Focus On

Supreme Court Justice Abella named peace prize winner

Monday, September 25, 2017 @ 3:49 PM | By Carolyn Gruske

Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella has been announced as the recipient of the 2018 Calgary Peace Prize.

Rosalie Abella

Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella

The award, which was created by the John de Chastelain Peace Studies Initiative, is given to outstanding individuals from the global community who work toward making the world a more just, safer and less violent place. Justice Abella is being recognized for her long and sustained efforts toward establishing justice, social equality and international human rights throughout her career as lawyer, commissioner, judge and Supreme Court justice.

Justice Abella, who was born in a displaced person's camp in 1946 in Germany, came to Canada in 1950, along with the rest of her family.

After earning her law degree from the University of Toronto, she was called to the Ontario bar in 1972 and practised civil and criminal litigation until 1976 when she was appointed to the Ontario family court. At the time, she was the youngest person (29 years old) appointed to the judiciary in Canada. She joined the Ontario Court of Appeal in 1992. Justice Abella's appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada came in 2004. Justice Abella was the first Jewish woman named to the court.

In addition to serving on the bench, Justice Abella was the sole commissioner of the 1984 federal Royal Commission on Equality in Employment, creating the term and concept of “employment equity.” When the Supreme Court adjudicated its first equality rights case under the Charter, it referred to the concepts Justice Abella wrote about in that report. Not only has the report changed the way Canada thinks about equality rights, the report's content has been adopted by New Zealand, Northern Ireland and South Africa.

Justice Abella also chaired a number of entities and organizations, including the Ontario Labour Relations Board and the Ontario Law Reform Commission. Her list of public service work is long. Justice Abella served as the Boulton visiting professor at the faculty of law of McGill University, a commissioner on the Ontario Human Rights Commission, a member of the Ontario Public Service Labour Relations Tribunal, co-chair of the University of Toronto Academic Discipline Tribunal, a member of the Premier’s Advisory Committee on Confederation and chair of the Study on Access to Legal Services by the Disabled. Justice Abella, who is a classically trained pianist, also has a comprehensive history of being involved in the arts community.

Justice Abella has made judicial education a priority. She organized the first judicial seminar in which all levels of the judiciary participated, the first judicial seminar in which people outside the legal profession were invited to participate, the first national education program for administrative tribunals, and the first national conference for Canada’s female judges.

Justice Abella will receive the award on April 4, 2018, during a ceremony in Calgary.

Photo of Justice Rosalie Abella by: Phillipe Landreville