A Philippine-born lawyer has been appointed to the Court of Appeal of Alberta, the highest court in the province.
Bernette Ho, a judge with the Court of Queen’s Bench, which is the trial court in Alberta, was named in an announcement on August 6 by David Lametti, who is the federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.
Ho was one of four Alberta judicial appointees announced was Lametti.
An official biography included in the announcement recalled that Ho was previously appointed to the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta (Calgary) in 2018.
The biography also noted: ““She came to Canada when she was six months old and her parents emigrated from the Philippines, where they were both born of Chinese descent. She completed all of her early education in Cochrane, Alberta. She earned a B.A. (Honours) in Communication Studies from the University of Calgary (1992) and an LL.B from the University of Alberta (1995). She was called to the Bar of Alberta in 1996.”
“Madam Justice Ho spent her entire law practice with one firm, Macleod Dixon (now Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP), where she focused on energy regulatory matters, including oil and gas and electricity, as well as employment, arbitration and administrative law and commercial litigation. During her 23 years with the firm, she was also heavily involved with several of its community projects, including the Partnership in Education program, a Calgary Board of Education led initiative which paired private entities with schools. She was also the firm’s representative to the Law Society of Alberta’s Justicia Project, which aimed at retaining women lawyers and promoting diversity.”
When Ho took her oath as a judge with the Court of Queen’s Bench on May 25, 2018, the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines noted on Twitter that she was the first Philippine-born judge in Alberta.
The department of quoted Ho saying in her remarks: “I am proud of my Filipino heritage.”
Ho’s official biograpy on the website of the Court of Queen’s Bench states that the judge is the youngest of five children.
Moreover, Ho “credits her parents for teaching her and her siblings the value of hard work and the importance of family and always being there for one another”.
“We all owe my parents a world of thanks. They sacrificed, they worked hard and they showered us with love to make sure we all had the opportunity to do something meaningful in our lives,” Ho said.
“They really impressed upon us the need to work hard,” Ho said, adding that her mother and father also preached the value of education, especially post-secondary studies.
“I always knew I was going to university,” she said. “It was just something that was expected in our family.”
Ho also noted in the biography that there is little distinction in her world between immediate family, step-siblings, in-laws, cousins and extended family.
“We ascribe to an expansive definition of family and we include numerous honorary aunts, uncles and cousins,” she said.
Ho added that a love of food is something they all have in common.
“Like all Asian families, food, and lots of it, is a central and important theme to all our generally weekly Sunday gatherings. And while we love our food, it never gets in the way of what is really important: the actual get together, time to catch up, share some laughs and create memories,” she said.
A questionnaire answered by Ho as part of her earlier application to become a judge in the Court of Queen’s Bench provides more details about her life.
As part of her responses, Ho recalled that she was only six months old when her parents arrived in Calgary in early 1971.
“I believe that I have a number of personal qualities that equip me for the role of judge, beginning with the qualities I learned from my parents at an early age,” she related.
Here parents opened one of the first Chinese restaurants in Calgary, and everyone in the family was expected to help in any way possible.
“When I was old enough, I too went to the restaurant to help with anything I could, which first meant preparing cutlery roll-ups and wiping glasses. In time, my responsibilities increased to hanging coats and taking reservations,” Ho related.
“As a consequence, my siblings and I gained a sense of responsibility at an early age, and together, we learned the value of hard work, as well as the importance of treating customers with courtesy, honesty and respect. As my parents' restaurant started to experience success, my parents continued to stress the importance of these values, adding that it was important that we remain humble and be thankful,” Ho stated.