Canadian Court Appoints Country's First Transgender Judge

Manitoba's Attorney General called the man's gender identity "an added strength."

The appointment of judge Kael McKenzie to provincial court in Manitoba is being hailed as "a Canadian milestone," as he's become the first transgender judge in the country and just the third in North America.

The Globe and Mail reports:

Before his promotion, Mr. McKenzie was a Crown prosecutor for five years in family, commercial and civil law. He graduated from the University of Manitoba in 2006 and has been an active member of both the legal and LGBTQ communities since, co-chairing the Canadian Bar Association’s sexual-orientation and gender-identity conference from 2012 to 2014.

Mr. McKenzie is also serving as vice-president of the Manitoba Bar Association executive committee, the Manitoba chair of the Canadian Bar Association, and president of the Rainbow Resource Centre – which serves Manitoba’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and two-spirit communities. He also served on the Manitoba Women’s Advisory Council.

McKenzie told the paper he "really didn't know" how his career would transpire after coming out and transitioning three years ago. Now, with support from his wife and two teenage children, he says transitioning has made him a better civil servant.

Related: Meet India’s First Transgender Police Officer

“I have more confidence and more focus on being able to be a better lawyer because of the transition,” he said, adding that “it’s important that we have [transgender] role models … and have people reach higher levels in their professions and the community."

McKenzie's appointment was announced last Thursday by Manitoba Attorney General Gord Mackintosh, who called his gender identity "an added strength."

"It is so important to not only help ensure the respect of the court and its acceptance by the people, but it enriches the bench in terms of insights,” said Mackintosh. “It makes for a stronger judiciary, there’s no doubt."