New Brunswick Courts
New Brunswick Courts
New Brunswick Courts


Honourable J. Ernest Drapeau
Chief Justice of New Brunswick

2003 - present

Chief Justice J. Ernest Drapeau was born in Campbellton, N.B. He is the son of the late Armand and the late Thérèse (nee Savoie) Drapeau of Moncton, N.B. He is married to Gisèle Léger-Drapeau and the proud father of three daughters. Chief Justice Drapeau resides in Fredericton, N.B. 

After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree from l'Université de Moncton, Chief Justice Drapeau was awarded a Lord Beaverbrook Scholarship and attended law school at the University of New Brunswick where he was co-winner of the Harrison Shield moot court competition in 1973. In 1974, Chief Justice Drapeau graduated top of his class (1/60) and was awarded the Carswell Prize, the Law Faculty Prize for academic and civic distinction, and the Lieutenant Governor's Silver Medal for distinction in scholarship. 

Chief Justice Drapeau was admitted to the New Brunswick Bar in June of 1974. The day of his admission, he argued three appeals before the Court of Appeal of NB. Over the course of the next 24 years, Chief Justice Drapeau's litigation practice featured countless appearances before the courts of New Brunswick at all levels, as well as before labour arbitration boards. Chief Justice Drapeau's legal practice was multi-faceted, ranging from criminal law (as a federal prosecutor and counsel for the defence) and private civil law (mainly personal injury, insurance and employment law) to public interest litigation (including educational rights for exceptional students and minority language rights).

While in the practice of law, Chief Justice Drapeau's professional and community involvement led him to assume the positions of President of the Shediac Chamber of Commerce, President of the Westmorland County Cystic Fibrosis Society, director of the Université de Moncton Alumni Association and member of the Council of the Barrister's Society of New Brunswick. As well, he lectured at continuing legal education seminars and bar admission courses.

Chief Justice Drapeau was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1990.

Chief Justice Drapeau's diversified legal practice is complemented by his academic experience. Indeed, in the early years of his practice, Chief Justice Drapeau taught Commercial Law at the School of Business Administration at l'Université de Moncton. Later, he also taught Criminal Law and Procedure at l'Université de Moncton's law school.

In January 1998, Chief Justice Drapeau, who was then a senior partner of the law firm Drapeau, Robichaud & McNally in Moncton, New Brunswick, was appointed to the New Brunswick Court of Appeal.

Prior to his appointment as Chief Justice of New Brunswick on March 25, 2003, Chief Justice Drapeau was the senior francophone judge (non-supernumerary) of the Court of Appeal.

Chief Justice Drapeau is a member of the Canadian Judicial Council. On August 26, 2011, the Chief Justice of Canada, the Honourable Beverley McLachlin, appointed Chief Justice Drapeau Vice-Chair of the Canadian Judicial Council. He is the first Chief Justice of New Brunswick to occupy that position. Chief Justice Drapeau was awarded the Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the ascension of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to the throne. More recently, in June of 2013, he was awarded the Diamond Jubilee Medal for the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the Throne as Queen of Canada.

Chief Justice Drapeau is Chair of the Order of New Brunswick Committee and Chair of the Committee charged with recommending candidates for appointment as Queen’s Counsel.