Yukon Supreme Court Justice Suzanne Duncan was sworn in during a ceremony at the Whitehorse courthouse the afternoon of Feb. 18, 2019. Duncan has been appointed the court’s new chief justice — the first woman to hold the position. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News)

New Yukon Supreme Court chief justice first woman to hold position

Yukon Supreme Court judge Suzanne Duncan has been appointed the court’s new chief justice — the first woman to hold the position.

The federal government announced Duncan’s appointment on Oct. 1. She replaces former Chief Justice Ron Veale, who retired on July 25 after 20 years of serving as a judge.

Duncan, who formerly served as an in-house lawyer for Kwanlin Dün First Nation and has almost 16 years of experience practising law in the territory, was appointed as a resident Yukon Supreme Court justice in 2018. She replaced Justice Leigh Gower and was the second woman to be appointed a resident justice in the court’s history.

(The first was Justice Edith Campbell, appointed earlier the same year; Duncan’s appointment marked the first time women judges outnumbered men on the Yukon Supreme Court.)

In an interview, Duncan said it was a “real honour” to be appointed chief justice.

“I’m very grateful to have this opportunity and thankful that the prime minister has had the confidence to appoint me,” she said. “There are big shoes to fill — former Chief Justice Veale has made … immense contributions to the state of justice in the Yukon for the last 20 years and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to work alongside of him for a couple of years before he retired because I’ve learned a lot from him.”

Duncan said she hopes to carry forward some of the initiatives Veale championed, including his emphasis on access to justice and making the courts a more accessible place for everyone — especially those without legal backgrounds — by clarifying processes and using plain language.

The court is also in the process of filling the now-vacant third position for a resident judge, she confirmed.

“We’re hopeful that it will be sooner rather than later … There will be a third judge, it’s just a question of when,” she said.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

Yukon courts