Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Anne Kirker embarked upon her path towards a lifetime in the legal profession after experiencing a workplace strike firsthand while working as a pediatric nurse at the Children’s Hospital in Calgary.
Justice Kirker – who was appointed to the Bench as a QB judge in Calgary on May 4, 2018, and officially sworn in at a September 14 ceremony – had been working full time as a nurse after earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Alberta in 1987.
“We all appreciated that none of the issues, at any level, were easy to resolve,” says Justice Kirker.
“My desire to understand how difficult issues like those at the centre of the dispute could be resolved led me to apply for law school,” she continued. “By graduation, I had begun to understand the fundamental importance of our justice system as the underpinning of our democracy, the rights and freedoms of our citizens, and of the environment in which we conduct business and commerce.”
Justice Kirker obtained her law degree from the University of Calgary in 1991 and began a nearly 26-year career as a civil litigator, handling complex commercial and professional liability matters.
Her work on behalf of other lawyers and law firms in the professional negligence arena exposed her to a vast array of legal issues arising from family, personal injury, real estate, corporate commercial, conflict of laws, contracts, insurance, wills and estates, tax and a few criminal matters.
The relatively new Justice twice worked on cases that went right up to the Supreme Court of Canada, including a jurisdictional challenge engaging principles of private international law and issues of corporate separateness.
The Calgary jurist also picked up some honours and awards along the way. In 2004, she made Lexpert’s Top 40 under 40 lawyers in Canada and, between 2011 and 2017, she was recognized by her peers as one of the Best Lawyers in Canada, winning Lawyer of the Year in 2012 in the area of insurance law, 2014 legal malpractice law, 2016 appellate practice and 2017 corporate commercial litigation.
Justice Kirker was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2012, named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women by the Women’s Executive Network in 2014 and inducted as a Fellow by the American College of Trial Lawyers in 2016.
Justice Kirker was especially honoured to serve as a Bencher of the Law Society of Alberta from 2012 to 2016, and as its President from 2016 to 2017.
“I learned about the forces of change affecting the administration of justice and had the opportunity to help lead the profession in responding to it,” she says.
The married mother of two is the daughter of immigrants from northern England and says their experiences overcoming cultural and financial barriers have given her insight into the variety and diversity of Canadians and their unique perspectives.
“They instilled in me the belief that with the privilege we enjoy as citizens of this country comes great responsibility; the responsibility to work hard and to respect and help others,” she says.
Her professional experience both as a nurse and as a lawyer also increased that insight, especially her work addressing the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action and her participation in a Canadian citizenship ceremony.
So why did this successful lawyer want to become a judge?
“My desire to become a judge was an extension of my desire to continue to learn and contribute to the administration of justice in Canada,” says Justice Kirker.
And what kind of a judge does she aspire to be?
“I hope it will be said that I am honorable, diligent and competent and that I show concern and respect for all whose lives bring them before the court.”