The Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador now has the highest proportion of female judges — 45 per cent — of any court in Canada.
The milestone was reached Tuesday at the provincial courts in St. John’s when Phyllis Harris was sworn is as the province’s newest judge by Chief Judge Mark Pike.
Harris was senior Crown attorney in Happy Valley-Goose Bay for four years. She will serve in Happy Valley-Goose Bay as a judge and will replace the recently retired Judge William English.
“While I don’t really think of myself as being adventurous, other people will differ and say the fact that I’m willing to try bungee jumping, whitewater rafting, ice fishing in minus 40 and riding a horse — that all those things perhaps indicate the opposite,” Harris told a courtroom full of legal peers, as well as family and friends.
Harris has a legal career spanning two decades. She was called to the bar in 1993. In 2005, she was appointed senior Crown in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Minister of Justice Terry French was on hand and said a few words.
“The justice system in Labrador is certainly unique and does have challenges that we do not see on the island. Geography, demographics and the culture all play a role in making provincial court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay an interesting place in which to administer the law,” French said. “Her experience as a senior Crown attorney in Labrador will serve her well in this integral role as a member of the judiciary.”
Harris has been serving as a bencher with the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador as a representative of Labrador. While the importance of her new role was stressed and her achievements commended by Kenneth Baggs, president of the Law Society, there was room in the court for some light razzing.
“Judge Harris’s shoes will be tough to fill (as a Crown attorney), but she might be in a position to lend a few pairs to anyone in need, as I understand she is something if a footwear connoisseur,” Baggs said.
Besides her legal achievements, Harris is an active horseback rider and has also worked with UNICEF at the local, regional and national levels for a decade.