THE ADVOCATE V O L . 7 9 P A R T 4 J U L Y 2 0 2 1 495
THE HONOURABLE MADAM JUSTICE
ARDITH WALKEM, WALPETKO WE’DALX
By Louise Mandell, Q.C.
When Ardith was appointed to the Supreme Court of British
Columbia on December 14, 2020, the news zoomed
around the province like a ray of hope. She had no more
vases for her bouquets. An advocate and educator, a prolific
and powerful writer, Ardith became the first First Nation woman to sit
as a judge of the B.C. Supreme Court.1 Such is the occasion that it is being
celebrated by her appearance on the cover of the Advocate.
The cover portrait painted by David Goatley shows Ardith against a backdrop
of the mountains surrounding her Chilliwack home. However, she
grew up in Spences Bridge, a member of the Cook’s Ferry community, with
strong connections to Lytton and Ashcroft of the Nlaka’pamux Nation.
Nlaka’pamux stories, values, laws and territory are strands woven together
from Ardith’s early life, forming the fabric of her brilliant career in law.
Her parents were residential school survivors. As a girl, she lived on a
small family cattle ranch without electricity, a telephone or running water in
winter. Coming from a family of limited means fostered in her an attitude of
empathy toward the differences of others. Existing in spaces of social or economic
vulnerability created an openness to the lived experiences of others.
Her father, Bert Walkem, was proficient in multiple Indigenous languages
and was one of her teachers of Nlaka’pamux laws and culture. He
took her hunting with him, providing her a lens through which to see
Nlaka’pamux territory as a geography of spirit—a world where all of life’s
forces are intertwined, sustaining the whole. On her road to the bench, she
travelled a road no other judge has. She followed a vastly different map of