Justice Vanessa Christie first judge to be sworn in at Gore Bay

Justice Vanessa Christie at her new post at the Gore Bay courthouse.

GORE BAY—The swearing in of Justice Vanessa Christie as sitting judge in Gore Bay can definitely be termed historical for Manitoulin.

“I have the honour of welcoming Justice Vanessa Christie on behalf of the Manitoulin Bar Association,” stated James Weppler president of the Manitoulin Law Association, at the swearing in ceremony held last month. “Today’s swearing in is indeed historical and is a case of history repeating itself.”

You will have noticed that there are three stone buildings comprised in the court complex including the court house, which was built in 1890, a house for the judge on one side and on the other side the jail with cells and the jailer’s residence, which is now the Gore Bay Museum.”

“But there was no judge resident in the newly created District of Manitoulin until November 1899 when Justice Archibald McCallum was appointed the District Judge, to the great job of the people of Manitoulin. And a celebration of 200 souls marked the occasion in the community centre as we will today,” explained Mr. Weppler.

“Interestingly, Judge McCallum’s initial sittings were described as ‘unusually heavy,’ including seven cases on the docket but was noted that fortunately three were settled,” said Mr. Weppler. “I suspect Judge McCallum would have been most shocked at the docket our newly appointed justice will face, with hundreds of charges on a docket running many pages with dozens of accused.”

“By the mid-20th century, the District of Manitoulin had lost its resident judge in both the District and Magistrate Courts as we became a colony of Sudbury,” continued Mr. Weppler. “But today, after a 60 year wait, we can again welcome a resident judge to the District of Manitoulin, hence our joy.”

“I pledge our support in facing the challenges ahead together, both bench and bar and ultimately the communities of the District of Manitoulin including the UCCM Justice program and the Wikwemikong Peacemaker Justice Program. We must all work together. So welcome to the challenge.” 

The swearing in ceremony for the Honourable Justice Vanessa Christie as a judge of the Ontario Court of Justice took place on October 17, 2017 in Gore Bay. The Honourable Chief Justice Lise Maisonneuve and the Honourable Regional Senior Justice Patrick Boucher (presiding judge) presided at the ceremony.

Speakers at the swearing in ceremony including Stacey Haner on behalf of Yasir Naqvi, Attorney General for Ontario; Stephanie Baker on behalf of Paul B. Schabas, treasurer, the Law Society of Upper Canada; Mr. Weppler, Justice Melanie Dunn on behalf of Justice Stephen P. Harrison, President, Ontario Conference of Judges; and guest speaker Julianna Greenspan.

Justice Christie welcomed all those in attendance and said, “I am sure like many people who are appointed, when the phone rings and it is the Attorney General, the moment is surreal. I just sat there for a few moments wondering if at any moment he might call back and say, ‘whoops, I meant to call someone else’.”

“But then the chief calls, the regional senior calls, a whole bunch of your soon to be new colleagues call,” said Justice Christie. “And all of a sudden you start to realize, ‘wow, this might be happening.’ And that’s the moment when you start dancing like no one is watching. I had always heard the phrase and wondered when that moment might be. Well now I know.”

“I am absolutely thrilled to have been appointed to the Ontario Court of Justice,” stated Justice Christie. “I am equally thrilled to have been chosen to sit in this jurisdiction. I can tell you that this just feels right.”

She vowed, “I will work every day remembering what it was like to receive that call from the Attorney General, to be at that first judicial conference and to remembering what it is like to be here with you all right now.”

“I am looking forward to working with all of you, to working with the

First Nation communities/organizations and leaders, to improving access to justice, to ensuring trials within a reasonable time, to ensuring that people who come before me leave feeling a sense of fairness and justice. The most important person in the courtroom is of course the party having their matter heard or accused person in a criminal matter.”

“I wish to thank everyone that has supported me in my life and in my career,” said Justice Christie. “I know that I would not have achieved the things I have without the love and support of all of you––my family, friends and colleagues.’

Justice Christie touched on her ‘Greenspan family.’ “On January 17, 2000 I walked into Greenspan Henein and White, as it was then named, for the first time as a second year criminal intensive student from Osgoode Hall Law School The first day of that placement, I watched one of the partners conduct a preliminary hearing. But the second day I was asked to go over to Old City Hall to join Mr. Greenspan, as he was doing a sentencing hearing and that he would be asking me to wait with the client at the  probation office after sentence was imposed to make sure that the paperwork was correct and to help make the client feel more comfortable as he waited.”

She said at the time the associate asked her if she knew what Eddie Greenspan looked like in order to find him. “Did I know what Eddie Greenspan looked like? I thought, ‘are you serious? Of course I know what Eddie Greenspan looks like.’ I had moved half way across the country determined to work for Eddie Greenspan. And off I went to meet the person who would become my mentor throughout my entire career as a criminal defence lawyer until his passing in December 2014. Having him in my life made me the lawyer that I became and the judge I will become.”

“Of course, having Eddie in my life brought with it many other important people that are as family to me now. The entire Greenspan family­­––I have always felt like an adopted member. Julianna (his daughter) and I continued as partners in the firm after losing Eddie, but this partnership has always been so much more than a professional one. And of course, the many people that I worked with at the firm, many of you are here with me today and are cherished friends.”

“My parents: As far as I am concerned, I had the best parents anyone can have. Being parents to Allen and I, and then later, being grandparents to my niece, Aliyah, this was the entire focus of their lives,” continued Justice Christie. “Ever since I was first called to the bar, my parents, who lived in New Brunswick, would come to Ontario on vacation and sit in court watching me appear. When I was articling, they would come just to watch me do a set date and were so proud when I asked for the matter to return on a certain date and that date was set by the court. You would think I did something miraculous. They were so delighted. After I was called, they would come to watch trials, sitting proudly in the body of the court. After my father passed away in 2007, my mother would come more often, actually planning her trips around trials I had scheduled. As I said earlier, I also lost my mother in 2014, just a few days before Eddie passed away.”

“There is no question that I am the person I am today because of the love and support of my parents,” stated Justice Christie.

“So that brings me to Aubrey, my best friend,” said Justice Christie. “Aubrey and I both grew up in the small town of St. Stephen, New Brunswick. We have been dating since we were ‘old enough to date’,” she said, using air quotations.

“Aubrey does air quotes a lot so I did that for him! One day, I tell him, ‘Aubrey, we’re moving to Fredericton so I can attend the University of New Brunswick for my undergraduate degree.’ Off we went,” said Justice Christie. “Then, toward the end of that, I say to Aubrey, ‘I really want o attend Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto.’ This time he was a little more reluctant, but off we went. I never really warned him that the Toronto thing would take up the next 19 years of our lives. I left that part out. But then, when I got that call from the Attorney General and I called Aubrey and said we are moving to Manitoulin Island, Aubrey said ‘okay, let’s get out of here’.”

“Aubrey is a constant support in my life-through good times and bad. This is one of those good times and here he is right by my side,” said Justice Christie. “Thank you all for being a part of my life and part of this extraordinary day.”