WWS Calendar

The Judicial Role and Democracy

Mar 1, 2017 04:30PM to 06:00PM
Robertson Hall
Open to the Public
The Honorable Rosalie Silberman Abella, Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada

The role of the Judicial branch in interpreting the U.S. Constitution recently has been discussed widely, following a legal battle regarding President Trump’s executive order barring immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. How does America’s northern neighbor view the role of an independent judiciary in democracy? What hot-button issues will the Supreme Court of Canada grapple with in 2017?

These topics will be discussed at a public talk by the Honourable Rosalie Silberman Abella, a member of the Supreme Court of Canada since 2004.

Justice Abella was born in a displaced person's camp in Stuttgart, Germany on July 1, 1946, and her family came to Canada as refugees in 1950.

She was called to the Ontario Bar in 1972 and practiced civil and criminal litigation until 1976, when she was appointed to the Ontario Family Court at the age of 29, the youngest and first pregnant woman appointed to the judiciary in Canada. She was appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal in 1992. After serving on the Ontario Court of Appeal for 12 years, Justice Abella became the first Jewish woman appointed to the Supreme Court.

She was the sole commissioner of the 1984 federal Royal Commission on Equality in Employment, whose report, “Equality in Employment: A Royal Commission Report” was released in 1984. The report fundamentally influenced the fields of employment and human rights law, jurisprudence and public policy. The theories of “equality” and “discrimination” she developed in her report were adopted by the Supreme Court of Canada in its first decision dealing with equality rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1989. The report has been implemented by the governments of Canada, New Zealand, Northern Ireland and South Africa.

Earlier this year, Justice Abella was named Global Jurist of the Year by Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Center for International Human Rights. The award honors a sitting judge who has demonstrated courage in the face of adversity to defending human rights or principles of international criminal justice.

Justice Abella is visiting the Woodrow Wilson School as part of its Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation Leadership Through Mentorship Program.