First Chief Justice of Nunavut remembered for impressive legacy

Justice Beverley Browne championed access to justice for Indigenous peoples

Sarah Kent - 25 March 2021

University of Alberta Faculty of Law alumna Justice Beverley Browne is being remembered for her impressive legacy as Nunavut’s first Chief Justice and as a tireless advocate for Indigenous peoples.

Browne, ‘75 LLB, died on Wednesday, March 24, surrounded by family.

After graduating from the Faculty of Law, Browne articled in Yellowknife and was called to the bar in Alberta in 1977. She ran her own general law practice in Vermilion before going on to become a judge in the Northwest Territories in 1990.

When Nunavut was established as a territory in 1999, Browne made history as the first Chief Justice of the territory and was responsible for building Nunavut’s justice system. She established Canada’s only single-level trial court to make the system more accessible, which was a through-line of her judicial career.

Browne also played a crucial role in introducing Inuit elders into the sentencing process by inviting them to sit alongside judges in the courtroom.

Browne co-founded the Akitsiraq Law School, which allowed Inuit law students to complete a law degree in their home territory, and worked alongside Professor Catherine Bell, who was one of the school's first professors.

In 2009, Browne returned to Alberta to serve the Court of Queen’s Bench. She was crucial in establishing the Alberta Gladue committee and the restorative justice committee.

After thirty years on the bench in Alberta and Nunavut, Browne retired in February 2021.