John Reilly will be the guest speaker at this year’s Iona Campagnolo lecture. Photo supplied

Retired judge this year’s Iona Campagnolo Lecture speaker

Bestselling author and retired Alberta Provincial Court judge John Reilly states that, “Probably my greatest claim to fame is that I changed my mind.”

Reilly is referencing his journey from a by-the-book judge to a controversial justice maverick.

The Comox Valley Community Justice Centre welcomes Reilly as the 12th Annual Iona Campagnolo Lecture speaker. The annual Iona Campagnolo Lecture series explores the role and effects of enhancing the practice of restorative justice in modern society.

This year’s speaker has written three best-selling books about justice and has one forthcoming, A Conversation with a Renegade Judge: A Recipe for Reconciliation.

In 1977, at 30 years old, Reilly became Alberta’s youngest judge. His jurisdiction included the Stoney Nakoda reserve. In the mid-90s, he became increasingly concerned about Indigenous peoples’ over-representation in the courtroom and how the criminal system is set up to punish people, not fix problems. Reilly became disillusioned with the Canadian criminal justice system, particularly its treatment of Indigenous people, and this led him to a new perspective on justice. After 33 years as a judge, he retired and committed to improving justice delivery in Canada.

In his books, Reilly addresses the failure of the legal system to do justice for Indigenous peoples, the harm caused to them by Canadian colonialism, and the failure of all levels of government to alleviate their suffering and deal with the conflicting natures of European-style law and Indigenous tradition and circumstance.

Reilly will discuss why he advocates for a restorative justice framework as an alternative to the punitive approach of Canada’s criminal courts and jail as a last resort.

Following the presentation by Reilly, there will be a question and answer period. The event occurs at 7:30 p.m. on March 23 at the Stan Hagen Theatre at North Island College. Tickets are available through the Sid Williams Ticket Office for $30 ($25 for high school and college students.)

Reilly’s trilogy of related books on justice and Indigenous communities will be available for purchase in the lobby before and following the Lecture:

Bad Medicine: ​A Judge’s Struggle for Justice in a First Nations Community

Bad Judgement: The Myths of First Nations Equality and Judicial Independence

Bad Law: Re-thinking Justice with an Indigenous Perspective

The event is co-presented by the Community Justice Centre, North Island College, and Comox Valley Schools. For more information, visit or 250-334-8101

Comox Valley

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