On November 5th, 2015, the ICJC recognized the Honourable Louise Arbour as the 2015 recipient of the Walter S. Tarnopolsky award, which is given annually to an individual who has made a significant contribution to human rights in Canada or abroad. The award ceremony took place in the intimate setting of the judges’ conference room of the Quebec Court of Appeal in Montréal.
ICJC President Errol Mendes praised Madam Arbour as being a person who needs no introduction for most Canadians, given her outstanding contributions to justice and human rights in Canada and around the world.
He highlighted a few of her notable accomplishments: She is a former justice of the Ontario Supreme Court, the Ontario Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court of Canada, and chaired an inquiry commission that investigated certain events at the Prison for Women in Kingston, Ontario. Internationally, she was the Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. She was also President of the International Crisis Group from 2009 to 2014, before returning to Canada to take the position of counsel with Borden Ladner Gervais in Montreal. She is a member of the Advisory Board of The Coalition for the International Criminal Court, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, and the International Commission Against the Death Penalty. Among her numerous honorary doctorates and awards, Madam Arbour has been a Companion of the Order of Canada since 2007, a Grand Officer of the Ordre national du Québec since 2009, a Commander of the Légion d'honneur, and has been decorated by both Spain and Colombia.
After being presented with the award, Madam Arbour shared a few comments with an attentive audience of fellow jurists, and answered their questions candidly. She shared some reflections on the state of human rights today, and expressed cautious optimism that we are entering an era of new, pragmatic, and evidence-based approaches to global challenges, particularly in the areas of migrant policy and drug policy. She expressed that it is particularly special for her to receive the Tarnopolsky award, because Walter Tarnopolsky had been a colleague of hers, whom she respected greatly and recalls fondly.