Court of King’s Bench of Alberta Justice Sherry Kachur specialized in family law as a lawyer and quickly came to understand that she could best assist the families she represented through mediation and arbitration.
The Calgary-based jurist – who was appointed to the Bench on June 1, 2020 – says that through mediation she found a way to provide each of the parties a voice and a new way to communicate with one another.
“I truly believe it is a way to empower each of the parties to choose, for themselves, the future they will follow,” says Justice Kachur. “The conflict is deescalated, and the parties find a new way to work with each other, particularly for their children, that was not forced on them.”
She practiced primarily as a litigator in her junior years, which she says gave her insight and knowledge as to how the law is applied by the courts and the ability to argue both sides of any case. However, with experience, she saw that litigation in a family situation had the potential to cause more harm than good.
“Unlike most corporate commercial cases, the litigants in a family law situation must continue to deal with one another over the long term due to the raising of children,” says Justice Kachur. “It is very difficult for any person to deal with the emotional turmoil caused by litigation in one moment and in the next sit with the same person, who made them out to be a monster, at a school concert. In most cases it is the children who end up suffering the emotional turmoil.”
The Edmonton-born judge, who was certified as a Mediator of Family and Divorce Conflicts in 1998 and later also conducted arbitrations, often says that her role as a mediator was to take something that was broken and put it back together.
“It will not be the same as it was in the first instance, but it will be something that can work,” she says. “I wanted to help families in turmoil and not create more turmoil.”
Justice Kachur graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology in 1987, and then earned a Bachelor of Laws from the U of A’s Faculty of Law in 1991.
She was first called to the British Columbia Bar on August 28, 1992, after articling for a year with a Vancouver law firm. She relocated to Alberta in September 1992 and was admitted to the Alberta Bar on April 13, 1993, after re-articling for an additional six months.
Justice Kachur became an associate with Beaumont Church LLP in Calgary and practiced there until 1995 when she joined Turnbull Boyes as an associate and sole proprietor. In 2001 she became a sole proprietor with Grobman Kachur Barristers in a family law practice, and, in 2007, became a partner at Soby Boyden Lenz LLP. In 2011 she and three of her partners formed Widdowson Kachur Ostwald Menzies LLP (now WK Family Lawyers LLP), remaining there until her appointment to the Bench.
While a lawyer, she was an active member of the Canadian Bar Association, the Calgary Bar Association, including as president, the Association of Collaborative Law, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, the ADR Institute of Alberta and the Advocates’ Society.
She also provided pro bono legal services for the Lawyer Referral Services, the YWCA Women’s Resource Centre, Pro Bono Law Alberta, and the Discovery House Family Violence Prevention Society. As well, she was a volunteer for the Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education.
She was appointed Queen’s (now King’s) Counsel on January 31, 2012.
Justice Kachur says her wealth of experience as a long-time family law practitioner who dealt with people from all walks of life, all income brackets and all religious and ethnic backgrounds has provided her with insight into the variety and diversity of Canadians and their unique perspectives.
“Throughout my life I have had to find ways to adjust and grow,” she says. “I have changed my perspectives many times after meeting and dealing with individuals with backgrounds I was unfamiliar with.”
The mother of two is a second-generation Canadian. Her mother is the daughter of a Syrian/Muslim immigrant and an English/Catholic immigrant, and her father is the son of Ukrainian immigrants. She grew up in a blue-collar neighbourhood in northeast Edmonton.
Little known fact: Justice Kachur worked as a correctional officer while attending university, first at the St. Paul Minimum Security Correctional Centre for summer employment, and then at the Edmonton Remand Centre on both a part-time and full-time basis.