Focus On

First Nation legal counsel appointed to Supreme Court of Yukon

Monday, December 03, 2018 @ 12:50 PM | By John Chunn

The federal Department of Justice announced on Nov. 30 that Suzanne Duncan, legal counsel with the Kwanlin Dün First Nation, has been appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of Yukon.

She replaces Justice Leigh F. Gower, who passed away on Oct. 29, 2018.

Justice Duncan holds a B.A. (1982) and an LL.B. (1985) from Queen’s University, as well as an LL.M. (2000) from Osgoode Hall Law School.

She began her legal career as an associate and then partner with McCarthy Tétrault in Toronto. During this time, she handled a range of labour law and civil litigation matters and also developed an immigration practice, including representing refugee claimants on a pro bono basis. In 2001, she joined the federal Department of Justice in Toronto, before transferring to Whitehorse in 2006. Throughout her time in practice in the Yukon, Justice Duncan gained extensive litigation experience before the Yukon courts, with a focus on Aboriginal law and Crown liability.

According to the Justice Canada press release, in early 2018, Justice Duncan became the in-house legal counsel for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation government. Working for a self-governing First Nation increased her knowledge of and respect for the unique Yukon First Nation final agreements and allowed her to participate in the exciting challenges and opportunities of implementing the agreements. The privilege of gaining a greater understanding of the experiences and culture of a Yukon First Nation and assisting in their creative journey towards self-determination has been a highlight of her career to date.

Justice Duncan has served on the executive of the Law Society of Yukon, as first vice-president and chair of discipline. She has been a member and chair of the board of directors of the Yukon Legal Services Society, working to improve access to justice for people of modest means in the Yukon. In 2018, she was appointed chair of the Yukon Employment Standards Board, which hears appeals and provides recommendations on the minimum wage amount in the Yukon.

Justice Duncan previously served on the board of the Homes First Society, an agency in Toronto that provides stable shelter and support to individuals who are among the hardest to house. She is also a co-author of the book The Law of Privilege in Canada.