Friday, January 13, 2017
Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella, LLB 1970

Alumna and Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella, LLB 1970, has been named Global Jurist of the Year by Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Centre for International Human Rights, in recognition of her outstanding work advancing human rights.

Justice Abella is the fourth recipient of the award, and the first Canadian. Past recipients of the Global Jurist of the Year Award include the Honorable Gloria Patricia Porras Escobar, president of the Guatemalan Constitutional Court; Justice Shireen Avis Fisher, president of the Special Court for Sierra Leone; and Acting Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke of South Africa’s Constitutional Court.

The Global Jurist of the Year Award honours a sitting judge, in any court or tribunal around the world, who has shown exemplary, professional commitment “at times in the face of adversity … to upholding and defending fundamental human rights or principles of international criminal justice.”

In a release, Ambassador David Scheffer, director of the Law School’s Center for International Human Rights, said: “Justice Abella has stood throughout her judicial career for the enforcement of human rights principles for all Canadians, regardless of their gender, ethnicity or station in life. We are very proud to honor her as Global Jurist of the Year.”

A trailblazing alumna of the Faculty of Law, Abella, the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, was the youngest person appointed to a court in Canada in 1976, and the first Jewish woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

She was appointed sole commissioner in 1983 of the federal Royal Commission on Equality in Employment, which investigated workplace discrimination against women, Indigenous peoples, minorities and people with disabilities. Now known as the Abella Commission, her work launched the concept of employment equity. In 1992 she was appointed to the Court of Appeal for Ontario, and her rulings included the 1998 landmark decision that resulted in extending survivor benefits to same-sex partners.

The law school’s Jackman Law Building has the moot court room named in her honour. She has 35 honorary degrees, most recently from Yale University, the first Canadian woman to receive such an honour from this university.

Read the Globe and Mail article here.

Read the media release from Northwestern University here.

Read about Justice Abella’s honorary degree from Yale University here.