Judge Kael McKenzie

Steeves Bujold: Justice McKenzie, how are you?

Judge McKenzie: Well, it's Judge, Judge, we use Judge in Manitoba, not Justice at provincial court level,

Steeves Bujold: Judge McKenzie, Judge McKenzie, welcome.

Judge McKenzie: Well, it's nice to meet you, Steeves. So we're going to talk, I guess, about some things.

Jingle: This is conversations with the President, presented by the Canadian Bar Association.

Steeves Bujold: Are you ready to start?

Judge McKenzie: I guess so. I probably should do the caveat that, of course, I'm here on my own capacity and not as a judge of the Provincial Court of Manitoba, my views are my own not those of the Court, as I always have to do, so… How’s Ottawa?

Steeves Bujold: I am in the Eastern Townships right now. I'm home, and I'm talking to you from the traditional and unceded territory of the Abenake and Wobanake Nation. If you allow me, Judge McKenzie, I will present a short version of your biography. So I understand that you were born in 1971. And you are a member of the Manitoba Metis nation. You served for several years in the Canadian Forces before attending law school at the University of Manitoba. And I don't know if you notice, but I brought my cap from University of Manitoba, that was given to me during a recent trip in your province, from which you graduated in 2006. You worked as a lawyer, both in private practice and with the Winnipeg firm of Chapman Goddard Kagan, and also as a crown prosecutor in family, commercial and civil law. You co- chaired the CBA National SOGIC conference from 2012 to 2014. And you also served as vice president of the Manitoba Bar Association. You served as president of the provincial Rainbow Resource Center for Manitoba, LGBT, and Two Spirit communities. And finally, and probably one of the greatest achievements of your career, you were appointed to the Provincial Court of Manitoba on December 17, 2015. And you are the first transgender person ever appointed a judge in our country. So how are you today?

Judge McKenzie: I'm busy, I think, as you can probably imagine, for yourself as well, a lot of stuff to do off the side of my desk, as well as my regular additional duties. So I'd say today, I feel busy, but I’m really pleased to be able to take this time to have a verb with you and to talk about some of those things. The bio, I sometimes think like, when did I do all these things? But it was pretty accurate.

Steeves Bujold: Thank you. We feel privileged, and we're honored to have you with us for a few minutes to discuss your career, your ideas, and to educate people on things that we don't talk enough about. So why don't we start with maybe a broad question, how does it feel to be appointed the first transgender judge in Canada? And what was the impact of your identity on the exercise of your role?

Judge McKenzie: You know, when I was appointed, I hadn't really thought too much about it, it really was not something that I was, I could be the first one or anything that really came to mind. In fact, shortly after I received the phone call from the Minister, I received another call from their person who was putting the media release out, and they asked me if I would be willing to share that I was transgender. And that, in fact, I was the first one in the country. You know, on some level, I knew, because I've been involved in the legal setting across the country. And so I, you know, I had a pretty good idea, but I didn't really know. And so I, I took a breath, and I thought about it for a really quick second, wasn't more than that, because I had the person on the phone. And so I thought about it for a second. And I thought, No, this is an opportunity to raise some awareness. And, hopefully, you know, by my being open about who I am, and it being a public perception, it'll show a couple of things. One, it'll maybe give some hope to some other people that they can be whoever they want to be. And the second thing that the Provincial Court of Manitoba is an open place, and that it's a safe place for people to be because we know that a lot of folks out there, and I'm sure we'll get to this in due course, don't really feel like it's a safe place for trans folks. And, you know, we've all heard horror stories and you know, I'm not going to qualify any of them. But, you know, I just this way, at least I’m doing my small part to move the needle.

Steeves Bujold: Would you be willing to share some of your personal history with us? What you went through? What was your most important challenges, but also, aha- or joyful moments from your career in the army, in law school, in private practice, that made you who you are today?

Judge McKenzie: Well, I am not sure how I got to where I am today, you know, by all rights, I really, I really started off maybe not exactly on the best foot in life and people who come from my background, generally speaking, probably wouldn't end up where I am today, I think there's been a lot of fortunate turns of events and, you know, but for this turn, or that turn, or this thing that's happened in my life, you know, I don't know that I should rightfully be here. And, you know, I'm not dismissing that I haven't done a lot of hard work and that I haven't, you know, worked to deserve where I am. But just given my family history, and I'm not going to get too much into that. But growing up, from the time I was about 13, things were not looking very good for me, I was getting into trouble, I was having problems. And I found the Sea Cadets Organization. And that’s something that I very much credit for the stability in my life. It gave me a purpose, gave me something that I was very good at and that I thrived at. And that I excelled at and they told me I was smart enough and good enough and that I could be anything I want it to be. And, you know, those folks in that organization really, really helped bring me along into a path that was to serve my country, to be on the side of law and order, and to really, to know that I could achieve things. So from about that time, you know, maybe a little bit later, it wasn't probably crystal clear till I was about 16 or so, I really just wanted to join the Canadian Forces, and I wanted to be in the military. The problem was that by that time, by the time I was 18, I also was an out lesbian. And at the time, it was against the Queen's regulations and orders to be LGB T, I think those were all the acronyms we had at the time, I'm not even sure the T was… it was lesbian and gay, really. And I joined despite that, and knowing full well I could end up having a dishonorable discharge if I was caught. And then dealing with the sort of the repercussions from that, what happens with a lot of the folks at the time when I was in the military, was that we hid our sexuality, we sculked around, we went under the cover of night to places where we could meet other people that are like us. And sometimes we did things we wouldn't otherwise do. And it was a,  it was a really difficult time in the military. I was in at the tail end of that. And so there was a point where we were allowed, but it became a situation where if we’re not employable, we weren't deployable, or if we weren’t deployable, we weren't employable. So what that meant at the time, as far as I understood, at least, that's what I was told, I mean, whether this is an absolute truth or not but if we couldn't be posted to posting where the Americans were in charge, we weren't actually employable. Now, that didn't come up for me, but had that situation risen, I would not have been able to go and serve where the Americans are, because they still had their own policies. So there was repercussions, still. For me, in the Canadian Forces, as I said, I did very well, I was top student, top recruit on every course I had ever been on. It was clear, I had some capacity to do academic work. And I had an issue that arose when I was in the military. And I'm, again, I'm not going to get into that, but it was pretty serious. And it came to the point where it was just untenable to work in that environment anymore. So when my contract was up, I decided to get out. Just before I did that, I think this is really an important thing in my story. Just before that happened, a woman transitioned from male to female. And I know that language is maybe a little bit out of use, but at the time, that's what happened, while she was serving in the Canadian Forces. And it was really the first time where I actually, I  mean at this point I'm like 26, 27 years old, like I'm not, I wasn't young. It was the first time I actually had that seed planted where I was: “That's what this is for me”. And I thank that woman so much, and I'm not going to say what her name is, but I, for all of these years, up until last year, when I spoke at pride, at a pride conference in Winnipeg last year, I did not know her name. I was telling this story and someone came up to me afterwards and told me what her name was. And it was just mind blowing so many years later. Like, you know, 30 years later, whatever it is, 25 years. I don't know something like that. I’m 51. So 23 24, 25, to find out her name because she had such an impact on my life. Right? And it was, the internet had just sort of come online. And you know, I started doing some Google searches. And you know, we just didn't, I didn't have the library access, I didn't have the words! I didn't have, you know, I knew what was my situation, but I didn't even know you could transition,  I didn't even know you could identify as being male, when you were assigned female at birth, I really didn't. And it was it was just this mind blowing experience. And, but for whatever happened with the Canadian Forces, it was, I always talk about it as being The Tale of Two Cities. You know, it was best of times, it was the worst of times, but without those experiences, you know, I am, you know, who knows where I would have, how long it would have taken, what, you know, what path I would have had to go. So, you know, I was pretty grateful for that. And when I got out of law school, or out of the military, I started in university, I had to go in as a mature student, because I only had a GED from when I was in the military. It wasn't my priority when I was at school. And so I had to sort of backup my education. I'd been out for a number of years regardless, and yeah, and so then I went to school and got my BA. And then I had to decide what to do. And I had a friend who was a lawyer, who is now my wife, or she wasn't a lawyer at that time, she was a law student and so I talked to her about going to law school, I borrowed her LSAT books and, and I got into law school under the Aboriginal consideration category. So I think I, my grades, were probably my LSAT scores, I was probably I was probably at the bubble in terms of academic background. I, when I was going to university, I had two kids, I was one point, parenting with my ex partner. Another point, single parenting, you know, having come back after many years, completely part time working full time. You know, there's many reasons for me to talk about why my grades were not as good as they maybe should have been. But at the end of the day, you know, I did get into law school, and I was fine. And everything worked out really well. So, so that's sort of where I think the pre- law school stuff and what my experiences were, I still struggled with my gender identity through law school, and actually, law school pushed me a little bit towards my transition. When I went into law school I had, you know, I had short, I was working as a campus police officer, right. And I'd been in the military, I had always worn uniforms, like this was not a comfortable place for me to be with, you know, professional women. I mean, not that these folks that I had worked with weren’t professionals, it was just we all wore uniforms and so we all looked the same. I never had to worry about what I was wearing, how I was dressed what my hair looked like, I wasn't allowed to wear makeup and, you know, jewelry and those kinds of things. You’re kind of smiling because I'm looking at myself and I know people can only hear us but you’ve got this bald guy with facial hair and you can imagine me with long hair and jewelry going on, probably in makeup but, you know, I was where I was at the time in law school, I realized that I had to probably do something and it was at that time that I actually made a decision that I was NOT going to transition and that I was going to embrace my femininity and I was going to grow out my hair and wear makeup and be the picture of a female lawyer. And I did. I went about it. I lost 100 pounds. I was exercising like a fiend, I grew my hair out well past my shoulders, I had all the power suits, all the, you know, the accessories that go with it, the makeup, the high heels, the whole bit. And the more I became that image of what I thought was the stereotypical female lawyer, my gender dysphoria exploded. And I couldn't take my own skin anymore. And it really pushed me to do something about it. And Steeves, I gotta tell you, my firm, they were so good about it. I'd only been there about a year. I had worked for prosecutions when I got out of law school. And when I graduated I articled for Manitoba prosecutions. I worked there for a few years after and then I had to, you know, have the grass that was greener on the other side, which I can tell people. It's not any brighter over there. It's just different. But the firm was so good. They, you know, I had literally two partners that were either in their 80s or almost in their 80s, another senior partner and they, I went to them and said, you know, this is what's happening. I'm happy to leave. We had this, it was a small firm, there was, you know, fairly conservative folks. I mean, we had a, you know, I wouldn't say that we were completely, but you know, to their credit, they did not skip a beat me. “It doesn't matter to us, Kael. We just want you to be a good lawyer” and my mind was blown, you know, and, and so I went about a process. And I went about the process of transitioning. I had a member of the Judiciary help me to send out some information, I had the law society on board. And as soon as my name change came in, we sent out a blast email to cut out any talk, you know, the “Did you hear? Did you hear?” kind of stuff, and it all went seamlessly, like it was really good. I sent out a blast email or a letter to all my clients. I had everyone. I had everyone from, you know, a young offender, to an elderly immigrant person. And they were all great. In fact, this young guy who, let's say, maybe led a little bit of an unsavory life at the time, who was my client, one of my criminal clients, actually called me the day I sent out the letter, and he said, I am so proud of you. Like, it was just, I was just blown away. And the woman who didn't speak English very well, she, when she told me she didn't say a word about the transition, she just went, Karl?. Because she couldn't pronounce Kael. And, but she never missed a beat, you know. And same thing with my family. And my, my, my grandmother was in her 90’s. Not, she didn't mess up once, right, until she passed at 96 years old, she called me “my son”, you know, “my boy” and she, like always everything, never once ever missed a beat, and you know, so just, it's been an amazing situation for me. Has it been perfect? There's been situations that I've had to address. But for the most part, 95% of my experience is very, very positive. I suspect some of that is transitioning from female to male, and I pass really well. And so that may be part of it. But I think being completely transparent about things for me, and in the profession that I'm in, was very helpful, that's sort of where things went and how they got here. And, and then, of course, you know, about what happened, when I was appointed, some really interesting things happen at that point, you know, I, right after my appointment, you know, how I said, if I help just one person, I got an email from a woman in Ottawa, who was a lawyer who had a trans child, and she just emailed me, and she said, thank you so much for being open about being transgender, because I've been worrying about my child and I know now that they can go into our profession, they can become a judge, they can do whatever, be whoever they want. It was so powerful. I just, you know, and I, you know, day one, my job was done, what I had set out to do, and there's been lots more things since then. But I mean, seven years later, right. Anyway, that's what that was, it's been really, it's been really positive.

Steeves Bujold: Thank you so much for sharing your life story with such passion and details. It's great. It's great to hear. And I'm really happy that you were able to transition in such a safe and positive environment. As you know, it's not the case for everyone. When we look at the data, at the statistics, there is in the trans community, a lot of suffering. Where do you think we should start as a society to improve the experience of the trans community in our country? I have my own idea, but I would like you to tell us what you think. Having more role models is certainly part of the solution, and you're part of the solution. But there's likely other things we should be doing.

Judge McKenzie: I don't know. You know, it's the simple-est answer I have, and the most complicated answer that I have at the same time, because there are so many situations where individuals find themselves and they find that, you know, is this, is this discrimination? Is this not? You know, I talk about a story with a friend of mine with a whole bunch, we've traveled together, and she experienced a whole bunch of micro aggressions against her. But could you ever say, and by multiple people, and I'm talking about an airport situation, and whereas my spouse and I, we didn't receive any of those, in fact, the opposite “Can I help you, sir? Here you go, sir”. Very respectful and even my wife, you know, “Can I help you? Ma'am? Is this you? No, ma'am, we're just going to check your bag”. And whereas my friend experienced something completely different, and but could you ever say, you know, these are, this is discrimination, you know, these people were doing their job, you know? And, and I think, you know, we start with education, we start with, you know, doing all of the little things that we can. You know, I know people can't see us, but you have he/il beside your name, I have he/him. Pretty much everyone in my court now has their pronouns at the end of their signature block. It's such a small thing.

Steeves Bujold: But it's a great, it's a strong message.

Judge McKenzie: It's a strong message to people that we're safe people,  that we get the issue, right. And you know, what's really interesting is, when I was first appointed, I had a, I had a zillion asks to have talks with people. And, you know, I would say, you know, every week, every two weeks, I was getting something else for quite some time. You know, and obviously, I can't do everything, I did what I could. And then it kind of slowed down a little bit, it was down to once every couple of months, I would get an ask for something. But what's interesting is, is that recently, the asks have exploded again. And they're different this time. Now people want me to come and they want me to teach, instead of just talking about me, they want me to come and talk about the basics. And what is really interesting, is that in the vast majority of the things that I've been doing recently, and they're basically trans 101 types of stuff, right, you know, we talk about language, I talked about the difference between sexual orientation, gender identity, etc, gender-bread person, type of thing. And, you know, and I, you know, I make sure they know the word cisgender. And I know that and I try to talk about a whole bunch of things. I talk about some statistics, some of the things that maybe that we're going to still talk about, I don't know, you know, and then I try to tell them some things that they can do. The vast majority, and I do most of this with judges, so most of what I've been doing, I've been doing with judges across the country, and North America, and the vast majority, they want to talk about pronouns, they want to talk about addressing people in court, they want to talk about judgment writing, they want to talk about how they can not offend somebody, and how they can get it right. You know, there cuz I don't know if you know this, but we adopted forms of address practice directive that BC had also implemented, I think, two years ago now, we've been at it for almost a year, I guess. With that came a lot of these types of questions that people asked and dispelling myths and dispelling all kinds of stuff. I just went on a webinar in the United States, just as a participant, was it yesterday, the day before? And same thing, everybody just talking about pronouns, they're talking about how to address people. And I think what's really positive is this: people want to know, and they want to get it right. And whatever this little bit of education that's happening with the pronouns, at least it's a step in the right direction. And, you know, I think the legal profession, and maybe the judiciary in particular, because that's where sort of the bulk of what I do these days is, is starting to recognize that we need to make courtrooms a safe place for folks, you know, something like the Trans Pulse study, and I'm sorry, I don't have the statistics in front of me, but I'm gonna say it’s somewhere about 50%, or 25% to 50%, somewhere in that range, of people said they wouldn't feel safe coming to court. You know, and of all the places that should be safe, it should be in court. One of the things that helped us decide to implement the practice directive was to demonstrate to people that this is safe, that you don't have to worry about telling us, we're just going to ask everybody. And you know, we had, there was lots of considerations. But I also think it's a really great opportunity for education. We fly into communities all across our province. And we're sometimes sitting in communities of 500 people, and there's 50 people coming through the court that day, who have just had to tell me their honorific and their pronouns, who didn't even know they had an honorific, right, or pronouns, for that matter for some folks. But even if they are just in the audience and they're hearing this, and they're thinking to themselves, okay, why are we doing this? You know, it's very interesting how a roomful of people and then the lawyers will take their turns and introduce everybody and then we'll move to the self-represented folks. And by the time two or three of them have come up, they start coming up and saying, “Good morning, your Honour, Mr. Whoever, I use he/him pronouns”. And I'm just like, it's so fantastic. It really is. It's been, it's been a really great experience to see that there’s so much capacity out there. And I think, you know, for me, my fears about transitioning, it took me a long time to actually do it, from the time I was in the military until the time I was at Chapman Goddard Kagan, but those fears for me were, were all my own. They didn't come to fruition for me, at least most of them. There was the odd little bit, but nothing like, I often just pass over those things. I don't want to say that everything was perfect. It was pretty close to perfect. But I think we can, people have more capacity than we give them credit for. And I really, really believe this, from what I've been seeing with this at any rate, I'm off topic completely. Sorry.

Steeves Bujold: No, nothing is off topic. But back on the question of pronouns, I'm practicing in the jurisdiction in Quebec, where pronouns are not in use. Not yet. We're working on it. But what would you, and I know the answer to this question, but what would you tell a lawyer or judge that is asking the question, why does it matter?

Judge McKenzie: Well, first of all, what used to happen, somebody would come into court, and the judge would say,  “Good morning, Mr. Smith, who's with you today?” and they'd say their client’s name and I'd say, “Okay, good morning, Mr. Whoever, or Miss whoever. And we would move on. And so what that would leave us with is, anybody who didn't identify as I had assumed they identified, would then be left in a position that they had to tell me, right? Or they're thinking, okay, when's this gonna happen with the…? and they're worrying about when the shoe is gonna fall about their gender, as opposed to, you know, having it out there and seeing that it's not just them. It's everybody, right. I think, a lot of trans folks in particular, and I'm using trans as an umbrella term, I hope it's clear to everybody that I'm not trying to be offensive in any way, and I understand that it's much more than it means for me, but people sometimes come into court and you, you don't know how they identify. And I use myself, I always use myself as an example. One day I came in, and they said, “Good morning, Ms.” and the next day, I came in, and they said, “Good morning, Mr. McKenzie”. And they didn't know, right, and they made some assumptions about me, and had I not told them, they, they would still maybe not have known and just thought that maybe I had just put on a particularly masculine looking suit that day. You know, it matters so that, we know this is a safe place, that we are not making assumptions wrongly about people, that people have the ability to tell us and we have the capacity for pronouns other than the binary. And I think it's a really good opportunity for education. And those aren't the primary reasons, it wasn't education, it never was the primary reason, but it was certainly a really beneficial by-product of it. I think I hit them all maybe I’m missing something. But I, that's the main reasons, I think it's really important. And, you know, for me, I, we talked about potentially using gender neutral language. And I think in writing, there's been a move towards gender neutral language in, not just legal writing, but in writing, period. And I think that's very positive, not to assume that people have a gender, whichever, whichever gender they identify as. But for me, I don't want to be called they/them. That's not how I identify. I identify as he/him, I identify as male, I am binary. I am heterosexual, I'm also transgender. But for some folks, still, you know, my labels don't fit. And so I want you to tell me, what, what, what labels fit for you. And we're going to use pronouns that are appropriate to you, we have the capacity to do that in the judiciary, if somebody tells me that they are Mx whomever, and they use they them pronouns, or Ze, whatever the case may be, I have the capacity to write that down and to remember it much like I have the capacity to remember somebody's name as I wrote it down for anybody who appears before me, so I think it's, it's really important to us. Safety is the paramount issue, but also, it's respectful.

Steeves Bujold: Thank you for summarizing it in just a few minutes. I think, as you said, it's about respect. It's about welcoming people and not denying their identity from the get-go. The statistics that are in the transforming justice research is about that, if when you walk in somewhere where you're asking for justice because you've been attacked, you've been raped, you're suing someone, you've been stolen, and then the person that is supposed to deliver justice and all the other actors, the first thing they do is that they deny your identity. How can it go well? It can’t go well. It will go wrong because you've been denied something fundamental, which is your identity, something so important to you. Thank you for explaining it so easily, I will make sure it's being heard by justices and lawyers across the country with the recording of this podcast.

Judge McKenzie: I think you did a better job than I did! At least, more succinctly!

Steeves Bujold: Thank you. And I want to underline the statistics from the last census, the 2021 census. As you know, questions were asked about, do you identify, as a person living in Canada, as trans or non-binary and more than 100 000 people answered yes, which is a really important population. And what is really interesting, when you look at the younger generations, at the generation which is called “Z”, born from 1997 to 2006, it’s almost 1% of that population that answered yes. So, any surprise? Why do you think it's growing and why there’s more and more people that have come out and that identify as part of the non-binary and trans community?

Judge McKenzie: I actually don't think there's any more, I've been touting this now without any thing to back it up for a long time now, but I don't actually think there are any more trans identified people, non binary people, people who fall outside of the binary spectrum of male and female, or completely outside of it, I don't actually think there's any more than there ever was. I think that what's different now is, one, we have role models, we have people that are saying, this is safe for you to do this, safe for you to be who you are. But more importantly, we have the language for transgender people, non binary people, gender diverse people have done a lot of work in a relatively short period of time, I'm going to say, for sure, within the last decade, even, maybe not even quite that long, to use our language, we've created language that we can identify with. And more and more people are saying, “Wow, that's what this is”. And if you recall, that when I heard of the woman in the military, right, I, okay, and I tapped to my forehead there, sorry, I keep forgetting we're on audio, that was where the lightbulb moment for me was, right. And so the more we talk about it, the more that the language is out there, the more understanding that we have, the more people are, are understanding that that's what's going on for them. They may not have ever had the words for it. I was a boy, when I was a little kid. I did not have the words for it. Some people call me a tomboy, but they expect tomboys to grow out of it. Right? We are expected to become girls, young women, women. And you know, and it's not necessarily always, you know, a good thing to be called the tomboy, and you know, gender norms during those stereotypes, all of those things, I think our society has really had an awakening that, you know, sometimes, and I say this all the time, too. But sometimes a potato is just a potato. You know, toys don't have to be gendered. And I think as we, we evolve, this is the language and the social norms that are evolving as well. It's really positive.

Steeves Bujold: Actually, I'm the first President with a same sex partner of the CBA. So, I talk a lot about the rights of our community, of the LGBTQ2S+ plus community, and focusing mostly on the trans community because I personally think that's where there is much more work to be done and the most compelling issues. Another very important subject is the notion that gender diversity existed on this continent, on the Turtle Island, before colonization, and the broad concept of these spiritual people existed and there's more and more evidence that we find in photos and oral history, and we're just re-discovering that the language was present. One question to you as a member of the Métis nation: How is it part of your culture, of your history? How much are you interested in and how do you think we can find light and solutions in the Indigenous and Métis tradition and culture for our community?

Judge McKenzie: Well for me, my family lived in this place of shame. And not, not because anybody was trans just because we were Indigenous. And our culture, for the most part, has been eroded to the point where, I have one uncle who speaks a little Cree and he spoke it with my grandmother who just passed away last year, 96 years old, I think I mentioned that already, very long life but you know, I didn't even know she spoke Cree until last year. And she started telling me stories and talking about things, you know, and I'm the last person to talk about our collective history, other than what I am trying to reclaim myself, and part of, of tracing my ancestry and making sure that I was included as a member of Métis nation, that, you know, I could, I could begin the steps to reclaim some of that for my family, and some of the folks in my family have done a little bit better job. But, you know, our, our focus has been really on the positive things. So our cooking, our dancing, our storytelling, those kinds of things. And so, I think that our Indigenous ancestors have a lot to tell us. What's been unfortunate in in my line, is that those things have been suppressed for generations, it may be difficult even to get them back. But I think if my grandmother's reaction to my transition tells me anything, there's some wise people out there who understand that the people we love are the people that we love. And it doesn't matter how you present. So, you know, I can't really give you much more of an answer than that other than I think that I hope we take the good parts of our, of our collective history, and that we can put them together into something that demonstrates that we have the capacity again, I use the word capacity a lot, to accept everyone, you know, there's cultures all over the world who have third genders. This is not unique to North America. I was recently presenting at an international conference, in Ottawa mind you, but you know, that was one of the focuses of my presentation, were the genders from all kinds of places all over the world. And so not new. And, and I do think that there is, I think, in our, in our traditions, that there is this, again, this huge capacity for the love of the person and the spirit, as opposed to how we present ourselves.

Steeves Bujold: And my last question, how do you see the future for our community? There are very positive developments, like the ones we discussed, but they're also worrying ones in many other jurisdictions where, and again, we won't talk about politics, but we see setbacks on trans rights, LGBTQ rights. So it's, it's, it seems that it's a pendulum. But what is your perception? Are you an eternal, an eternally positive person, or, not negative, but… What keeps you up at night?

Judge McKenzie: I think you could probably tell from everything that I said that I'm an eternally optimistic person, I really do have a lot of hope. And I think, I think we give our neighbors to the south maybe not quite enough credit. I know, I'm gonna get some feedback, and maybe some flack about that. Yes, there are the anti trans bills that are going on throughout the United States. But you know, this past week alone, from the judiciary, I've received a benchbook card, about transgender folks I received and I have it right here on my desk, a whole booklet, over 30 pages, from the National Center for State Courts, “On gender inclusivity in the courts, how to treat everyone with fairness, dignity, and impartiality”. And I keep getting these things I as I said, I just did a webinar from United States. And so there are some really progressive things. I met a really interesting woman who works for a judicial organization in Philadelphia, I think, is where she was from and the work that she's doing. She also presented at this conference on basically the same topic that I was, on a different day, different time, different audience. But I think that there, this is happening. And in the reason that there's pushback, is because there are things happening. And so I'd like to think that the folks who are concerning themselves with the issue, making sure that we are abiding by whether it's the United States, pillars of the judiciary, or our ethical responsibilities, or however you want to term what the judges have to do that, you know, from a judicial perspective anyway, I think, there's really been a move to understand, and to talk about diversity of people that are appearing before us so that we treat everyone equally in law, and I can't speak to what legislators do, legislatures, I guess is really the word, you know, that's for them to do. That's the other arm of government. But I know, I know that judiciary is really moving towards inclusivity. And really asking questions. I, I did a presentation for some judges, maybe a year ago now. And I was with an actual subject matter expert, which I never profess myself to be. And every single question was about the practice directive. Every single one, they had the opportunity to ask this expert, like a zillion questions. And the only thing they wanted to know was about the practice directive, how to implement it, how to talk to people, how to talk about pronouns, if it was the right thing to be doing, like, it's unbelievable things that are happening. So my eternal optimism is that judicial independence will be protected, that it is a value that our democratic society values, that the courtrooms are, if they are not already safe place, they are becoming safer, and I think that it's just going to be common practice for people to come in and say, “My name is Mx Jones, and I use they/them pronouns and ready to proceed, your Honour”. Like it's, it's happening already here. And, you know, maybe not in every courtroom, but certainly in my courtroom, because I make everybody say it. But you know, and it's a simple prodding, like, it's just, I think what a lot of the American folks that I've been talking to lately, their thing is they ask, they ask, how do you want me to address you? And you know, it's a bit cumbersome task to do that every single time. But, you know, sooner or later, we're just going to start doing it and we're positive about it.

Steeves Bujold: Thank you so much, Judge McKenzie, for your generosity, and wise advice, comments and life history. It's inspiring. It's a true privilege to hear from you. I'm confident that our members and everyone that will listen to this podcast will feel the same. So I really want to thank you.

Judge McKenzie: You know, barbara findlay is going to give me the what-for for not giving you more of a hard time in this podcast.

Steeves Bujold: I didn't know you were friends. I should have known from the beginning! It was also a great discussion and a true honour to interview her as well.

Judge McKenzie: I felt like I was meeting, you know, royalty the first time I met her, but…

Steeves Bujold: Me too!!

Judge McKenzie: She’s done so much work in her time. And so, anyway, I talked a lot. I can't, I just, you know, I gotta say I'm pretty passionate about the whole thing. And, you know, not just about myself!

Steeves Bujold: Are you, are you in Winnipeg, are you located in Winnipeg? Okay, so on September 7th, John Stefaniuk will take over the presidency from me and I will be at the Human Rights Museum so you will surely be on the invite list, and I hope we'll be able to meet in person.

Judge McKenzie: Oh, I’m in Hawaii for a conference, Ohhhh.

Steeves Bujold: But please, if you come to Ottawa or Montreal, let me know. I would really like to meet you in person.

Judge McKenzie: All right. Well, thank you very much, friends and have a lovely day.

Steeves Bujold: Thank you again for your time, very much. Appreciate it.

Jingle: This is Conversations with the President, presented by the Canadian Bar Association.