Nova Scotia's first Black judge retiring after 34 years on family court

·2 min read

HALIFAX — The first African Nova Scotian appointed to the province's judiciary is leaving the bench after 34 years.

Family court of Nova Scotia Judge Corrine Sparks will officially retire on Friday.

A native of Lake Loon, N.S., Sparks graduated from Dalhousie University's law school in 1979 and practised private law until her appointment to the province's family court in March 1987.

In a news release, Pamela Williams, chief judge of the provincial and family courts of Nova Scotia, describes Sparks as a "trailblazer, in every sense of the word.”

Williams says Sparks helped build the foundation for a "more equal and inclusive legal profession" in Nova Scotia and across Canada.

Sparks played a key role in launching a judicial mentorship initiative with Dalhousie's Schulich School of Law to support African Nova Scotian and Indigenous lawyers interested in becoming judges.

She also helped organize judicial engagement sessions with the African Nova Scotian community in Cherry Brook, N.S., in 2018 and in Whitney Pier, Cape Breton, in 2019 that were designed to broaden the skills of judges and help them better appreciate the challenges facing African Nova Scotians in the justice system.

“Family law is a particularly difficult area to work in, but Judge Sparks was a natural from the beginning," Williams said. "On behalf of her judicial colleagues, I thank her for her decades of service to Nova Scotians, and wish her all the best in her new role.”

Beginning next year, Sparks will serve as one of two commissioners responsible for adjudicating disputes over land ownership in historic African Nova Scotian communities.

The work is part of a land titles initiative launched by the province in 2017 to help residents get clear title to land in the communities of East Preston, North Preston, Cherry Brook-Lake Loon, Lincolnville and Sunnyville.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 30, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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