Yukon gets new territorial judge

Yukoners will soon be seeing a new face looking down from the judge’s bench in territorial court, but while the robes are a new addition, the face is no stranger to the territory.

Yukoners will soon be seeing a new face looking down from the judge’s bench in territorial court, but while the robes are a new addition, the face is no stranger to the territory.

Peter Chisholm will join current territorial Judge Karen Ruddy and Chief Judge Michael Cozens, Justice Minister Mike Nixon announced last week.

Chisholm spent 16 years in the Yukon as a Crown prosecutor, a staff lawyer with the Yukon Legal Services Society and in private practice.

He graduated from law school at Dalhousie University in Halifax in 1989 and worked for three years in the city before coming up north on a whim, he said.

“My brother was up there at the time, and that’s how I ended up there,” said Chisholm. “When I went up, I didn’t expect that I would stay as long as I stayed. It’s a special place for me.”

“I was really impressed with a number of things, including the communities and the fact that people were very welcoming,” he said.

“It was very easy to just fit in without much effort. Of course, the things the city and the territory have to offer as well, whether it’s the outdoors, or the infrastructure in terms of rinks and the Canada Games Centre. It’s a very impressive place, in many ways.”

In 2007 Chisholm left the Yukon. He had a short stint in Ottawa with an interdepartmental group working on marine security before landing in Atlantic Canada where he eventually became the chief prosecutor for Atlantic Canada. In that role, Chisholm was in charge of three offices in Halifax, Moncton, and St. John’s, with 75 other lawyers and staff.

“It’s a pretty vast area, the four Atlantic Provinces, and four different courts. Each province has its own provincial court and superior court and court of appeal. It was a pretty big challenge for me, but it was a good experience,” he said.

Working in the eastern provinces has a lot of parallels with the Yukon. Many progressive approaches to treatment and justice, pioneered in the Yukon, are making their way east, said Chisholm.

“The interesting thing in the Atlantic provinces now is that you’re starting to see some treatment at courts, some of which actually reflects what is going on in the Yukon.

“For example in New Brunswick there is a healing court called the Healing to Wellness Court. It really has been heavily influenced by the Yukon Community Wellness Court. In Sydney, Nova Scotia, there has been a pilot project for a domestic violence court over the last period of time. In my view, that model was influenced by the Yukon Domestic Violence Treatment Option court,” he said.

While he’s excited to be coming back to the familiarity of the Yukon, Chisholm said he’s also looking forward to a new and loftier perspective in the courtroom.

“For me, it’s another challenge, and I think that it’s a way to try to offer something to the community, the legal community and the community at large,” he said.

“To be honest with you, I think it’s hard to tell at this point in time whether it will be more or less difficult, having never done it. Time will tell. For me, as to how different it will be from being counsel, I suspect it will be fairly different. But I’ve been in the courtroom over those 23 years, so I hope to feel somewhat comfortable as well.”

Contact Jesse Winter at jessew@yukon-news.com

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