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Ontario's chief justice among recipients of honorary degrees from law society

Thursday, June 22, 2017 @ 10:38 AM | By Paula Kulig

Chief Justice of Ontario George Strathy is among four prominent Canadians who will receive honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from the Law Society of Upper Canada at its call to the bar ceremonies in Toronto on June 26 and 27.

In addition to Chief Justice Strathy, the other recipients are Quebec Justice Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré, who’s being recognized as a trailblazing judge; Sheila Watt-Cloutier, the former Canadian president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council and author of The Right to be Cold; and Dr. John Borrows, an internationally recognized scholar in the field of Indigenous rights.

The law society confers LL.D.s, honoris causa, in recognition of outstanding achievements in service and benefit to the legal profession, the rule of law or the cause of justice. Each recipient serves as an inspirational keynote speaker for the new lawyers attending the call to the bar ceremonies.

Chief Justice Strathy is described by the law society in a news release as “an extraordinary legal professional” who practised civil litigation for 30 years and established Strathy & Associates in 1993. “Chief Justice Strathy’s career exemplifies a dedication to the law, the profession and public service."

He was appointed to the Superior Court of Justice in 2007, the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2013, and, a year later, Chief Justice of Ontario, “where he has championed the importance of access to justice and efficiency in the legal system. Chief Justice Strathy has earned the respect of the judiciary, the legal profession, justice partners and the Ontario public.”

Justice Westmoreland-Traoré entered the legal profession at a time when it was considered an unconventional career path for women, and even more so for a woman of colour. She was the first black dean of a Canadian law school, at the University of Windsor, and the first black judge appointed to the Court of Quebec. She was also commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Ontario’s first employment equity commissioner.

"A true legal pioneer, she has advanced social justice and equality rights not only through her work as a lawyer, professor and judge, but also through her personal journey, shattering systemic barriers and stereotypes,” the law society said in the news release.

Watt-Cloutier, who served as Canadian president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council from 1995 to 2002, was nominated for a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy showing the cumulative devastating effects that global climate change has had on the culture, the economy, the environment and the people of the Arctic.

The law society referred to her “outstanding transformative force in advancing human rights in the struggle to secure global health and justice — and the cultural survival of the Inuit and Arctic Indigenous peoples who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change."

Borrows is an internationally recognized scholar in the field of lndigenous legal traditions and aboriginal rights. His work has shaped the recommendations of both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and his research and writing have also been cited by the Supreme Court of Canada.

"As an educator and an advocate, he has focused on the racial and social barriers embedded in our legal and social framework,” the law society said.

More than 1,200 new lawyers will be admitted to the Ontario bar at the June 26 and 27 ceremonies at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall. In all, more than 1,600 new lawyers are being called at six ceremonies being held across the province in June.