Three Indigenous women take part in justice of the peace oath of office ceremony

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On June 2, 2022, in Port Alberni, a swearing-in ceremony in the BC Provincial Court saw an Indigenous woman judge preside while an Indigenous woman court clerk administered the oath of office to an Indigenous woman justice of the peace.

The new justice of the peace (JP) was Kimberly Touchie. She is a member of the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ (Ucluelet) Nation on her father’s side, and her mother was a member of the Nisga’a nation from the Nass Valley. JP Touchie was born in Port Alberni but grew up in Ucluelet and graduated from Ucluelet Secondary School. After attending Vancouver Island University (then Malaspina) and obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology, she joined the Court Services Branch of BC’s Ministry of the Attorney General in 2019 as a registry technician.

JP Touchie explains that doing a university practicum with the Native Courtworker Association and working with Victim Services at the Port Alberni women’s center taught her a lot about going through court proceedings. Supporting victims of power-based crimes while they testified, attended parole hearings, or attended family or small claims court gave her an important perspective. “As someone who would usually attend the registry counter with clients in my previous employment positions, it was nice to bring that experience to this position and to make sure anyone who attends the registry counter is met with kindness and respect”, she said.

Since joining the Court Services Branch, she has completed her Deputy District Registrar certificate, and has now obtained her Justice of the Peace commission. JP Touchie adds, “I always look forward to learning new things and challenging myself as well, so I very much look forward to what the future might bring.”

The court clerk at the ceremony was Tracy Green. A member of the Namgis First Nation, Ms. Green grew up in Alert Bay/Y’alis. An interest in law led her to Douglas College, and then to the University of the Fraser Valley where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice before joining the Court Services Branch. Her responsibilities at the Port Alberni Law Courts include accounting and working in the court registry as well as in the courtroom.

When asked about her work Ms. Green said, “I enjoy the variability in my day. I can be in the courtroom or helping at the registry counter and working in both a criminal or civil world, you never know what the day is going to bring or what opportunities you might have for engagement.”

Reflecting on the swearing-in ceremony, she added, “This was a really special moment and achievement for Kim, and I’m honoured to have been able to take part in a small way. I think she’s going to be an excellent JP and connection to the community that we live and work in.”

Judge Karen Whonnock presided at the courtroom ceremony. A member of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, Judge Whonnock grew up on a farm near Smithers, BC and worked as a brakeman and train conductor/yard foreman for the Canadian National Railway before obtaining a Bachelor of Arts and law degree from the University of Toronto. After becoming a lawyer in 2000, she earned a Master of Laws at Osgoode Hall Law School in 2003, was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2014, and became a judge of the BC Provincial Court in 2016. In 2018 she completed her studies and was awarded a Doctor of Social Sciences degree from Royal Roads University.

She said, “It was a real honour to preside over the Justice of the Peace ceremony for JP Kimberly Touchie. This may be the first time an Indigenous judge has sworn in an Indigenous justice of the peace with the assistance of an Indigenous court clerk. JP Touchie’s warmth, hard work, and compassion will serve her well in her new capacity as a justice of the peace.”

Chief Judge Gillespie said, “The Provincial Court should be representative of the population it serves. Having Indigenous justices of the peace, court staff, and judges strengthens the court system and enhances public confidence in the administration of justice. Both the Court and the public benefit from the wealth of education and experience these Indigenous women share.”

Court Services Justices of the Peace
JP Touchie is a Court Services Justice of the Peace (CSJP). CSJPs work in court registries around BC and at the Justice Centre in Burnaby. They hold various positions in the Court Services Branch of the BC Ministry of the Attorney General, such as court manager, administrator, and court clerk.

The Chief Judge of the Provincial Court assigns duties to CSJPs including:

  • Swearing informations, doing remands, issuing summonses and warrants of arrest
  • Attending to the execution of court orders made by judges and judicial justices
  • Approving sureties, perfecting bail, and deciding on the detention of seized property
  • Generally, performing other duties required of a “justice” under the Criminal Code that are primarily administrative in nature and do not require the exercise of material judicial discretion

For appointment as a Justice of the Peace, Court Services Branch staff members must complete a training course and examination, and then apply to the Judicial Council. The Judicial Council considers their application and forwards the names of recommended applicants to the Attorney General. Justices of the peace are appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council (the Lieutenant Governor acting on the advice of the provincial Cabinet). Guidelines for the conduct of JPs are found in the Justice of the Peace Code of Ethics.

Find information on careers with the Court Services Branch at Courthouse Careers.