Justice Beverley Browne remembered as ‘gold standard’ for judges

Nunavut’s first chief justice died Wednesday at 68

Former Nunavut Chief Justice Beverley Browne, right, is seen in this 2000 file photo swearing in the territory’s commissioner Peter Irniq. Browne died Wednesday and was remembered by current Chief Justice Neil Sharkey as the “gold standard” of judges. (File photo by Sean McKibbon)

By Nunatsiaq News

Colleagues of Justice Beverley Browne paid tribute to Nunavut’s first senior judge, a woman they described as the “gold standard” of judicial community commitment who worked to improve the court’s relationship with Indigenous communities.

Browne died Wednesday in Edmonton at the age of 68.

“Justice Browne’s commitment to advancing the law for the benefit of Nunavummiut was on display every time she presided,” Nunavut’s Chief Justice Neil Sharkey wrote in a statement distributed by the Nunavut Court of Justice on Friday. “Justice Browne represents the gold standard of judicial community commitment.”

Browne was the first chief justice of Nunavut when the territory was created in 1999. She served 10 years in that role before becoming a member of the Queen’s Bench of Alberta in 2009. She retired from that role earlier this year.

She continued to serve as a deputy judge until her retirement and, until recently, led meetings aimed at revitalizing the elders’ program in the Nunavut Court of Justice, a program she had initiated, Sharkey said.

In addition to Browne’s professional achievements spearheading a Nunavut law school, developing the law and building a superior court, her personal accomplishments included raising her children and developing a music society, Sharkey said.

Premier Joe Savikataaq also commended Browne’s career, saying “she had such an impact on justice in Nunavut.”

Alberta’s Chief Justice Mary Moreau also paid tribute to Browne, calling her an “inspiration.”

“She touched us all with her compassion, her down-to-earth approach to problem-solving and her strong desire to improve the Courts’ relationship with Indigenous communities through her work on the Courts’ Gladue Committee and Restorative Justice Committee,” Moreau wrote in a statement.

Last November, Browne was honoured at a ceremony held by Cree elders in Alberta, who gave her the spirit name “Woman Standing with the Law.”

Moreau said Browne served as “a wonderful mentor” to new judges.

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by Judy Watts on

    Bev was a great friend to Iqaluit and to myself. She was a driving force to the Music Society. When I was managing the finances for the Music Society, she would call me up asking me to come for tea. “She had an Idea she wanted to talk about!” I would shudder!. Another hunk of work for me. However, her ideas were always creative and a great benefit to the kids of Iqaluit.
    Judy Watts
    McDonalds Corners, ON

  2. Posted by Kent Driscoll on

    Outside of seeing Justice Browne at Music Camp having fun, my favourite memory of her is how she would inform the courtroom of the details of a publication ban.

    She would lean over her bench and make eye contact with the reporters as she read out the rules. Better believe we listened.

    She is also the only judge who ever gave me an on camera interview.

    She is missed.

  3. Posted by Paul Murphy on

    As a retired Justice of the Peace, I learned much about Justice in Nunavut and Canada and I thank her for that. I recall how she laughed so hard when I told her one day that she was my favourite judge next to Judge Judy.

    I also have no qualms about suggesting that the building referred to as the NCJ bldg in Iqaluit be named the “Justice Beverley Brown Building” in her honour.

    • Posted by Nunavutmiuta on

      that is a very good Idea, I have often in the pass stood up to her in court, and I must say she was always fair regardless of who or what u were charge with. We Nunavutmiut need to show our respect her and show the world how lucky Nunavut was the have a outstanding person such as her as a judge

  4. Posted by Ruth Cardinal de Ubiera on

    Bev and I met and found ourselves having the most wonderful thing in common – we were both grateful organ transplant recipients, having received our respective transplants a month apart. As we got to know each other, she wanted to be invited to the In Search of your Warrior Program graduations at Stan Daniel’s Healing Centre and the Spirit of a Warrior Program graduations at Buffalo Sage Wellness House. She enjoyed them so much because she got to hear from the graduates as they talked about what they gained from the Program. She said that as a justice, the last time she saw people was when they were being sentenced. It gave her great pleasure to listen to them talk about how they had grown and healed and were excited about their new lives. She was proud of them, and wanted to cheer on their success. She worked to have other justices – her colleagues – come to the graduations too so they could also see what she saw – the pride in their achievement and the hope for a better life.
    I also remember her pride in her son, who is a member of the Jerry Cans, a talented band from Nunavut who are winning awards with their musical performances. She gave me one of their CDs. The look of pride on her face as she told me about their success. I will miss her. A lot.
    Rest easy now, Bev.

  5. Posted by Mary Lou Sicoly on

    I had the pleasure of helping to run the Summer Music Camp with “Strings Across The Sky” ,founded by Andrea Hansen (1938-2014),of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, accompanied by top accordionist Jerry Cingolani (1932-2017), and a team of wonderful musicians. We worked closely with coordinator Darlene Nuqingaq and her talented team to bring music experiences to young people through the teaching of strings, band, vocal and drama. The co-founder , Justice Beverly Brown, became known to us as “Bev” welcomed us warmly into her home and into the great initiatives in music for the community that she championed. An accomplished musician herself, she was supportive and enthusiastic about the healing power of the arts in community and despite her demanding profession, was always visible and present to our process and celebrations during these times. My memories of Justice Brown are of respect and admiration as a woman of substance and a wonderful human being.

  6. Posted by Kevin Short on

    I’m a lawyer in Alberta, who met Justice Browne (first in court) about 10 years ago. What a wonderful woman and wonderful judge. She had a passion and a compassion for the cases she was trying, and created a warm and welcoming environment in the court rooms she presided over. She continued to serve as an ambassador to Nunavut, and certainly opened my eyes to issues and needs there. She gave me an example of what real courage looks like as we talked about her conquering her health issues. Although I probably have had the pleasure of only a few hours with her, the news of her passing was heartbreaking. Thank you Justice Browne for all you have done. You have made a difference.

    • Posted by Marshall (Mickey) Coman on

      I lived in Iqaluit for about 30 plus years and for 11 of those years, I was a JP working with Judge B. Browne . She had me sit in court with her, so I got adjusted to how the court system worked. After many sitting with her, Judge Browne asked me to write down my sentence and she would compare our notes. Judge Browne then would go over my reason on this etc etc. Judge Browne tutored me on conducting trails with expanded sentencing power, and I conducted trials for about 6 years. Judge Browne was a great teacher in all aspects of law. As I am long in the tooth now, I will never forget what a great friend and skilled person Judge Browne was. l am so sorry to now hear of her passing. God Bless.

      Marshall (Mickey)

  7. Posted by Janet Lenover on

    I was very saddened to learn of Judge Browne’s passing. I met her once, in 2018, where she presided over my ‘honorary’ niece’s call to the bar. Jenna Joyce Broomfield was the first Inuk lawyer called to the Alberta Bar in traditional attire. She throat sang and spoke at the ceremony. Unheard of but Judge Browne allowed and encouraged it. It was very special. I am a retired RCMP and worked and lived in Labrador where Jenna is from. Jenna was three when I left in 1992 but we maintained a very special connection.
    I was very impressed how Judge Browne handled that ceremony in Edmonton. At that time I did not know all of her story. And of course she is from Saskatchewan, a ‘quiet’ leader.
    What an amazing woman and a gift to all Canadians.

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