‘I never thought I’d see it in my lifetime’: Nova Scotia’s first Mi’kmaq judge sworn-in
Published Friday, March 24, 2017 7:24PM ADT
Friday was a historic day in Nova Scotia, as the province's first Mi'kmaq judge, and first female Aboriginal judge, was sworn-in in Bridgewater.
Judge Catherine Benton was a lawyer for 22 years prior to her appointment to the bench. She has done extensive work for Aboriginal justice issues.
"I believe it's vital that the Mi'kmaq community and non-First Nation communities alike see Mi'kmaq people as competent, of value and respected for our contributions and perspectives," says Judge Benton.
Judge Benton is recognized as a humble individual with exceptional legal abilities, but most of all for ensuring minority rights are heard and that Mi'kmaq rights are protected.
"Her presence on the bench will bring diversity in the courtroom for those that work in the justice system, but more importantly those that appear before it," says Heather McNeill, acting director of the Indigenous Blacks & Mi’kmaq Initiative at Dalhousie University.
Judge Benton's family was on hand for the robing ceremony, along with dozens of dignitaries, including fellow judges and a number of Mi'kmaq chiefs.
"She knows the communities, she knows the way of life and what the struggles are and all that," says Chief Wilbert Marshall of the Potlotek First Nation.
Senator Dan Christmas says it’s something he never thought he’d see in his lifetime.
"Unfortunately we have more and our fair share of Mi'kmaq individuals coming through the court system and I think it's very important that we have individuals on the bench who have a strong understanding, a real deep empathy of Mi'kmaq people and their social and cultural backgrounds," adds Senator Christmas.
“As Chief Justice, I worry about the next Donald Marshall Junior, or the next Grand Chief Sylliboy or the next Viola Desmond who may walk through those doors of the courtroom,” says Chief Justice Michael MacDonald. “We never want that to happen again. I think this afternoon the odds got a little better.”
With files from CTV Atlantic's Kayla Hounsell.