Top B.C. judge hails appointment of first Indigenous judge to Appeal Court

  • March 24, 2021

By Keith Fraser for The Vancouver Sun

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Leonard Marchand, a member of the Okanagan Indian Band, has been promoted to the B.C. Court of Appeal, the province’s highest court.

The appointment, announced by the federal justice minister on Wednesday, marks the first time an Indigenous person has been named to the B.C. Appeal Court and aligns with the government’s stated objective of making Canadian courts more diverse.

“On behalf of our community, we are very proud of him,” Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis said Wednesday. “Not only is Len Marchand a member of our community, but he’s also a close relative, so I’m very proud of that.”

Chief Justice Robert Bauman of the B.C. Court of Appeal said in a statement that he was very pleased to welcome Marchand to the Court of Appeal for British Columbia and the Court of Appeal for Yukon.

He said that Marchand is highly regarded for his sound judgment, humility and compassion and is expected to bring those qualities, and over 26 years as a lawyer and trial judge, to his new job.

“As the Court of Appeal’s first Indigenous judge, Justice Marchand will enhance the diversity of the bench to better reflect the population our judges serve,” said Bauman. “This is particularly important as part of a path to achieving reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.”

Marchand is the son of Leonard Marchand, Sr., a trailblazer himself. The senior Marchand was a Liberal MP and Senator and the first status Indian elected to Parliament. He died in 2016.

Marchand was appointed a judge of the provincial court in B.C. in 2013 and served on that court until 2017 when he was elevated to the B.C. Supreme Court, the province’s highest trial court.

His appointment to the B.C. Court of Appeal was made possible after another judge on the high court elected to become a supernumerary, or part-time, judge.

Before becoming a judge, he dedicated a substantial portion of his legal career to achieving reconciliation for many Indigenous people including the pursuit of civil claims of historic child abuse in institutional settings, according to a news release from the justice minister.

For example, Marchand helped negotiate, and was a signatory to, the Indian Residential Schools agreement, the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history.

In another federal appointment announced Wednesday, Matthew Kirchner, a Vancouver lawyer, was named to the B.C. Supreme Court.

“I wish Justices Marchand and Kirchner every success as they take on their new roles,” federal Justice Minister David Lametti said in a statement. “I am confident they will serve the people of British Columbia well as members of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of British Columbia.”

The law practice of Kirchner, who was called to the bar in 1999, focused on Indigenous rights litigation. Kirchner also served on the board of the Georgia Strait Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to the environmental protection of the Strait of Georgia.