-serving chief justice.