Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories welcomes first-ever Indigenous chief justice

Shannon Smallwood has been a Supreme Court judge since 2011

Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories welcomes first-ever Indigenous chief justice

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced the appointment of Shannon Smallwood as chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories, effective September 22.

Smallwood was the first Dene (K’ashógot’─»ne) person to be named to the Supreme Court when she was appointed in 2011. She replaces Louise Charbonneau, who officially retired on July 11, and is now the first Indigenous person to serve in the role of chief justice.

“I am pleased to announce the appointment of the Honourable Shannon Smallwood as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories,” Trudeau said. “The first Indigenous person appointed to this position, Chief Justice Smallwood brings over two decades of legal experience, including 11 years within this court, to her new role. I know she will continue to serve Northerners with dedication and wish her every success.”

Her main area of practice was criminal law. Before joining the bench, Smallwood held senior counsel and team leader positions at the Public Prosecution Service of Canada in Yellowknife. She also served as a counsel with the Department of Justice Canada’s international assistance group in Ottawa.

Since her judicial appointment, Smallwood has chaired the Supreme Court’s criminal bench and bar committee and engaged in judicial education through the National Judicial Institute. Moreover, she sat on various Law Society of the Northwest Territories committees, including bench and bar, admissions, and discipline.

She received her law degree from the University of Calgary in 1999 and was admitted to the Northwest Territories bar in 2000.

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