Yukon's new Supreme Court justice is preparing for the role

Suzanne Duncan spoke with reporters in a press conference Monday afternoon. She was appointed last month after Supreme Court Justice Leigh Gower died this fall.

Justice Suzanne Duncan was appointed on Nov. 30

New Yukon Supreme Court Justice Suzanne Duncan, left, and Chief Justice Ron Veale speak with reporters in Whitehorse on Monday. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

Yukon's new Supreme Court justice, Suzanne Duncan, says she was shocked when she picked up the phone on Nov. 30, and the person on the other end of the line addressed her as "Madam Justice Duncan."

"I didn't say anything. The person from the minister's office on the other end of the line said, 'Well, while you're gathering your thoughts, let me explain a few things for you about the process from here.'"

Duncan was appointed to the Yukon Supreme Court last month after Justice Leigh Gower died this fall. Duncan spoke with reporters in a news conference Monday afternoon. 

"I've been practicing law for 31 years and I've had a fairly varied career in terms of the kind of experience both in private practice and in government," said Duncan.

"I felt it would be a combination of my skills and experience over those years — be able to use those to serve the greater public, the Yukon and hopefully to do some good things."

Duncan resigned from her position as in-house legal counsel for Kwanlin Dun First Nation the same day she was appointed.

She is the second woman ever to be appointed to the territory's Supreme Court and will now preside alongside the first-ever woman justice, Edith Campbell.

Her appointment happened relatively quickly, as there have been delays over the last two years with other judicial appointments.

Chief Justice Ron Veale said that's because the workload has increased in Yukon over the last several years. He said the Supreme Court will also rely on its deputy judges over the next year to help cover some cases.

It's a real honour to have this position and I feel very privileged to be able to to do it.- Suzanne Duncan

Now, Duncan starts training for her new role. This week she will start job shadowing Justice Campbell. That means sitting and listening to cases and learning about the decision-making process.

Duncan said she will also take courses through the National Judicial Institute, which trains the judiciary.

There are other challenges, too. Duncan said she has to learn how to run a courtroom and keep things moving.

"Then just making thoughtful decisions, hopefully the right decisions, will be challenging as well," she said.

Duncan will be sworn in this week and then have a formal swearing-in ceremony in the new year.

"It's a real honour to have this position and I feel very privileged to be able to to do it."


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