International Law; Human Rights; Courts; Canada


DEAN MATTHEW DILLER: This year we are leading up to our celebration of 100 Years of Women at Fordham Law School. In September 1918, the Fordham Law faculty voted to admit women, and we are planning to celebrate that in style. But tonight perhaps is a bit of a teaser for that. Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella is a woman of firsts. She is the first Jewish woman to sit on the bench of the Supreme Court of Canada, and before the Supreme Court, when she was appointed to the Ontario Family Court in 1976, she became the first Jewish woman judge in Canadian history. At that time, she was also the country’s second youngest judge—and I will just say, younger than thirty. Justice Abella has been awarded thirty-eight honorary degrees and was the first sitting judge elected to be a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, an organization consisting of Canada’s leading scholars. She was also the first incumbent of the James R. Bullock Visiting Chair in Canadian Studies at the Hebrew University and was the first woman to receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. I could keep going on with the list of awards. She served as a judge of the Giller Literary Prize, Canada’s most prestigious literary award. In 2003, she was awarded the International Justice Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation and, the following year, the Walter Tarnopolsky Award for Human Rights by the Canadian Bar Association and the International Commission of Jurists. Just two years ago, the Northwestern School of Law honored Justice Abella as its Global Jurist of the Year. This gives you a sense of the accolades, awards, and accomplishments that Justice Abella has both done and received over the course of her career. Her career has been distinguished by an unflagging commitment to human rights, equality, and justice.