Karen McCleave

Greater Toronto Area, Canada

Karen McCleave is a former Assistant Crown Attorney with over three decades of experience serving the public in Canadian courts. Appearing in the Ontario and Superior Courts of Justice, she handled a varied caseload, including domestic assault, sexual and child abuse, complex fraud, murder and countless jury trials. She had carriage of many high-profile and sensitive matters, some involving victims with intellectual and physical challenges.

Early life

McCleave was born and first educated in Sault Ste. Marie. She received a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Western Ontario and her LL.B. from the University of Windsor. She is a member of the Ontario Bar.


Karen McCleave’s dedication to public service has many dimensions. For more than 30 years, she was an Assistant Crown Attorney in Ontario, working primarily in York Region, Dufferin and Simcoe counties.

Her responsibilities ranged from managing a Satellite Court to case managing Superior Court matters. She was the Crown representative on stakeholder committees such as regional child abuse protocols, delay reduction and community partnering.

During her tenure as as an Assistant Crown Attorney, McCleave was designated to be a Part VI wiretap agent for Ontario and a provincial mentor for sexual violence prosecutions.

McCleave was tasked with establishing Ontario’s first integrated Case Administration Unit. This unit handled all criminal files in York Region; worked with police agencies to combine offices for intake and review of cases; and took the lead on special projects such as implementation of Victims’ Bill of Rights.

She also served as a Senior Prosecutor for York Region. There, she managed a newly created prosecution office, following devolution from the province, setting up the prosecutorial framework for this branch of the legal department. She appeared in Superior Court on certiorari/mandamus applications and responded to constitutional arguments and legislative challenges.

McCleave has mentored and trained many other legal professionals. She instructed and wrote material for various Crown Attorneys’ conferences and summer school programs and was a popular speaker at Provincial and Municipal Prosecutors’ conferences on topics such as the application of the Charter to regulatory offences.

She has trained OPP, Municipal/Regional and Military police officers in legislative changes, Charter issues, drinking and driving, statement-taking, domestic assault investigations and powers of arrest. She also authored provincial training manuals for paralegals screening criminal cases.

In the community, she has made presentations to parents of abused children, child assault agencies, emergency physicians, high schools and other organizations.

Her Board involvement has included both professional and public agencies. She represented her Region on the Ontario Crown Attorneys Association (OCAA) board and was on the editorial board of the OCAA Newsletter.

McCleave served for nine years on the Board of Directors of Blue Hills (now York Hills) Child and Family Centre, a children’s mental health agency. During that time, she developed expertise in governance, by-laws and policies concerning not-for-profit agencies.

After her work in the Crown’s Office, McCleave broadened her scope of civic engagement, starting as a policy advisor to a Senator in Ottawa.

In 2020, she was appointed by the Attorney-General to the Justices of the Peace Appointments Advisory Committee (JPAAC) for the Central East Region. This term was renewed in 2023. She is the Law Society of Ontario’s licensee representative on the Committee.

McCleave actively supports live music and arts organizations. This interest led to an appointment in 2020, renewed in 2023, to the Board of Trustees for the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, a unique and culturally important home to the art of Canada. She chairs the Governance and Nominating Committee and is on the Arts Advisory Committee.

Net Worth

Not available.


Karen McCleave has been honoured with several awards, including the Doug Lucas Award for excellence in the pursuit of justice through science and two Ontario Excelsior Awards, both for Outstanding Achievement.
She received, in 2023, a City of Vaughan Volunteer Recognition Award for her contribution to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.
While a member of Beta Sigma Phi, McCleave raised funds to support local, Canadian and international charities. She has been active as a volunteer at such programs as Feed the Hungry, Salvation Army, Courthouse Food Bank Drive, and the Simcoe County High School Mock Trial program.
A childhood love of horses and racing has recently returned McCleave to the track, where her thoroughbreds have raced and won at Woodbine and Gulfstream Park in Florida. The first win was written about in Canadian Thoroughbred in 2023.