New Brunswick

Sen. Judith Keating, N.B.'s first female deputy attorney general, has died

New Brunswick Sen. Judith Keating, a leading legal and constitutional expert and the first woman to serve as the province's deputy minister of justice and deputy attorney general, has died at age 64.

A leading constitutional expert, Keating served as chief legal adviser to PC and Liberal premiers

Sen. Judith Keating has died at the age of 64, her office confirmed Friday. (Senate of Canada)

New Brunswick Sen. Judith Keating, a leading legal and constitutional expert and the first woman to serve as the province's deputy minister of justice and deputy attorney general, has died.

She was 64, her office confirmed Friday.

Keating was appointed to the Senate 18 months ago, on Jan. 31, 2020, and sat with the Independent Senators Group.

She also worked as a chief legal adviser to both Progressive Conservative and Liberal premiers, and chaired the province's working group on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Keating was the founder and first president of New Brunswick's Women in Law and editor-in-chief of the Solicitor's Journal of the Canadian Bar Association. 

In a statement on Friday, Sen. George Furey, Speaker of the Senate, said he was deeply saddened by the news of Keating's death.

"Of her many contributions, Senator Keating will be remembered as a tireless advocate for the equal status of the English and French languages in New Brunswick, the equal and just treatment of women in the legal profession, and the promotion of Indigenous issues in her role as provincial chair of the Working Group on Truth and Reconciliation in New Brunswick," Furey said.

Tributes, condolences pour in

Tributes immediately poured in following the news on Friday, with political leaders and fellow senators expressing condolences.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Keating's death "a tremendous loss" and praised her "remarkable legacy."

In a statement Friday afternoon, Trudeau said Keating would be remembered for her many accomplishments and firsts, calling her a distinguished legal expert and a champion for women's empowerment in the legal profession.

"Ms. Keating was an active member of her local community, and made many important contributions over her decades of public service in the Government of New Brunswick," Trudeau said.

Sen. Judith Keating, pictured here outside her office in the East Block, served as deputy minister of justice and deputy attorney general of New Brunswick and chief legislative counsel and chief legal adviser to the premier during her more than 30 years with the provincial government. (Senate of Canada)

"On behalf of the Government of Canada, Sophie and I offer our sincere condolences to Ms. Keating's family, friends, and colleagues."

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs also offered condolences on behalf of all New Brunswickers in a statement issued Friday afternoon.

He and his wife Marcia were saddened to learn of the passing of Keating, who joined the provincial government in 1985 and retired in 2017, he said.

"Judith was passionate about the law and public policy and devoted her life to both," said Higgs.

"During her career, she worked tirelessly to promote the equal and just treatment of women in the legal profession."

In 2015, she received the Muriel Corkery-Ryan Q.C. Award from the Canadian Bar Association's New Brunswick branch in recognition of her outstanding work in the field.

Sen. Percy Mockler, who sponsored Keating when she entered the Senate, said in a Twitter post that he was saddened by the news.

"I will miss you, dear friend," Mockler said.

"I am gutted by this news," Independent Sen. Paula Simons of Alberta posted.

"Judith was so smart, so funny, so insightful, so hard-working. Everything you could want in a senator, in a colleague, in a friend."

Pioneer in legal field

A pioneering woman in the legal field, Keating was one of 36 senators, five of them from New Brunswick, to sign a letter in support of Clinic 554 in Fredericton in 2020.

Clinic 554, the only location in New Brunswick that offered surgical abortions outside hospitals, was facing the threat of closure because of a lack of government funding.

"While we appreciate that the provision of services per se … is a provincial jurisdiction, the truth is that … the services offered by the clinic are different in nature because they have been prescribed constitutionally by the Supreme Court," Keating said.

"So they're not on the same level as other services, and so the obligation of the province is to ensure that proper access is provided."

Instead, Keating said, the province has "consistently restricted the right to access by imposing some regulatory controls."

Keating's office said Friday that there are no details yet regarding a funeral or memorial service.


Marie Sutherland is a web writer with CBC News based in Saint John. You can reach her at


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Account Holder

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?