Women Chief Justices of Canada

Supreme Court of Canada

The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, P.C.,
Chief Justice of Canada

Chief Justice McLachlin spent her formative years in Pincher Creek, Alberta and was educated at the University of Alberta, where she received a B.A. (Honours) in Philosophy in 1965. She pursued her studies at the University of Alberta and, in 1968, received both an M.A. in Philosophy and an LL.B.

She was called to the Alberta Bar in 1969 and to the British Columbia Bar in 1971 and practised law in Alberta and British Columbia.  Commencing in 1974, she taught for seven years in the Faculty of Law at the University of British Columbia as a tenured Associate Professor.

Her judicial career began in April 1981 when she was appointed to the Vancouver County Court. In September 1981, she was appointed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. She was elevated to the British Columbia Court of Appeal in December of 1985 and was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in September 1988.  Seven months later, in April 1989, she was sworn in as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. On January 7, 2000, she was appointed Chief Justice of Canada. She is the first woman in Canada to hold this position.

In addition to her judicial duties at the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice chairs the Canadian Judicial Council, the Advisory Council of the Order of Canada and the Board of Governors of the National Judicial Institute.

The Chief Justice is the author of numerous articles and publications.

Photograph supplied by and copyright held by the Supreme Court of Canada, photo credit to Andrew Balfour.


La très honorable Beverley McLachlin, C.P.,
Juge en chef du Canada

La juge en chef McLachlin a grandi à Pincher Creek, en Alberta. Elle a étudié à l’Université de l’Alberta, où elle a obtenu un baccalauréat ès arts (avec distinction) en philosophie en 1965,  puis une maîtrise en philosophie et un baccalauréat en droit en 1968.

Admise au Barreau de l’Alberta en 1969 et au Barreau de la Colombie-Britannique en 1971, elle a exercé le droit en Alberta et en Colombie-Britannique. Pendant sept ans, à compter de 1974, elle a enseigné à titre de professeure agrégée permanente à la faculté de droit de l’Université de la Colombie-Britannique.

Elle a amorcé sa carrière judiciaire en avril 1981, à titre de juge de la Cour de Comté de Vancouver. En septembre 1981, elle a été nommée juge à la Cour suprême de la Colombie-Britannique.  Elle a accédé à la Cour d’appel en décembre 1985, puis est devenue juge en chef de la Cour suprême de la Colombie-Britannique en septembre 1988. Sept mois plus tard, en avril 1989, elle a prêté serment à la Cour suprême du Canada. Le 7 janvier 2000, elle est devenue la première femme à accéder au poste de Juge en chef du Canada.

Outre ses fonctions judiciaires à la Cour suprême, la Juge en chef préside le Conseil canadien de la magistrature, le Conseil consultatif de l’Ordre du Canada et le conseil d’administration de l’Institut national de la magistrature.

La Juge en chef est l’auteure de nombreux articles et autres ouvrages.



Chief Justice of Alberta

The Honourable Catherine Anne Fraser

Catherine Anne Fraser was appointed Chief Justice of Alberta in 1992, the first woman to be appointed chief justice of a province in Canada.

Born in Campbellton, New Brunswick in 1947, she graduated from the University of Alberta Faculty of Law in 1970 as the Silver Medallist and received her Master of Laws from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1972. She was admitted to the Alberta Bar in 1971 and appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1983. Chief Justice Fraser’s judicial career began when she was appointed to the Queen’s Bench in 1989. She was elevated to the Court of Appeal in 1991 and appointed Chief Justice of Alberta and Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal of the Northwest Territories the following year. On the creation of Nunavut in 1999, she was appointed Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal of Nunavut.

Over the past two decades, Chief Justice Fraser has been instrumental in advocating for the rule of law, judicial independence and human rights internationally. She has been involved in judicial education initiatives across the globe, including Australia, New Zealand, England, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Croatia, Taiwan, Zimbabwe and, most recently, in the Palestinian Territories. She has worked with judges from many of these countries and spoken and written on a wide range of topics.

Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Alberta

The Honourable A. Gail Vickery

On September 5, 2000, A. Gail Vickery was appointed as a Judge of the Provincial Court of Alberta to sit in the Family and Youth Court in Calgary, Alberta.  On July 1, 2004 she was appointed Assistant Chief Judge of this same Court. Just two years later, on May 12, 2006 she was the first woman to be appointed Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Alberta.

Chief Judge Vickery, a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, graduated law school from Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University in 1975 and articled with the firm of Macleod Dixon in Calgary, Alberta.  She became a partner of that firm in 1984.

In 1995 Chief Judge Vickery became an International Partner in Macleod Dixon .  As the Chief Representative of Macleod Dixon in the Republic of Kazakhstan, she established the Almaty office and then an office in Mongolia. The client base during her four years in Kazakhstan included international natural resources companies from Canada, England, Australia and the United States.  She acted for the Government of Kazakhstan in the largest privatization undertaken by that country.  Retained by the European Development Bank, she worked in Tashkent with the Government of Uzbekistan to develop guidelines for its proposed oil and gas regulations and, upon  the recommendation of the Canadian Government through the Canadian Embassy in Kazakhstan, she was retained by the Government of Kyrgyzstan to assist with maintenance of that country’s registration with The World Trade Organization.

In addition to her busy career, community work has always been important to Chief Judge Vickery. While a practicing lawyer, she acted as Director and Legal Advisor to Aunts at Large and was President of Calgary Family Services. She continues to support many community initiatives in her capacity as Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Alberta.

Chief Judge Vickery and her husband, William (Bill) Olson, reside outside Calgary. They are proud grandparents of eight grandchildren.


Chief Justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice

The Honourable Heather Forster Smith

A graduate of Queen’s University Law School, The Honourable Heather Forster Smith was called to the Bar in 1973. Known as a trailblazer, she entered the legal profession at a time when that career choice was still considered a non-traditional one for women, particularly in her area of practice — criminal law.

Following her call to the Bar, she was hired by the Department of Justice (Canada) as its first female Crown prosecutor. Her success in that role led to her appointment as senior counsel.

She was appointed a judge of the County and District Court in 1983. When that court merged with the High Court in 1990, she became a member of the Ontario Court of Justice (General Division). In 1996, Chief Justice Smith was appointed Associate Chief Justice of the Ontario Court (General Division). She was appointed as Chief Justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in 2002 and is the first woman to hold this esteemed position.

Throughout her legal career, Chief Justice Smith has served as a leader for women and for the administration of justice.

As Chief Justice, her passion for sound judicial process, good governance and the better administration of justice has been a driving force for change in the judicial system in Ontario, and for continuous improvement in access to justice for all Ontarians.

Chief Justice Smith is a member of the Canadian Judicial Council. She is married to Senator David Smith, Q.C., a former federal cabinet minister.

Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice

The Honourable Annemarie E. Bonkalo

The Honourable Annemarie E. Bonkalo was appointed Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice in 2007.  She holds a B.A. (Honours) from Queen’s University, an M.A. Criminology from University of Toronto and an LL.B. from Queen’s University.  Called to the bar in 1978, Chief Justice Bonkalo was appointed the first female Assistant Crown Attorney in Peel Region in 1978.  She was appointed as a judge of the Ontario Court (Provincial Division) in 1990, Regional Senior Judge Toronto Region in 2004 and Associate Chief Justice in 2005.  She has lectured in the areas of criminal law, advocacy and court administration.

The Ontario Court of Justice is one of Ontario’s two trial courts and deals primarily with criminal and family law cases as well as youth criminal justice matters.  It is also the largest trial court in Canada and is currently composed of 284 judges and 345 justices of the peace, serving a population of more than 12 million in a province that has a surface area of over 1 million square kilometres.

Prince Edward Island

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island


The Honourable Jacqueline R. Matheson

Information will be provided when available.


Chief Justice of Québec

L’ honorable Nicole Duval Hesler

L’honorable Nicole Duval Hesler accède au poste de juge en chef du Québec le 7 octobre 2011. Elle a été nommée à la Cour d’appel du Québec en 2006 et à la Cour supérieure en 1992. Madame la juge Nicole Duval Hesler a été admise au Barreau du Québec en 1968. Elle s’est jointe la même année à l’étude montréalaise Buchanan McAllister, plus tard connue sous le nom de McAllister, Blakely, Hesler et Lapierre, et y devint associée en 1976.

Pendant les vingt-quatre (24) années de pratique qui ont précédé sa nomination comme juge, madame Duval Hesler s’est spécialisée dans le litige, notamment en matière de responsabilité civile, de responsabilité pour produits, de droit de la construction, de faillite et de droit environnemental. Elle a représenté l’Ordre des architectes devant le Comité parlementaire de la législature provinciale sur l’avant-projet de réforme du Code civil de la province de Québec.

Parallèlement, madame Duval Hesler a siégé comme membre et présidente de plusieurs tribunaux fédéraux des droits de la personne, ayant été nommée membre du Comité du tribunal des droits de la personne en 1979. Elle a donné des séances de formation à la Commission des droits de la personne du Québec en matière de preuve de la discrimination. Elle a de plus été nommée administratrice au Bureau de la Corporation professionnelle des médecins du Québec par l’Office des professions en 1990.

Avant comme depuis sa nomination à la Cour supérieure et à la Cour d’appel du Québec, madame la juge Duval Hesler a été fréquemment invitée comme conférencière en matière de droits de la personne, d’environnement, d’administration de la justice et d’autres sujets de droit, notamment à l’invitation de l’Association du Barreau canadien, de l’Institut canadien d’administration de la justice, de l’Institut canadien d’études juridiques supérieures (Cambridge Lectures), de l’Institut national de la magistrature, du Barreau de Montréal et de l’Association du jeune Barreau de Montréal. Elle a siégé au Conseil d’administration «Fonds pour le Droit de demain» de 1994 à 1998, ainsi qu’au Conseil consultatif du programme «The Law and you» à l’Université McGill en 1997. Elle a aussi siégé au conseil de gestion de The Osgoode Society en 1996 et 1997 et, par la suite, sur le Comité aviseur. Elle a agi comme co-présidente du comité d’éducation de l’Institut canadien d’administration de la justice de 1995 à 2001 et a présidé cet Institut de 2003 à 2005. Elle a fait partie du comité du Conseil canadien de la magistrature sur la formation des juges de 2006 à 2010. Depuis mai 2010, elle est la représentante de la Cour d’appel au conseil d’administration de Pro Bono Québec.


The Honourable Nicole Duval Hesler was elevated to the position of Chief Justice of Quebec on October 7, 2011. She was appointed to the Quebec Court of Appeal in 2006 and to the Superior Court of Quebec in 1992. The Honourable Duval Hesler was admitted to the Quebec Bar in 1968. The same year, she joined the Montreal firm of Buchanan McAllister, later known as McAllister, Blakely, Hesler & Lapierre, in which she became a partner in 1976.

During her twenty-four years of practice as a lawyer, Madam Duval Hesler specialized in litigation, particularly in the areas of civil liability, product liability, construction law, bankruptcy matters and environmental law. She represented the Order of Architects of Quebec before the National Assembly Committee on the reform of the Civil Code of Quebec.

On a parallel career track, Madam Duval Hesler was appointed a member of the Federal Human Rights Tribunal in 1979 and presided over many Human Rights Tribunals thereafter. She gave training seminars for the Quebec Human Rights Commission on the subject of proof of discrimination. In 1990, she was also appointed a member of the Board of Directors of the Corporation of Medical Professionals of Québec by the Office of Québec Professionals.

Both before and after her appointment to the Quebec Superior Court in 1992, as well as after her appointment to the Quebec Court of Appeal in 2006, Madam Duval Hesler has been a frequent lecturer on human rights, environmental law, the administration of justice and other legal topics, at the behest, among others, of the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice, the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies (Cambridge Lectures), The National Judicial Institute, the Montreal Bar Association and the Junior Bar of Montreal. She was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Canadian Bar “Law for the Future Fund” from 1994 to 1998 and served as member of the Advisory Committee for the 1997 program of “The Law and you” (McGill University). She also sat on the Board of Trustees for The Osgoode Society in 1996 and 1997 and on its advisory Board afterwards. She co-chaired the Education Committee of the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice from 1995 to 2001, and was president of that Institute from 2003 to 2005. She was a member of the Judicial Education Committee of the Canadian Judicial Conference from 2006 to 2010. She is the delegated representative of the Quebec Court of Appeal on the board of Pro Bono Quebec.

Chief Judge of the Court of Québec

L’ honorable Élizabeth Corte

Admise au Barreau le 11 janvier 1974, Élizabeth Corte a consacré sa pratique au Centre communautaire juridique de Montréal.

Au moment de sa nomination comme juge à la Cour du Québec, elle y occupait la fonction de directrice adjointe des services juridiques aux affaires criminelles et pénales.

Elle a enseigné le droit pénal à I’École du Barreau de Montréal de 1986 à 2000. Elle a également enseigné la procédure et la preuve pénales à I’École de criminologie de l’Université de Montréal. Elle a siégé à de nombreux comités sur les questions d’administration de la justice pénale.

Élizabeth Corte a été membre du conseil d’administration de la Société de criminologie du Québec et, jusqu’en 2009, membre du conseil élargi. Membre du conseil d’administration de l’Association des avocats de la défense de Montréal depuis 1993, elle en a été la présidente de 1996 à 1999. À compter de 1997 et jusqu’au moment de sa nomination comme juge, elle était vice-présidente de l’Association internationale des avocats de la défense, association dont elle est une membre fondatrice.

Au cours de sa pratique, elle a été régulièrement invitée à titre de conférencière ou d’experte, notamment en 1999 et 2000, par la Fédération des professions juridiques du Canada, à son Programme national de droit criminel.

Elle est nommée juge à la Cour du Québec le 15 novembre 2000 où elle siégera à la chambre criminelle et pénale. En octobre 2005, elle est nommée juge coordonnatrice adjointe à la chambre criminelle et pénale de la Cour du Québec à Montréal.

Le 21 octobre 2009, le gouvernement du Québec nomme madame Élizabeth Corte juge en chef de la Cour du Québec pour une période de sept ans. Elle est également présidente du Conseil de la magistrature du Québec.

Responsable de la direction de la Cour, elle en est aussi la représentante et la porte-parole, tant auprès du gouvernement qu’auprès des autres cours du Québec ainsi que des autres instances judiciaires canadiennes. Par les actions concrètes identifiées dans la Vision triennale de la Cour du Québec 2012-2013-2014, la juge en chef vise une administration de la justice axée sur une meilleure accessibilité à celle-ci.


Called to the Bar on January 11, 1974, Élizabeth Corte practised her profession exclusively at the Montreal offices of Legal Aid. At the time of her appointment to the Cour du Québec, she was the assistant director of legal services in criminal and penal affairs.

In addition to teaching criminal law at École du Barreau de Montréal since 1986, she has given courses on criminal procedure and evidence at Université de Montréal’s École de criminologie. She was also a member of many committees on the administration of justice in criminal matters.

Élizabeth Corte is a past member of the Board of Directors of the Société de criminologie du Québec and, until 2009, she was a member of the Advisory Board. Member of the Board of Directors of the Association des avocats de la défense de Montréal since 1993, she was also President of this association from 1996 to 1999. At the time of her appointment, she was Vice-President, since 1997, of the International Criminal Defence Attorneys Association, of which she was also a founding member.

During her law practice, she was regularly invited as a guest speaker or expert, notably by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, within its National Criminal Law Program in 1999 and 2000.

On November 15, 2000, she was appointed judge at the Court of Québec’s criminal and penal division. Then, in October 2005, she was named associate coordinating judge of that same division, in Montréal.

On October 21, 2009, the Québec government appointed Élizabeth Corte Chief Judge of the Court of Québec for a 7-year term of office. She is also the President of Québec’s judicial council (Conseil de la magistrature du Québec).

Responsible for the overall management of the Court, she is moreover the representative and spokesperson in dealing with the government and with the other courts in Québec as well as with all other judicial bodies in Canada. By the concrete actions identified in the Three-year Vision 2012-2013-2014 of the Court of Québec, the Chief Judge seeks to promote an administration of justice based on better access to it.


Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Saskatchewan

The Honourable Carol A. Snell

Judge Snell received her B.A. from Queen’s University at Kingston, Ontario in 1972 and her LL.B from the University of Saskatchewan in 1977 following which she articled with the Saskatchewan Department of Justice.

In 1978 she co-authored a manual on Breathalyzer Law in Saskatchewan and prepared precedent materials for prosecutors.  In 1979 she was hired as a Crown Prosecutor and for 5 years she worked as a trial prosecutor in Regina.  In 1984 she moved to the Prosecutions Head Office where her duties included supervision of trial Crown prosecutors, participating in decisions on Crown appeals, appearances for the Crown in the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada, and policy and criminal law reform projects.

On May 2, 2005 she was appointed the Associate Chief Judge for the Provincial Court, and on January 1, 2008 she became the first woman appointed as Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Saskatchewan.