Karen Wilford is the 2022 recipient of the CBA’s Legal Aid Award

  • April 11, 2022

Karen Wilford, the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Commission of the Northwest Territories, is the 2022 recipient of the Legal Aid Leader Award for her long-term commitment to legal aid and to providing accessible and affordable legal services to the population.

She was chosen by the CBA Access to Justice Subcommittee for this award, which recognizes legal aid lawyers who have made a significant contribution to providing access to justice to people in need.

Ms. Wilford is the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Commission of the Northwest Territories, where she serves with respect on the traditional land of the Akaitcho Dene. Prior to her current role, she served as a Staff Lawyer with the LAC and as the Northwest Territory’s Children’s Lawyer. She is currently the Chair of the Association of Legal Aid Plans of Canada.

Ms. Wilford obtained her Bachelor of Laws from the University of Western Ontario in 1985. She was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1986, the Bar of Nunavut in 2004 and the Bar of the Northwest Territories in 2006. She practiced in family law throughout her career, with a particular interest in children’s law, child protection and the delivery of services to marginalized clients. In 2004, she moved with her family to Cambridge Bay, a small Inuit community north of the Arctic Circle to deliver legal aid services. That two-year contract has turned into a life-long commitment. Eighteen years later, the enchantment of the North, with its compelling intersections of land, law, and culture, keeps her feet firmly rooted to the tundra and boreal forest.

Since moving south to Yellowknife, Ms. Wilford served on the Executive of the Law Society of the Northwest Territories for four years, including as President. She is currently the NWT Council member to the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, where she has served as Co-Chair of the Federation’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Advisory Committee.

Volunteerism and community work have been staples in her life. She has had past involvement with the Elizabeth Fry Society, YMCA, Green Haven Shelter for Women, Orillia Soldiers Memorial Hospital, Orillia Rotary Club, Simcoe County Law Association, St. Paul’s United Church, Ikaluktutiak Paddling Club, Ikaluktutiak Cubs & Beavers, and the Ikaluktutiak District Education Authority.

Since the release of the TRC’s 94 Calls to Action, she has also committed to advancing our communal responsibility for reconciliation, leading initiatives within the Yellowknife United Church, the Law Society of the Northwest Territories, the Association of Legal Aid Plans of Canada and around her own dinner table.