Calgary Court of Queen’s Bench Justice L. Bernette Ho is all about family, working hard, giving to the community and living by the Golden Rule.
Justice Ho, who was appointed to the Bench on April 4, 2018, and officially sworn in on May 25, came to Canada when she was six months old after her parents emigrated from the Philippines, where they were both born of Chinese descent.
The new judge, who is the youngest of five children, credits her parents for teaching her and her siblings the value of hard work and the importance of family and always being there for one another. They also gave them their sense of community.
“We all owe my parents a world of thanks. They sacrificed, they worked hard and they showered us with love to make sure we all had the opportunity to do something meaningful in our lives,” she says.
“They really impressed upon us the need to work hard,” says Justice Ho, adding that her mother and father also preached the value of education, especially post-secondary studies.
“I always knew I was going to university,” she says. “It was just something that was expected in our family.”
Justice Ho notes there is little distinction in her world between immediate family, step-siblings, in-laws, cousins and extended family.
“We ascribe to an expansive definition of family and we include numerous honorary aunts, uncles and cousins,” she says, adding that a love of food is something they all have in common.
“Like all Asian families, food, and lots of it, is a central and important theme to all our generally weekly Sunday gatherings. And while we love our food, it never gets in the way of what is really important: the actual get together, time to catch up, share some laughs and create memories.”
Justice Ho reserved special praise for her father, who sadly passed the summer before she started law school, and says she will always remember him for living his life according to the Golden Rule, which is always treat others as you wish to be treated yourself.
“That is something I try to live my life by always,” she says. “It is a principle that I try to follow daily.”
The Calgary Justice says she has also followed the same principle throughout her legal career and while mentoring others and made an effort to always treat others respectfully.
Justice Ho spent her entire law practice with one firm, Macleod Dixon (now Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP), and focused on energy regulatory matters, including oil and gas and electricity, as well as employment, arbitration and administrative law and commercial litigation.
During her 23 years with the firm, she was also heavily involved with several of its community projects, including the Partnership in Education program, a Calgary Board of Education led initiative which paired private entities with schools. She was also the firm’s representative to the Law Society of Alberta’s Justicia Project, which aimed at retaining women lawyers and promoting diversity.
Justice Ho also gives to the community outside of her work parameters and loves to volunteer at a well-known charitable organization at Christmas time with family and friends. She has also donated her time on a local arts board and collecting cans for an inner-city food bank.
So why did this family-oriented successful lawyer want to be a judge?
“It really stems from the community involvement thing. I feel really fortunate with my parents moving here and basically being welcomed into Canadian society,” she says.
“It was the right thing to do. To me, I just felt like I had to put my name forward to serve and, if I was selected, I knew I would be humbled and honored.”
And what kind of judge does the new Justice hope to be?
“I want to do the same things as I did in practice and in life. Continue to work hard and do what I believe to be right and treat others as I would want to be treated,” she says.
“I believe there is a job to be done in the administration of justice and I hope at the end of my career I will have furthered that.”