102 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 77 PART 1 JANUARY 2019
The Honourable Mr. Justice Thomas J. Crabtree
When newly appointed1 judges are acknowledged
and celebrated in the pages of the Advocate, it is common
(if not usual) for there to be a comment, somewhere,
to the effect that someone’s loss is someone
else’s gain. Well. With Mr. Justice Thomas J. Crabtree—
or “Tom Crabtree”, as he prefers to be known2
—a stronger case than usual can be made in that
regard. Tom brings to his new assignment wisdom and experience drawn
from many years as counsel with a broad and diverse practice, more years
as a judge of the Provincial Court of B.C. and still more years (just over
eight, in fact) as that court’s chief judge.
While Tom’s translation3 to the Supreme Court of British Columbia has
been widely celebrated (and quite rightly so), news of it was also greeted by
many of his colleagues and members of the public (again, quite understandably)
with a tinge of sadness and regret. The word “poaching” came up
repeatedly around Provincial Court common room tables across the
province. The name of Hinkson C.J.S.C. was occasionally taken in vain.
“Surely this can’t be true,” some exclaimed.
Alas, “breaking up is so very hard to do,” as the song says.4 The Provincial
Court has, after all, lost one of its most effective leaders and dedicated
reformers. Tom was a chief judge who led by example, made it a personal
mission to enhance and develop the quality of the court’s engagement with
Indigenous peoples, recognized the need for and acted concretely to
embrace technological and other forms of innovation (but not just for innovation’s
sake) and took bold new steps to foster public engagement with the
court and increase the transparency of its practices and policies through initiatives
such as his now-famous Twitter town halls. Importantly, though,
throughout it all Tom never lost his common touch, and he will always be
remembered for the humanity, compassion and dedication to public service
with which he approached his important daily work.
In sum, Tom is and will remain greatly missed at the Provincial Court,
and for good reason.
A little more about Tom the man before we return to Tom the jurist, judicial
administrator and court reformer.
Tom was born in London, England in 1955 but raised in the Fraser Valley.
He earned his B.A. from UBC in 1978 and his LL.B. from UVic in 1983. Fol-