Strategy 23
Track 1

Increasing the Number of First Nations Judges

Illustration from Austin Harry

Developing a coordinated strategy to create more opportunities for First Nations candidates to serve as judges in BC

The Challenge

In British Columbia, 95% of criminal cases are heard in the Provincial Court of BC, with only the most serious crimes being heard in the Supreme Court of BC. However, First Nations people are underrepresented as Provincial Court Judges, even though a large proportion of both victims and accused are First Nations.

In recent years, various jurisdictions, including the federal government, have prioritized diversity in appointments, including placing an emphasis on Indigenous peoples. Greater numbers of Indigenous judges can be an important factor in bringing the understanding of different lived experiences into the judicial function, integrating understanding of Indigenous history, culture, and experience into the judiciary, innovating new approaches to addressing over-incarceration, and rebuilding trust between First Nations and the justice system.

However, there are several challenges in identifying and recruiting First Nations candidates for appointments as judges, including: 

  • the relatively low number of First Nations lawyers
  • challenges that exist with retention of First Nations lawyers
  • lack of encouragement and support to apply
  • the reality that it may be particularly challenging for some First Nations lawyers to leave the forms of practice they have in the complete manner that judges must.

The Solution

BCFNJC recognizes that diversity and representation on the bench are an important value of the justice system, and while judicial appointments are subject to a structured, independent, process of appointment, there are steps that can and should be taken to effectively encourage and increase numbers of Indigenous judges. Through Strategy 23, BCFNJC will work with BC and its justice partners to establish an approach aimed at increasing the number of First Nations judicial appointments. This approach will include active reaching out to and encouragement of potential First Nations judicial applicants and opportunities for judges to mentor First Nations lawyers in the early years of practice.

Lines of Action

Work with the Law Society of BC, the Judicial Council of BC, the Canadian Judicial Council, BCFNJC and BC to establish an approach to identifying and encouraging potential First Nations candidates for judicial appointments.
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BCFNJC will develop a system for regularly reaching out to and encouraging potential First Nations judicial applicants.
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