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Longtime magistrate retires'So much has changed in 40 years,' says Supreme Court judge 'Ted' Richard
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, June 23, 2012
Edward "Ted" Richard has finally found the right moment to step down from the bench: four years after being eligible to do so.
"I wanted to make way for the younger generation," he said. "I've been working part-time for the past four years but I'm finally ready now."
Richard spent almost 40 years in NWT courtrooms: 15 as a lawyer and 24 as a judge. As a magistrate in one of Canada's busiest legal circles, he witnessed a fair amount of changes since his arrival in 1973.
For instance, the number of resident lawyers in NWT and Nunavut has increased to more than 150 from 13. There are 14 judges now as opposed to three back then.
"The legal profession has changed dramatically since then," he said. "It's a lot busier, more complicated now. The criminal law side has always been very busy, due to the high rate of violent crime in the NWT."
The NWT had the second highest violent crime severity index in Canada in 2010 after Nunavut, according to Statistics Canada.
He also mentioned that a high rate of violence and sexual assault inevitably leads to a high rate of reported crime due to the familiarity between people that exists in northern communities.
Richard was appointed to the NWT Supreme Court on October 31, 1988. He presided over hundreds of jury trials and recalls them with fondness when reflecting on his time as judge.
"Many of my jury trials standout in my mind," he said. "My role was to explain the law to the people, and to let them decide."
One case in particular happened to be the highest-profile drug bust case in Yellowknife's history, code-named Project Gunship.
The RCMP-led investigation targeted upper-level drug distribution networks in both Edmonton and Yellowknife. Major sweeps involving more than 50 officers took place and substantial quantities of drugs, cash and handguns were seized.
Richard sentenced one drug trafficker, Ken Wong, to six years in jail and more than $496,000 in fines. He characterized the man and other Gunship defendants as "vultures and predators who prey on those weak members of the community."
"It's a phenomenon that happens more and more these days," he said. "Back when I started, they were smaller charges, such as marijuana smoking."
In 2007 the NWT Supreme Court also approved a substantial compensation package for more than 80,000 former residential school students who suffered physical and emotional pain during their childhoods. Richard said the schools were "a tragic and shameful chapter in the history of our country's relationship with its aboriginal peoples."
Richard was planning a fishing trip when contacted and will be moving back to Prince Edward Island with his wife Shona, where he is originally from. He says he'll use his spare time to travel around Canada and visit his relatives.