As a result of her personal experiences growing up and a desire for fair and equal treatment, Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta Justice Johanna Price chose early on in her life to pursue a career in law.
The Calgary-based judge recalls her mother raising her and her five siblings on her own and the significant challenges her mother faced.
“From very early on, I wanted fair and equal treatment for me and my family,” says Justice Price. “Also, being the youngest sibling, being female and being a visible minority from a multi-racial and multi-lingual family required me to advocate for myself and at times for my family.”
Justice Price, whose appointment to QB was announced on May 22, 2019, was born in Buckingham, Québec. Her father immigrated to Canada from Guangzhou, China, and her mother was of mixed Algonquin First Nation and European descent. She is a member of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation and is a descendant of Mani Jocko, a reputed powerful medicine woman.
“Growing up half Chinese and a mix of other ethnicities, including Algonquin First Nation, is unique,” she says. “However, it also caused me to have some anxiety over my identity. When anyone asks, and they invariably do, I say ‘I am Canadian.’
“I am able to identify with other peoples from all over Canada,” she says. “Indeed, Canada is a cultural mosaic and, like me, many (if not all) Canadians want fair and equal treatment.”
She moved to Calgary as a pre-teen and ended up attending St. Francis High School, where she was named the 1989 Female Athlete of the Year. She then attended the University of Calgary, after receiving the Jimmy Condon Athletic Scholarship for academic and sports achievement, and graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science.
Justice Price’s family could not afford to send her to university and she put herself through her post-secondary education with a combination of work, including selling books and vacuum cleaners door to door, student loans, bursaries and scholarships.
“While my mom did not have the financial resources to help me, she always encouraged me to follow my dreams,” she says.
She attended law school at the University of British Columbia after being accepted as an Indigenous student and earned her Bachelor of Laws degree in 1998. While there, she volunteered with the Law Students’ Legal Advice Program, mainly assisting under-privileged youth who were primarily living on the street and dealing with drug and landlord/tenant related legal issues.
She was admitted to the Alberta Bar in 1999 after articling at McCarthy Tétrault LLP and remained at the firm, practicing in the litigation and business law groups, until 2004, when she joined Peacock Linder Halt & Mack LLP, where she primarily resolved civil litigation disputes in a wide range of commercial, energy, construction and general matters. She became a partner in 2009.
During her 20-year career as a lawyer, Justice Price worked in many areas of the law, including contractual and joint venture disputes, breach of trust, shareholder oppression, misappropriation and negligence claims, builders’ liens, defamation, estate litigation and wrongful dismissal matters.
An advocate of alternative dispute resolution, she was also involved in many successful dispute resolutions through negotiation, mediation, arbitration and judicial dispute resolution. As well, she chaired the Alberta Provincial and National Canadian Bar Association (CBA) Alternative Dispute Resolution Sections.
Prior to her appointment, Justice Price was a very active CBA member, serving on the Executive of the Alberta Branch and on numerous committees, and was also a long-standing member and past president of the Association of Women Lawyers and a volunteer committee member with the Law Society of Alberta and Calgary Legal Guidance. She also regularly did pro bono work.
When not working, the married mother of one son spends time with family and friends, volunteers and likes to go running. She qualified for and ran in the Boston Marathon in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and has also run many other marathons. She is also an avid golfer and competitive field hockey player, having played at both the university and provincial levels.
Since being appointed to the Bench, Justice Price has volunteered on various steering committees, including the Diversity, Inclusion and Access to Justice Committee, and has spoken several times at local schools, including at the Tsuut'ina High School Career Fair at Tsuut'ina Nation.