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Law Foundation of Ontario honours lawyer for access to justice work

Wednesday, September 11, 2019 @ 12:41 PM | By John Chunn

The Law Foundation of Ontario announced that Pamela Cross is the 2019 recipient of the Guthrie Award, the foundation’s signature award to recognize exceptional access to justice champions.

According to the foundation’s press release, Cross is a lawyer and women’s rights advocate who works with a wide range of women’s equality and violence against women organizations and legal professionals.

Pamela Cross

Pamela Cross

“Pamela’s work is changing the way the legal system approaches violence against women,” said Linda Rothstein, the foundation’s board chair. “From many angles — representing clients, developing pro bono services and public legal education for women, training lawyers and judges, informing policymakers, and spearheading cutting-edge research — Pamela is a critical connector who brings people and sectors together to better understand and respond to the unique and urgent legal needs of women who’ve been abused.”

One of Cross’ current roles is as the legal director of Luke’s Place, an organization in Durham Region that provides family law support and guidance on how to stay safer for abused women and their children. She developed many firsts for the organization including the creation of a Pro Bono Summary Advice Clinic and a Virtual Legal Clinic, which connects women from rural and remote communities with pro bono family law lawyers through video-conferencing.

One of the most recent additions is an online resource about family court for women leaving abusive relationships. It includes information about family law, court processes, completing court documents and more. Grants from The Law Foundation of Ontario have supported all of these projects, as well as core funding to Luke’s Place itself.

“Pamela is deeply committed to improving access to justice for women who have been subjected to abuse in their relationships. In addition to her professional work, she contributes countless volunteer hours and pro bono consultations, provides valuable mentorship to young lawyers, and has served on nonprofit boards and committees,” said Carol Barkwell, executive director of Luke’s Place and who nominated Cross for the Guthrie Award. “Early in her practice, Pamela recognized the need for family law consultation, education, training and resources within the violence against women sector. She set a path to meet this need.”

Through her role at Luke’s Place, Cross is also the lead trainer for Ontario’s approximately 100 Family Court Support Workers and recently delivered domestic violence awareness training to approximately 2,500 Legal Aid Ontario staff, community clinics, and lawyers across the province.

Cross was a member of the teaching faculty with the National Judicial Institute, and continues to plan and deliver educational programs on violence against women to Canadian judges. She also developed violence against women curriculum for law schools with the Law Commission of Ontario. With the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW), she authored two reports (Muslim and Canadian Family Laws: A Comparative Primer, Violence Against Women: Health and Justice for Canadian Women) and delivered workshops on family law to CCMW members, work that was funded in part by the foundation.

Cross has helped to lead a number of important initiatives, including as one of the co-chairs of Ontario’s Violence Against Women Roundtable, member of the Domestic Violence Advisory Council to the Ontario Minister Responsible for Women, and management committee member of the Family Law Education for Women Project.

 Cross is regularly recruited to speak to the media, present briefs to legislative committees, guest lecture at law schools, and be a panellist and presenter at provincial and national conferences and to organizations such as the Ontario Bar Association and the Law Society of Ontario. She writes extensively and has published many public legal education resources, articles and reports. Most recently, with funding from the federal Department of Justice, Cross led a team that conducted research into the use of family violence screening tools for family law practitioners. The final report, What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You: The importance of family violence screening tools for family law practitioners, includes a draft screening tool and the recommendation that a universal screening tool be adopted for all family law practitioners.

Cross has received awards for her work, including the: Laura Legge Award from the Law Society of Ontario (2019); Ministry of Attorney General Victim Services Award of Distinction (2015); YWCA Toronto Women of Distinction Award (2006); and the Linda Clippingdale Award from the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (2001).

Earning her LL.B from Queens Law, Cross was called to the bar in 1994.

The Guthrie Award will be formally presented at a reception in October.

Photo of Pamela Cross by Janice McLean