Nunavut bench filled out with 2 new judges, after years of being short-staffed

Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould announced the appointment of two new judges in Nunavut. Susan Charlesworth and Christian Lyons will fill out the territory's six-judge bench.

Susan Charlesworth and Christian Lyons appointed as Nunavut's newest judges

Christian Lyons was Susan Charlesworth's reference to the Nunavut Bar in 2013. Both are now Nunavut judges. (Submitted by Dave Charlesworth)

Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has appointed Susan Charlesworth and Christian Lyons as Nunavut's newest judges, filling out the territory's bench for the first time since 2015. 

Nunavut's legal system is unique in Canada with federally-appointed judges handling both territorial court and superior court matters. Elsewhere, provincial or territorial courts have separate jurisdiction from the superior courts. 

Judges in Nunavut hear cases at the courthouse in Iqaluit and in other Nunavut communities during circuit court. But the court schedule has been strained since the retirement of Earl Johnson in 2015 and Robert Kilpatrick in 2016.

With the new appointments, Nunavut now has six resident judges. 

Nunavut law experience

Charlesworth worked as defence counsel at Maliganik Tukisiniarvik Legal Services in Iqaluit from 2013 to 2015. She first applied to be a Nunavut judge in 2015 and then again in 2016. 

From her time in Nunavut, she said she's aware of the lack of addictions and mental health treatment centres in the territory and how that can play into sentencing decisions.

"I hope I bring, I'm not sure that it's compassion, but some understanding of the different kinds of lives that people live," she said. 

Charlesworth spent the majority of her legal career as a criminal defence lawyer in Kingston, Ont. She graduated from Queen's University and later returned to Queen's University Legal Aid, where she supervised law students.

She is also experienced in mental health and Children's Aid Society cases, representing both children as well as parents who've had their child removed by Children's Aid.

"Justice can work in some situations to keep the community safe and to make sure that no innocent person is convicted and assist with rehabilitation if that's appropriate," she said.   

Charlesworth said she expects to hear when her official start date is once she talks to Nunavut's Chief Justice Neil Sharkey next week.

Nunavut now has six resident judges. (Nick Murray/CBC)

Christian Lyons has been a lawyer in Nunavut since 2006.

He originally worked as defence counsel with legal aid in Iqaluit, and was Charlesworth's reference to the Nunavut Bar when she came to the territory in 2013.

In 2014, Lyons started work as a public prosecutor, travelling extensively on court circuits throughout Nunavut, according to a news release from the federal Justice Department. 

New justices of the peace appointed

Meanwhile, Nunavut's Justice Department also recently announced new justice of the peace appointments. They preside over smaller criminal matters, bylaw infractions and marriage ceremonies. 

Joseph Murdoch-Flowers became a full-time justice of the peace in Iqaluit.

Brian Aglukark was appointed for Arviat, Charlie Tautuajuk in Baker Lake and Martina Maniyogina in Cambridge Bay.