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Human rights activist Bahdi named Guthrie Award winner for 2017

Tuesday, August 08, 2017 @ 12:11 PM | By John Chunn


The Law Foundation of Ontario announced that Reem Bahdi is the winner of the Guthrie Award for 2017.

The Guthrie Award was created in 1996 to honour Donald Guthrie, a Law Foundation chair and trustee.

It is the foundation’s signature award to recognize exceptional access to justice champions.

Bahdi is an author, researcher and human rights expert, with particular expertise in the human rights of Arabs and Muslims in Canada.

She was the Canadian Bar Association’s first equality adviser and was instrumental in the creation of the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association.

“Professor Bahdi has seized the opportunity to work on complex and cutting edge access to justice issues,” said Linda Rothstein, the foundation’s board chair. “She has dedicated her life to changing hearts, minds and systems to champion human rights. And, remarkably, it seems she is just getting started.”

Bahdi is an associate professor at the University of Windsor’s faculty of law and a visiting professor at Birzeit University’s graduate program in democracy and human rights in the West Bank.

She helped introduce a mandatory access to justice course at Windsor Law in 2003 and served as the law school’s associate dean from 2012 to 2015.

“Professor Bahdi is an exceptional member of our faculty of law, and she is engaging our country in vitally important conversations,” said Alan Wildeman, the president and vice-chancellor of the University of Windsor, who nominated Bahdi for the award.

“She has lived and breathed access to justice and is a role model to students, scholars and the profession.”

Bahdi’s research focuses on the human rights of Arabs and Muslims after 9/11 and Palestinian judicial education. She has served as an expert witness, most often on a pro bono basis, in many legal proceedings involving Canadian-Muslim rights and national security including, the Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar.

From 2005 to 2012, Bahdi established and managed an international development project called Karamah, which means "dignity" in Arabic. Primarily funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, Karamah promoted human dignity in the administration of justice in the West Bank and developed a model for judicial education to advance human rights.

Bahdi has authored or co-authored numerous articles, book chapters, reports, and conference papers, which have been cited extensively and helped inform policy discussions in Canada and abroad. In 2015, she was inducted into the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

The Guthrie Award will be formally presented to Bahdi at a reception later this year. The Guthrie Award has added significance this year as 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the first time the award was presented. “We wanted to pause and reflect on this important milestone,” said Rothstein. “The 20th anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight the important work that has been done over the past 20 years and the work that still needs to be done to improve access to justice 20 years from today.”