John Phelps will sit on the Yukon Territorial Court as its newest judge. (Yukon Government/Submitted)

Yukon’s former deputy minister of justice will sit as territorial court judge

John Phelps appointed to replace outgoing Peter Chisholm

John Phelps, who most recently served as the Yukon’s deputy minister of justice, will now sit on the Yukon Territorial Court as its newest judge.

Phelps’ appointment to the court by minister of justice Tracy-Anne McPhee was announced on July 14. He will replace Judge Peter Chisholm who is retiring from the court. The announcement states that Phelps’ appointment was recommended by the territory’s judicial council.

“I am very pleased to announce the appointment of John Phelps as Judge of the Territorial Court of Yukon. Judge Phelps has demonstrated a deep understanding and respect for the justice system throughout a decades-long career contributing to the Yukon’s legal community,” McPhee said.

“He has broad experience and knowledge of Yukon First Nations’ history, culture and experiences of the justice system, and has been a strong advocate for advancing reconciliation within the territory’s justice system, informed by Yukon First Nations self-government agreements.

“His integrity, dedication and leadership continue to be reflected in his professional approach to public service, and I am confident that he will serve Yukoners well in his new judicial role.”

The announcement details Phelps’ relevant education and experience which include a law degree from the University of Saskatchewan and leadership roles with the Yukon Law Society, the Yukon Capability and Consent Board and the Canadian Bar Association. He has also worked as both a defence counsel and a crown counsel in the territory.

Phelps is a fourth-generation Yukoner and his family has long roots in the administration of justice in the territory. The announcement of his appointment to the court states that Phelps’ great-grandfather was the first lawyer to settle in Whitehorse during the gold rush. Phelps’ father Willard also had a long career as a lawyer and served as both an MLA and the territory’s premier.

Taking on Phelps’ current role will be Jeff Ford who has been appointed acting deputy minister. Premier Sandy Silver praised Ford’s justice experience and his strong leadership track record. A biography of Ford provided alongside the announcement of his appointment to the new role describes Ford’s past work which has included three years with an international organization in Bosnia-Herzegovina tasked with aiding refugee return following the breakup of Yugoslavia and subsequent civil war and genocide, criminal justice reform and human rights investigations. He has worked for the Yukon government for 16 years.

Note: An earlier version of this story stated that Jeff Ford would be taking on Phelps’ role as deputy minister of the department of justice and deputy attorney general. Ford is taking the deputy minister role in an acting capacity and will not be acting as deputy attorney general. We regret the error.

Contact Jim Elliot at