The Honourable Charlene M. Richmond’s Questionnaire

From: Department of Justice Canada

Backgrounder

Under the new judicial application process introduced by the Minister of Justice on October 20, 2016, any interested and qualified Canadian lawyer or judge may apply for federal judicial appointment by completing a questionnaire. The questionnaires are then used by the Judicial Advisory Committees across Canada to review candidates and submit a list of “highly recommended” and “recommended” candidates for consideration by the Minister of Justice. Candidates are advised that parts of their questionnaire may be made available to the public, with their consent, should they be appointed to the bench. The information is published as it was submitted by the candidates at the time they applied, subject to editing where necessary for privacy reasons.

Below are Parts 5, 6, 7, and 11 of the questionnaire completed by the Honourable Charlene M. Richmond.

Questionnaire for Judicial Appointment

[…]

Part 5 – Language

Please note that in addition to the answers to the questions set out below, you may be assessed as to your level of language proficiency.

Without further training, are you able to read and understand court materials in:

  • English: Yes
  • French: Yes

Without further training, are you able to discuss legal matters with your colleagues in:

  • English: Yes
  • French: Yes

Without further training, are you able to converse with counsel in court in:

  • English: Yes
  • French: Yes

Without further training, are you able to understand oral submission in court in:

  • English: Yes
  • French: Yes

Part 6 – Education

Name of Institutions, Years Attended, Degree/Diploma and Year Obtained:

  • McGill University 1981-1982
  • University of Saskatchewan, Bachelor of Arts & Science 1982-1986, (BA with Distinction)
  • University of Saskatchewan, Bachelor of laws 1986-1988 (L.L.B. with Distinction)

Continuing Education:

I have participated in a number of seminars and courses over the years. In recent years those courses have primarily been in the area of family law though I have also participated in collaborative law and mediation training courses as well.

Honours and Awards:

  • Gabe Burkhart Memorial award for excellence in criminal law (1988)
  • Trial Advocacy award for outstanding skills in advocacy (1988)
  • Tory, Tory award for presenting a fully bilingual team at the National Laskin Moot (1988)
  • Academic Achievement Scholarship (1987)
  • Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012)

Part 7 – Professional and Employment History

Please include a chronology of work experience, starting with the most recent and showing employers’ names and dates of employment. For legal work, indicate areas of work or specialization with years and, if applicable, indicate if they have changed.

Legal Work Experience:

Richmond Nychuk, 100-2255 Albert St., Regina, Saskatchewan, S4P 2V5 (July 1991 to present)

  • I began my current practice in 1991. The firm was originally Richmond Struthers and for a few years was named Richmond Nychuk & Carle. It has been using the current name since approximately 1996. In the early years I had a general practice but focused on family law, debtor/creditor and criminal law. As years passed, I dropped off the criminal law practice and focused primarily on the other two areas of practice though I also handled corporate transactions, real estate, wills and estates. In recent years, my practice is almost exclusively in the area of family law.

Merchant Law Group, 2401 Saskatchewan Dr., Regina, Saskatchewan, S4P 4H8 (May 1989 – August 1991)

  • Legal work consisted primarily of family and criminal work though there was exposure to civil litigation as well.

Saskatchewan Department of Justice, Regina, Saskatchewan, (articles) (June 1988 – May 1989)

  • Articling with the Department of Justice required a rotation throughout the Civil Law Branch, Criminal Law Branch and Constitutional Law Branch. In addition, the government posted me for one month with a large Regina firm, Balfour Moss (now Miller Thompson).

Non-Legal Work Experience:

Prior to completing law school, I was employed summers with Parks Canada in a permanent seasonal bilingual position as a visitor services representative (four years) and Employment and Immigration Canada as a student placement officer (one year). In addition to the above I worked part time while attending university as a French Language Monitor in French immersion schools (two years) and also worked as a receptionist in the ex-ray department at the Royal University Hospital (three years).

Other Professional Experience:

List all bar associations, legal or judicial-related committees of which you are or have been a member, and give the titles and dates of any offices which you have held in such groups.

  • Canadian Bar Association
  • International Society of Family Law
  • Saskatchewan Trial Lawyers Association
  • ADR Institute of Canada
  • Association des Juristes d’expression Française
  • Collaborative Lawyers of Saskatchewan
  • Saskatchewan Justicia Project committee member

Pro Bono Activities:

I have offered mentorship to junior counsel both in my own firm and at other firms. I have encouraged junior counsel to participate in Pro Bono Law and have provided guidance on those files at no cost. I have and continue to provide free service or service at a reduced cost for clients in need.

Teaching and Continuing Education:

List all legal or judicial educational organizations and activities you have been involved with (e.g. teaching course at a law faculty, bar association, National Judicial Institute, or the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice).

  • Presenter at CPLED 2016
  • Judge at “Le Concours de Débats”, Journée Fransaskoise du Droit
  • Various speaking engagements with respect to family Law and agricultural Law throughout my career
  • Judge at Laskin Moot
  • SKLESI presenter on family matters
  • Past regular presenter on Farm Debt, wills and Estates, Family law matters at the request of various farm organizations.

Community and Civic Activities:

List all organizations of which you are a member and any offices held with dates.

[…]

  • YWCA (Board Member and President) 2004-2009
  • College Mathieu (Board member, 2014 to current)
  • Steering Committee member to establish the community of Deer Valley as a Hamlet (2014-2016)
  • Councillor Division 2 for the Rural Municipality of Lumsden (December 2016-current)
  • Honorary Consul for the Kingdom of Morocco (July 2010-December 2017)

In addition to the above, as a mother of four active children, now adults, I was involved in fund raising committees, boards and school functions related to the children’s sports and school that are too numerous to mention.

Part 11 – The Role of the Judiciary in Canada’s Legal System

The Government of Canada seeks to appoint judges with a deep understanding of the judicial role in Canada. In order to provide a more complete basis for evaluation, candidates are asked to offer their insight into broader issues concerning the judiciary and Canada’s legal system. For each of the following questions, please provide answers of between 750 and 1000 words.

1. What would you regard as your most significant contribution to the law and the pursuit of justice in Canada?

In contemplating the answer to this question, I was compelled to consider my near 30 years of practice and what I have accomplished over the years. Although there have been significant cases in my career, I would not consider any of them to be earth shattering, nor can I recall any cases I have handled that have made any major changes to the law. Although I have done many presentations on the law to the public over the years and sometimes to my colleagues, I have also not made any great contributions academically. As I considered this, I thought perhaps I should be disheartened by what some might consider my lack of notable accomplishments but I realize that I am not. I have a great deal of job satisfaction and can state proudly that for close to 30 years I have come to work with an open heart, willing to serve my clients to the best of my ability, with both passion and compassion and with respect and adherence to the law.

Practicing primarily in the area of family law, my clients are often at their most vulnerable emotionally. I attempt to ensure that clients receive all of the help they can get which often means referrals to outside resources. I do not feel that my help should be limited to only legal advice but rather, I take a more holistic approach in my practice and try to ensure that my clients are making sound and informed decisions and are in a good state of mind while doing so. As such referrals to accountants, financial advisors, and most often, counsellors, are not an uncommon occurrence. Family law is at high risk for increased conflict. A family law practitioner often walks a fine line of ensuring a client’s interests are protected without unnecessarily increasing animosity. Mediation and Collaborative law are always offered as options to pursue rather than litigation but such an avenue may not, for many reasons be possible. Even when doing litigation, however, as a trained mediator and collaborative lawyer, the basic rule of mediation, “do no harm”, is often at the back of my mind. An aggressive approach is sometimes needed to represent a client properly but knowing your client, your client’s needs and the ability to assess the other side’s case is imperative to ensure that a bad situation is not made worse. A colleague in my firm and I often comment, some of our best work is done out of the court room. By educating clients and giving them direct and honest advice rather than telling them what they may want to hear and by listening to their needs, court is often avoided altogether. Abraham Lincoln made this same point, albeit with more eloquence:

“Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.”

Ultimately it is the client that I serve and I strive to do it to the best of my ability having regard to my duties as an officer of the court. To summarize, my contribution to the law and pursuit of justice in Canada has not been a blaze of glory but rather a steadfast daily commitment to act with honesty, integrity and compassion to those I serve.

Over the years I have mentored a number of junior associates, many of whom remain in employ with our firm today. In providing that mentorship, I feel I have further contributed to the law and pursuit of justice by ensuring a new crop of lawyers understands the lawyer’s inherent obligation to clients and to the court. A trite but basic principle that I share with my new associates is that you have to care. If you care for your clients, good work and diligence will follow.

2. How has your experience provided you with insight into the variety and diversity of Canadians and their unique perspectives?

I was born and raised in Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan and attended Francophone school for both elementary and high school. Having grown up in a Francophone community in a largely English speaking province, I learned to appreciate at an early age cultural and linguistic diversity and to honour and respect French/English as being fundamental to our country’s identity. The Gravelbourg school system was one of the first in the province to teach primarily in French. The town has always been proud of its Francophone roots and culture and there was always opportunity to explore the culture, speak the language and learn the history. Having been born into an Anglophone protestant family living in a Francophone Catholic community and attending Catholic Francophone school, it became apparent that my parents’ open minds in encouraging me to embrace and learn another language and culture was not necessarily shared by other Anglophones in the community. It also became apparent to me that in learning to appreciate, respect and embrace our differences, we are all better off and we all remain fundamentally the same as human beings.

My appreciation for Francophone culture continued when I resided in Montreal, Quebec for my first year of university. I was proud that I could feel equally comfortable living in a province where the first language is French and was thankful for having had the opportunity to have had my Francophone education. In addition to the Francophone culture, however, Montreal taught me just how diverse our country is in terms of culture. I attended McGill University where the students come from all over the world. It was a wonderful experience for a small town Saskatchewan girl to meet immigrants and refugees from all walks of life. Montreal itself has strong diverse cultural communities which were a pleasure to explore.

My undergraduate degree was in Sociology and History, both topics that focused on cultural identity and diversity. One topic that has always piqued my interests were women’s rights and, in particular, equality issues. Over the years I have observed firsthand the ebb and flow of women’s rights and the ongoing challenges that women continue to face in our society. I volunteered with the Elizabeth Fry society and saw firsthand some of the unique problems facing women in the prison system. This topic became a major topic for papers I wrote in University (both Undergraduate and Law School) as it was clear to me that women who violated the law had different challenges than did their male counterparts. As president and board member of YWCA Regina, I was given further insight into the plights facing many women in our country. As president I attended the National meetings for the YWCA. The YWCA has locations all over Canada and despite the regional problems facing the women in those locations; it quickly became clear that there was also a commonality of problems facing women nationwide. My work with the Justicia program administered by the Law Society has given further insight into the difficulties facing professional women and women lawyers in particular. The practice of law, particularly private practice does not always accommodate the special needs of women. Nonetheless, women bring a perspective to law that is of benefit to us all. Hopefully, with the Justicia program more women can be encouraged to remain in private practice.

Respect and appreciation for our diversity extended to other cultures as I had the pleasure in my early years of practice of representing First Nations and, as part of that representation, was invited to participate in their cultural events. I married into a Ukrainian/Metis family and, again, enjoyed the cultural experiences associated with both. It was with some pride that my mother-in-law recently acquired her status as a First Nation which has resulted in further inquiry and study of her unique background.

Following my appointment as Honorary Consul for the Kingdom of Morocco, I had the pleasure of getting to know the Ambassador and her spouse but also had the pleasure of encountering a number of Moroccans in the province of Saskatchewan. I travelled to Morocco and, with the assistance of our learned guide, not only learned much about Morocco but also received insight into the Muslim faith. Our guide had been a student and resident in Montreal for years and his experiences as an immigrant in our country provided further insight into that experience.

I have had the pleasure of growing up in a rural community and resided in rural communities in the vicinity of Regina. For much of my career, I represented farm families. Farming is more than a career or a job, it is a lifestyle that has its own identity. Saskatchewan farmers proudly identify as a group and, again have their own unique set of interests.

I am currently a rural municipality councilor. In that capacity, I have the opportunity to address the needs of members of my community. Once again, those interests are diverse and sometimes opposed. Our municipality and, in particular, my division is made up of acreage owners, farmers and hamlet dwellers. Their interests are diverse, their livelihoods are all different. Nonetheless, the interests are uniquely Canadian and, in many respects, unique to Saskatchewan. As a board, we are often called upon to make decisions to balance those interests. Needless to say, we don’t always make everyone happy but strive to achieve a fair and reasoned balance.

3. Describe the appropriate role of a judge in a constitutional democracy.

The role of a judge in a constitutional democracy is to uphold the law as drafted by our duly elected politicians and to interpret law having regard to the democratic and humane principles that are at the root of our constitution. In so interpreting and applying the law, a judge should be respectful and compassionate to those appearing before him/her but also be mindful of the responsibility placed on him/her to ensure the laws of our nation are respected and applied fairly to all.

The above is a summary of how I perceive the role of a judge in a constitutional democracy to be. We are in a constitutional democracy. Our constitution is the foundation of our legal system. Our laws must comply with the principles identified by our constitution or those laws should not exist unless they can somehow be reasonably justified in a free and democratic society.

Our society is democratic. We elect our government based on its electoral platform. The government will lead and govern for the prescribed time and may or may not always do so in accordance with the electoral platform. During the time the elected government is in power, laws will be passed. A judge’s obligation is to uphold those laws, whether in personal agreement or not, provided those laws are in compliance with our constitution or can be reasonably justified in a free and democratic society. Judge’s are human beings and have their own personal history. Nonetheless, a judge is obliged to push personal history and preferences aside and uphold the law unless doing so violates our constitution and such a violation cannot be justified.

A judge is both a trier of fact and law. The issues before the judge may not always be of national importance but for the individual appearing before the judge, they may as well be. By the time a matter comes to court, it is generally because no resolution could otherwise be reached. A judge is the face of our constitutional democracy and should therefore be respectful, compassionate and fair minded to those appearing before him or her but must also be decisive. Decisions must be reasoned and rational. In accordance with the often quoted words of Lord Hewart in R. v. Sussex [1924] 1KB256: “Justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.”

The judge is a public servant, the face of our judicial system. The role of a judge goes beyond the court room and there is an obligation to present to the public in an appropriate manner at all times.

4. Who is the audience for decisions rendered by the court(s) to which you are applying?

The audience is made up of the citizenry of our country. Our court system is a public system and, as such, all decisions are available to anyone who may wish to take the time to read them and the court is open to anyone who may wish to attend to observe. One of the basic foundations of our legal system is that it is a public system. By maintaining a public system, we preserve transparency and by preserving transparency, the theory is we maintain accountability. It is recognized that special circumstances may arise where individuals may be excluded from the court room but for the most part, the public system is honoured. The public court system has long been recognized as an essential part of our system but was confirmed as recently as 2011 by our Supreme Court in CBC v. Canada (Attorney General) 2011 SCC 2: “The open court principle is of crucial importance in a democratic society. It ensures that citizens have access to the courts and can, as a result, comment on how the courts operate and on proceedings that take place in them. Public access to the courts also guarantees the integrity of judicial processes inasmuch as the transparency that flows from access ensures that justice is rendered in a manner that is not arbitrary, but is in accordance with the rule of law.” The Supreme Court had also considered the question of openness to the public in A.G. (Nova Scotia) v. MacIntyre [1982]1SCR 175 and quoted the philosopher, Jeremy Bentham: “In the Darkness of secrecy, sinister interest and evil in every shape have full swing. Only in proportion as publicity has pace can any of the checks applicable to judicial injustice operate. Where there is no publicity there is no justice. Publicity is the very soul of justice. It is the keenest spur to exertion and the surest of all guards against improbity. It keeps the judge himself while trying under trial.”

In addition to the general public, the audience also consists of the other courts. As such, it is imperative that the decisions be clear concise and respectful of similar decisions in other courts though those decisions may not be binding depending on the level of court. Nonetheless, where a similar decision is not followed explanation is required as there is always the possibility that the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court may be the audience.

5. Please describe the personal qualities, professional skills and abilities, and life experience that you believe will equip you for the role of a judge.

The personal qualities that I believe will equip me for the role of a judge are that I am a fair minded, compassionate and capable of empathy. I am also pragmatic.

My professional skills and abilities that I believe will equip me for the role of a judge include extensive experience in litigation at every level of court as well as extensive training and experience in mediation and collaborative law. Working in a small firm, I have been exposed to most areas of practice over the years though in recent years, I have worked primarily in the family law area.

Practicing family law has given me insight into people during some of the most painful and difficult times of their lives. The ability to remain objective but also compassionate is a necessary skill when practicing in this area and one that could equip me well in the role of a judge.

Lastly, my life experience as a spouse, mother of four, professional woman and active member in my community has taught me to prioritize my work load in order to strive for success is all aspects of my life.

/Public Release. View in full here.