From the Fall 2006 issue of Nexus.

Elika and Aharon BarakAharon Barak, recently retired President of the Supreme Court of Israel and a towering figure in constitutional, administrative, criminal and international humanitarian law, is also a close colleague of the Faculty of Law and widely admired in the Canadian legal community. Justice Barak holds the highest academic honours in Israel, along with 15 honourary degrees from universities in Israel, Europe, the United States and Canada. He has also won the International Justice in the World prize, granted by the International Association of Judges.

On the occasion of his retirement, his Canadian friends and admirers decided that the best way to honour him and to formalize his relationship with the Faculty would be to establish a visiting fellowship in his name.

The Aharon Barak Distinguished Law Fellowship will bring Justice Barak to the Faculty annually for two weeks to teach his wildly popular Constitutional Courts, Constitutional Rights course. This year, he will also offer his own intensive course on the topic of interpretation, spanning common and civil, public and private law. The Faculty hopes that his wife, Elika Barak, having retired as the Deputy President of the Labour Court of Israel, may also share her expertise in the constitutionalization of labour law and social welfare.

Justice Barak's association with the Faculty began in earnest in 1990, when he was invited by then-Dean Robert Prichard to teach an intensive course. When Israel chose to use the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a model for its own system, the Faculty connection and friendships solidified. As Deputy President of his country's Supreme Court, Justice Barak soon invited Professor Lorraine Weinrib to teach in Israel's continuing education courses for senior judges and in Israel's Ministry of Justice. He later formed a warm friendship with former Faculty Dean Frank Iacobucci, then justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, and with Dieter Grimm, a former justice of the German Constitutional Court. All three have now co-taught for some time, with Professor Weinrib, in the Constitutional Courts, Constitutional Rights class.

"Aharon Barak is that rare person," says Professor Weinrib, "for whom the question 'what is his expertise' isn't really applicable. What he does is so wide-ranging that it covers a huge mass of doctrine, as well as theory and practice. That is why this fellowship is so valuable to the Faculty and the legal community." Prior to his presidency of the Supreme Court, Justice Barak oversaw the legal work of the entire country as Attorney General and also took a leading role in negotiating the peace treaty with Egypt. As President of the court, he wrote judgments on thousands of cases, in every area of law.

Perhaps his most controversial decision was his determination that Basic Laws protecting fundamental human rights would have the status of supreme law, rendering invalid any inconsistent Knesset legislation. Today there is every indication that the governments of Israel depend on the Supreme Court to stabilize as much as possible the volatility of the political and legal systems in Israel.

The Faculty of Law is delighted that the following people have contributed to the Aharon Barak fellowship:

  • Mr. Brent Belzberg and Mrs. Lynn Belzberg
  • The Honourable Charles R. Bronfman
  • Gluskin, Sheff & Associates Inc.
  • Dr. Edward L. Greenspan
  • Mr. George H. Grossman
  • Dr. Ralph Halbert and Mrs. Roz Halbert
  • Koskie Minsky
  • Dr. Joseph L. Rotman
  • Dr. Lionel H. Schipper and Mrs. Carol Schipper
  • Mr. Gerald W. Schwartz
  • Dr. Joey and Mrs. Toby Tanenbaum