Justice Steven N. Mandziuk
Recently appointed Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Steven N. Mandziuk sees diversity as a crucial element of the Canadian story and he is proud that the law in Canada protects and supports it as a human value.
“It is like almost no other country in the world in the way that diversity is viewed. This is part of what gives us our peaceable society,” says Justice Mandziuk, noting that racists and ethnicists and those who condemn other religions are generally looked at by fellow Canadians as socially unacceptable.“Those views do not represent the mainstream of Canadian society, which is among the most tolerant in the world,” says Justice Mandziuk, adding he also sees that viewpoint strongly adhered to within the judicial system.
The new Justice – who comes from Ukrainian and German ancestry – has been exposed to people from all walks of life, including those of different races and cultures, since his teen years and throughout his legal career and volunteer work.
“I have come to really appreciate what that experience does in terms of how society makes its decisions,” he says.
While growing up in Alberta with many new Canadians, people from other provinces and Indigenous persons, Justice Mandziuk first experienced diversity.
“Living in a diverse community at an impressionable age and making friends with other children who came from backgrounds and cultures very different from mine helped me develop an appreciation of and sensitivity toward people who are not like me,” he says.
In his 10 years in private practice, the 52-year-old Justice had a significant portion of his practice devoted to family law and he recalls his client base being very diverse in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation, mental and physical ability, cultural background, religion, age and socio-economic status.
“Engaging closely with people as they experienced traumatic changes in their lives helped me to appreciate in a profound way how our common humanity binds us,” says Justice Mandziuk.
His work representing clients who were isolated by both their families and cultural communities also led to him witnessing the darker side of human behavior in those situations.
“This provided me with a real understanding of the corrosive effects of prejudice and intolerance and the indomitable nature of the human spirit,” he says.
During his time as General Counsel at Finning (Canada) and through his many years of work with the Canadian Bar Association (CBA), Justice Mandziuk frequently demonstrated leadership regarding diversity issues.
That includes supporting an initiative to empower and retain female corporate leaders and having a role in creating policies enshrining the virtues of a diverse and tolerant workplace and protecting employees from discriminatory and bullying behavior.
So why did the successful corporate lawyer – who still found time to volunteer with community soccer and a children’s choir program – want to become a judge?
“I passionately believe in the rule of law and am really proud of how much value is placed on it in Canadian society. Being a judge allows me to work within that system and impact those laws and rule on laws and help others to resolve their disputes in a civilized manner in our courts,” says Justice Mandziuk.
“For me it is a perfect job because I have a strong academic interest in the law and I also like to delve into problems and deal with people,” he says, calling it a “very humbling” experience to be serving fellow Canadians as part of the judiciary.
And what kind of judge does the new Justice hope to be?
“One who always does his very best to communicate and make decisions in accordance with the law, but also compassionate and understanding, which can be in a large part achieved by being a good communicator both in and outside of the courtroom,” he says.
Justice Mandziuk received his LL.B. from the University of Alberta in 1991 and was admitted to the Alberta Bar in 1992 and the British Columbia Bar in 2002. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2010. He was appointed a Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench by the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, on September 29, 2017. He was officially sworn in on Friday, January 26, 2018, at 4 p.m. in Courtroom 317.