• Dawn Riley

Former Justice Beverly Browne Passes Away


Former Chief Justice Beverly Browne. Photo Ualberta.ca

On March 26, former Justice Beverly Browne passed away in Edmonton at the age of 68. Justice Browne was the first Chief Justice of Nunavut territory when it was created in 1999. After articling in Yellowknife in the ‘70s, she was admitted to the Alberta bar in 1977. During the mid-’80s she established what is now known as Wheat Kenyon LLP here in Vermilion.

Browne was known for her capabilities to relate to the offenders she worked with and listen to their side of the situation. She has been noted in several articles for her community-mindedness, and her appropriate mannerisms. Her former law partner Peggy Wheat stated that Beverly didn’t “shy away from the authority of being a judge, but didn’t lord over people either.” She had compassion and integrity and used those characteristics appropriately when in court and on the bench.

While working with her in Vermilion, former Justice Ron Tibbitt saw the potential in Browne to be a fair and adept judge. Beverly’s temperament and empathy for her clients showed Tibbit she had the qualifications to take the bench. He encouraged her to achieve that goal, which she successfully did after she left Vermilion. While in the area, Browne, an accomplished defence counsel in her own right, also did a fair amount of legal aid work in Northeast Alberta, helping people in Elk Point, Bonnyville, and Cold Lake. In the ’80s, there were not as many lawyers in the area, and she helped fill a gap in representing Indigenous people.

After leaving Vermilion, Browne became a judge in the Northwest Territories, and from there, moved to Nunavut to serve as their Chief Justice. She incorporated her respect and knowledge of Indigenous philosophies to establish a program that included elders in the court system in Nunavut. She was also a founding member of Akitsiraq Law School in Nunavut, which allows students to obtain their law degrees without leaving their home community.

While her legal accomplishments are monumental, everyone I contacted spoke to Beverly’s love of music, and her pride in her sister Maureen’s achievements in the Canadian Opera world. Beverly participated in the local music scene while in Vermilion and established a music society in Nunavut while there.

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