Q. Why did you choose MHC to start your education?
I left high school in 1976 and went directly to the University of Saskatchewan thinking I would enter a commerce and law program. Within weeks of starting at the U of S, I realized accounting wasn’t for me and I quit before Christmas. I still wanted to get into law but decided to change my approach. I relocated to Medicine Hat and attended Hillcrest Christian College, a small private school at the time. Part of their program required students to spend at least a year at Medicine Hat College so it was a natural fit for me.
Q. Share some memories from your time at the college between 1979 and 1981.
The small class sizes and quality of professors are what stand out for me. I had some very good professors at MHC - Rod Harvey for English literature, Elmer Thiessen for philosophy, and Glenn Ennis for political science. None of them were easy markers. Without a doubt, the best professor I had was Dr. Roy Wilson. The world is a poorer place because he’s gone. I just thought the world of him.
Q. Why did you pursue a career in law? What do you love most about your chosen profession?
I always had an interest in law, ever since I was a kid. I grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan and my dad and I would talk politics all the time when we worked together. He told me if I wanted to get into politics I should get a law degree so I pursued that route but never entered politics.
What attracted me to law was the problem solving. Someone once told me ‘you are going to be a good lawyer because you want to help people to solve their problems.’ I think, that in a very simplistic way, that is the beauty of the whole area of law, both as a lawyer and a judge.
Q. In addition to being a judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, you volunteer with International Justice Mission (IJM). How did you come to be involved with this organization?
I took a course from Gary Haugen, a human rights lawyer and the founder of International Justice Mission, and got a sense of the work they do in the developing world. I later connected with the Canadian director of the organization and was invited to serve on the board in 2006 and spent 8 years in that capacity.
Q. Explain the recent human rights work you are doing in La Paz, Bolivia.
Through International Justice Mission, we have a close connection with their Bolivian office and met with the judges in that country from 2011-2012 to understand what they need to better handle cases involving gender-based violence. Because of our involvement and exposure to the judiciary, the Bolivian office received a substantial grant for judicial reform and called on us to participate in education and training.
We encourage them to adopt best practices that we’ve learned over the years under the Anglo-Canadian system in terms of trial efficiency and to assert judicial independence. In other words, we encourage them to conduct continuous trials rather than breaking them up and to make decisions based on evidence, not on extraneous pressure to the court.
While we don’t do things perfectly in our country, I think we’ve learned a few things about gender-based violence that we can share with jurisdictions like Bolivia.
Q. What is your proudest accomplishment?
This may not sound significant in the grand scheme of things, but the fact the Bolivian judiciary is now, as a result of our visits, starting to conduct continuous trials is a huge step. It’s a paradigm shift for them.
In the past, victims of sexual assault would have to come to testify, sometimes repeatedly, because the court system never blocked off enough time for the trial so it was a matter of re-traumatizing victims over and over again. We recommended that they develop ways in their court structure to minimize that re-traumatization.
The acceptance of this by many members of the judiciary and trial courts in La Paz since April is a real accomplishment. It tells us that they are open to change and are willing to act on the recommendations.
Law reform is hard work. If you are involved you have to be relentless. We are committed in the long term to this project and will continue to volunteer even after funding for it expires.
On a more personal note, I would say my family is my proudest accomplishment - my son Sean and his wife Erika and two boys in Medicine Hat and my daughter Chelsea and her husband in Belgium. Medicine Hat remains a strong draw to us as a family even though we don't all live there.
Q. Who is your greatest influence, professionally and/or personally?
John Warwick Montgomery, a former professor of mine. He actually spoke at MHC and at law school when I was there. He is a lawyer, historian, and human rights academic. Next to my parents, he has been the most influential person of my professional career.
Career at a glance...
· Admitted to the Bar of Alberta in 1985 and practiced with Gordon, Smith &Company
· Opened own firm in Medicine Hat (1993-2006) with practice expertise is in the areas of civil litigation,
· Acted as a Member of the Alberta Provincial Court Nominating Committee (2004-2006)
· Judicial District Representative for Medicine Hat for the Alberta Civil Trial Lawyers Association
· Former Chair of the Board of Directors of International Justice Mission
· Appointed judge of Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta [Lethbridge] in 2006