Pro Bono Students Canada

Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella visits UVic and UBC chapters!

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Justice Abella with students at UBC.

Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella of the Supreme Court of Canada with students at UBC. Photo by Curtis Jones.

This October, PBSC’s University of Victoria and University of British Columbia chapters hosted two special events featuring Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella. Both events attracted standing-room only audiences of law students and faculty members, and Justice Abella inspired the packed lecture halls with stories about her life and the law from her nearly 40 years as a jurist.

Over the course of two wide-ranging conversations – in Victoria, with Law Dean Jeremy Webber, and in Vancouver, with Law Professor Margot Young – Justice Abella began her remarks by recounting the moving story of being born in a displaced persons camp after WWII, moving to Canada with her family, and deciding to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a lawyer, even though he himself was unable to practice law by virtue of not being a Canadian citizen. Despite being told as a child that “girls aren’t lawyers”, the impact of her truly path-breaking career – she was the first pregnant lawyer to be appointed to a Court and the first Jewish female judge in Canada – was distinctly felt by the audience, as were the ground-breaking contributions she has made to Canadian equality and discrimination law.

“What pro bono does is introduce you to the humanity of the people who deserve justice but don’t always get it.”

Justice Abella with Dean Jeremy Webber at the University of Victoria Faculty of Law.

Justice Abella with Dean Jeremy Webber at the University of Victoria Faculty of Law.  Photo courtesy of UVic Photo Services.

PBSC National Office staff and students spoke at both events, and PBSC is grateful to our UVic Program Coordinators Kayleigh Harrison and Victoria Merritt, and our UBC Coordinators, Kevin Hennessey and Alex Russel, for their efforts in planning and leading these wonderful events. Both talks were sponsored by PBSC’s National Law Firm partner, McCarthy Tétrault LLP, and we were pleased to welcome guest speakers Mike Feder and Emily MacKinnon of McCarthy Tetrault’s Vancouver office.

A long-time friend and supporter of Pro Bono Students Canada, Justice Abella emphasized the importance of using one’s law degree to serve the public: “What pro bono does is introduce you to the humanity of the people who deserve justice but don’t always get it.” Touching on the legal profession’s aversion to change, she explained that in her career she has “always seen the status quo as merely the beginning of a conversation.” Words to inspire the next generation of lawyers!

Click here to see a Facebook album of photos from the UBC event!

Click here to read an article on the UVic event!