Heather Forster Smith,
The Province of Ontario has the proud distinction of being the first Canadian province to have two female Chief Justices, both of whom graduated from Queen's Law.
Chief Justice Annemarie Bonkalo, Law ‘76, became the first woman appointed as the Ontario Court of Justice's Chief Justice on March 28, 2007. Before graduating from Queen's Law, she received a master's degree in criminology from the University of Toronto. Chief Justice Bonkalo was called to the Bar in 1978. She worked as a Crown Attorney with the Ministry of the Attorney General (Ontario) in Brampton, and was appointed as a judge to the Ontario Provincial Court in 1990. Prior to her appointment to the position of Chief Justice, she worked as the Regional Senior Justice for Toronto and then as the Associate Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice. Chief Justice Bonkalo has acted as a member of the Ontario Judicial Council, the Criminal and Family Rules Committee, the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee, the executive of the Ontario Judges' Association as an elected delegate and as a member of the Constitutional Committee, and as Chair of the Mentor Committee.
"Good law schools, including Queen's, prepare students to become good lawyers, and good lawyers often become good judges," said Chief Justice Bonkalo. Professor John Whyte's lectures in criminal and constitutional law particularly inspired her during her time at Queen's Law. "[His lectures] were intellectually stimulating and he inspired me to pursue criminal law." It was Professor Stanley Sadinsky's lectures in civil procedure that made her want to practise law, however. "He made litigation real," she said.
Chief Justice Bonkalo is responsible for all aspects of the administration of judicial resources for the Ontario Court of Justice, the largest court in Canada, with approximately 286 judges and 345 justices of the peace. She is also responsible for the overall policy directives for all judicial, administrative and financial functions of the Court. Throughout her illustrious career, Chief Justice Bonkalo has achieved many successes. Her proudest accomplishment, in addition to being the first female Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice, is having been appointed the first female Crown Attorney in Peel Region, in 1978. That appointment started her on her pioneering path. Although she notes that she is only at the beginning of her term as Chief Justice, she already appreciates the policy development aspect of the position, and particularly enjoys working with the judges of the Ontario Court of Justice.
Chief Justice Bonkalo's promotion this year made Ontario the first province to have two female Chief Justices. Chief Justice Heather Forster Smith, Law '71, became the first woman appointed the Ontario Superior Court of Justice's Chief Justice in 2002. Following her call to the Bar, she became the first female Crown Prosecutor with the Department of Justice (Canada), joining the Toronto Regional office, where she went on to become Senior Counsel. In 1983 Chief Justice Smith was appointed to the County and District Court (Brampton) where she had previously held the position of Senior Counsel. When the courts were amalgamated in 1990, she became a member of the Ontario Court of Justice (General Division). Chief Justice Smith was appointed Associate Chief Justice of the Ontario Court (General Division) in 1996 and served in that position until 2002. She is a member of the Canadian Judicial Council.
Chief Justice Smith believes that Queen's Law prepared her for her role as Chief Justice by laying a legal foundation that encouraged her in her legal ambitions at every step. While she says that there were too many great professors at Queen's Law to mention, Professor Venkata Raman stands out in her memory. "He brought an international perspective and approach to the study of law," she said, "decades before it was common to do so, and inspired us all with his enthusiasm, knowledge and international experience."
Chief Justice Smith is responsible for ensuring that the 300 judges of the Superior Court of Justice have the resources, infrastructure and support they need to meet their commitments to the people of Ontario. A favourite part of her career as Chief Justice has been connecting and working in partnership with many of the vibrant and distinguished legal communities in all regions of Ontario. Of her many accomplishments, she is proudest of her appointment to the Bench in 1983.
Both Chief Justice Bonkalo and Chief Justice Smith recall their time at Queen's Law with great affection. Chief Justice Smith's fondest memory of Queen's Law is a personal one. "Meeting my husband, Senator David Smith, class of '70. Thirty-seven years and three children later, we are both looking forward to celebrating Queen's Law at 50's alumni reunion this fall."
Looking forward is something Chief Justice Bonkalo did with her fellow classmates.
"We were all involved in a grand adventure and few of us could imagine where we would end up."