760 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 79 PART 5 SEPTEMBER 2021
The Honourable Justice Matthew Kirchner
With the appointment of Matthew Kirchner to the
Supreme Court of British Columbia on March 23,
2021, the profession and the province gained a valuable
addition to the bench—a big-picture thinker,
well versed in law, with a deep appreciation for the
importance of a just application of the law to lived
Justice Kirchner’s own experience is embedded in this province. He has
lived his life in British Columbia, and his practice has educated him in the
province’s history, taken him to far corners of it and immersed him in its
diverse regions and lived realities.
Matt and his sister, Lise, grew up in Victoria. Their father was a lawyer, a
career path that both Matt and Lise would ultimately follow. Matt’s first job
in a law office came from his neighbour and family friend, Douglas Macfarlane,
who was a lawyer at Cook, Roberts and Whittaker (as it was then
known). Matt became an office hand for that firm. This then led Matt to a
foray into a bike courier job—and lifestyle—from which Matt almost did not
return. But he did, and we are lucky for it.
Matt enjoyed Victoria as a child but wanted to expand his horizons. He
attended the University of British Columbia. His intention was to become a
history teacher. It was reading the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in
R. v. Sparrow that led him to change course and inspired him to pursue law.
Sparrow, and particularly the court’s articulation of the struggle for recognition
and the purpose of s. 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982, remained formative
and foundational for Matt throughout the many years of practice that
Matt began working as a summer student at Ratcliff & Company in 1996.
At that time, the (then far smaller) firm was preparing to go to trial on a
complicated case involving a railway on land taken from an Indian reserve
in Kitsilano. The case relied on precedents that were over a century old and
law that was new and ground-breaking in its application. Matt began working
with John Rich, who would become a close friend and mentor to Matt.
John recounts recognizing the vision, dedication, analytical skills and
strategic instincts in Matt in those early days. Some of John’s best advocacy
was convincing Matt to forego his downtown firm articling position to article
with Ratcliff instead, to continue to work on public law and Indigenous