Catherine Benton is the first Mi’kmaw woman judge in Nova Scotia.
Benton, a lawyer with Nova Scotia Legal Aid, was appointed to the provincial and family court on January 23. She is the second Mi’kmaq and the third Indigenous person to be appointed to the bench in Nova Scotia.
Benton, from Auburndale, Lunenburg County, has been a lawyer for the past 22 years. She earned her law degree from Dalhousie University in Halifax in 1993.
Benton previously worked as a researcher for the Union of Nova Scotia Indians, a tribal council that represents the five Mi’kmaw First Nations in Cape Breton and the Acadia First Nation in Yarmouth, N.S. She also did research for the Mi’kmaq Grand Council, the traditional governing body of the Mi’kmaw Nation.
Benton has served on the board of directors for the Tawaak Housing Association, which offers subsidized housing for Indigenous people in Nova Scotia, the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre and the former Mi’kmaq Justice Institute.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen MacNeil said the appointment of Benton and another lawyer, Rhonda van der Hoek, as judges “will further strengthen our justice system.”
“It is important that Nova Scotians see themselves reflected in our institutions, and that our judges reflect the diversity of our province,” Premier McNeil said in a news release issued on January 23.
Justice Pierre Leon Muise, a Metis and Acadian from Quinan, N.S. was appointed as a provincial court judge in 2009. The following year, Justice Timothy Gabriel, a Mi’kmaq with the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band in Newfoundland and Labrador, was also appointed as a provincial court judge.
Both Muise and Gabriel now serve as Justices for Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Yarmouth, N.S., and Halifax respectively.