Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta Justice Melanie Hayes-Richards could very well be described as a typical Canadian.
In response to a question regarding the need of the Bench to be reflective of the Canadian people, Justice Hayes-Richards — who was appointed to QB in Edmonton on March 6, 2020 — notes she is not a visible minority and other than being a woman does not fall into any of the diversity categories.
However, she categorically states that she is “by all means a Canadian” and suspects she has more in common with a typical Canadian than one would think.
“I am a wife, a mother, a daughter and a sister,” she says. “My journey may not be exactly the same as yours, but that is what makes me reflective of the Canada that I know.
“I am the granddaughter and great granddaughter of immigrants. I am the daughter of proud and hard-working parents. I am the daughter of a single mother, a latch-key kid. I am the girl that grew up in low-income housing who rode her bike around your neighbourhood and played outside with your kids.
“I am the person taking your order at McDonalds, the bank teller helping you pay your bills and the Customs and Immigration officer welcoming you to Canada. I am the colleague in the office next door.
“I am the proud sister of a retired member of the Canadian Armed Forces. I am the mother telling you, as my mother told me, that if you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all. I am the family member who was by your side when you were sick.
“I am the person you met at a mom’s group when you had your first child 16 years ago and remain friends with today. I am your neighbour, your block party organizer, the one who says hello to you when I walk my dogs.
“I am the soccer player with you on the field. I am the person sitting beside you at your child’s hockey, ringette or soccer game. I am the volunteer who sells you 50-50 and raffle tickets. I am the bottle drive organizer, treasurer, jersey mom and assistant soccer coach. I am the parent you call when your child needs a ride to practice or to a game.”
In short, what she does as a parent, neighbour, friend and family member reflects what so many Canadians do - take care of their families and contribute to their community.
Justice Hayes-Richards was born in Pointe Claire, Quebec, but grew up in a Vancouver suburb.
After some initial entry-level jobs prior to starting her post-secondary education, including working at a McDonald’s restaurant and a bank, Justice Hayes-Richards began her legal journey.
She attended Simon Fraser University from 1989 to 1994 and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Criminology. She then attended the University of Alberta Faculty of Law from 1995 to 1998, earning a Bachelor of Laws.
While studying criminology, she worked as a student probation officer. Then, while in law school, she did a two-year stint as a Customs and Immigration Officer.
After graduation from law school, she articled with both QB and the Court of Appeal of Alberta and then at a corporate law firm
She was called to the Bar on September 17, 1999, and shortly after took a Legal Counsel position with the Court of Appeal, remaining there until April 2003 when she joined the Public Prosecution Service of Canada as a prosecutor. A little over five years later, she was hired by Alberta Justice and Solicitor General as an organized crime prosecutor.
In January 2014 she moved to the Appeals Branch and worked as Appellate Counsel until November 6, 2018, when she was appointed a Judge of the Provincial Court of Alberta.
Prior to being appointed to the Bench, Justice Hayes-Richards worked nearly 20 years in the criminal justice system and believes her most significant contribution to the law and pursuit of justice was her dedication to ensuring that accused persons receive a fair trial.
She also believes her extensive life experience, both through her work and her personal background, has provided her with insight into the variety and diversity of Canadians.
“All people are equal and should always be treated that way. And all people, regardless of their background or lifestyle, deserve respect and understanding,” she says. “I also know the importance of keeping an open mind and listening to what people have to say and trying to understand issues from their unique perspectives.”
Interesting fact: As a Customs and Immigration Officer at the Marine Response Unit in Vancouver, Justice Hayes-Richards learned how to scale the side of a cargo ship on a rope ladder.
The married mother of two enjoys playing soccer and golf and supporting her children in their sports activities.