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.
As one of ICJC’s regional activities, its Québec chapter held a symposium at the Quebec Court of Appeal in Montreal, entitled “The Magna Carta and its impact here”, to highlight the 800th anniversary of the Great Charter. Organized by ICJC Board Members Stéphane Beaulac, professor at the University of Montreal, and former judge Pierre Dalphond, now with Stikeman Elliott, this conference had an impressive line-up of speakers. They included Nicole Duval-Hesler, Chief Justice of Quebec, senator Serge Joyal, criminal law lawyer Jean-Claude Hébert, President of the Quebec Human Rights Commission Jacques Frémont, and Dean Nathalie Des Rosiers. The speakers dealt with various topics tied to the legacy of the Magna Carta, but that remain of importance today, including women’s rights, fundamental liberties, and jury trials.
This highly engaging conference was followed by the public launching of the Observatory on National Security Measures, for which Stéphane Beaulac is the founding director. The observatory is one of ICJC’s regional activities, and is housed by the University of Montreal’s Centre for Research in Public Law (CRDP). It is a web-based resource that has the mission of storing documents and following developments related to national security measures. The site is bilingual, and will be a hub for discussion on the risks and challenges in this area. It is a project of inter-institutional collaboration of the law faculties of the University of Montreal (Stéphane Beaulac), Laval Université (Fannie Lafontaine), Université of Ottawa (Errol Mendes), and Dalhousie Université (Rob Currie).
The event closed with a cocktail reception to commemorate the Honourable Louise Arbour, C.C.,G.O.Q., winner of the 2015 Tarnopolsky Prize.
by Ryan Persaud, President, uOttawa ICJC Students' Chapter
On October 27, 2015, I, along with 107 lawyers, judges and law students attended the International Commission of Jurists Canada fundraiser event for Bill Browder, author of the acclaimed novel, “Red Notice.” This true story details the corruption and cronyism of Putin’s Russia, a system that callously took the life of Mr. Browder’s lawyer and close friend, Sergei Magnitsky. Since then, Mr. Browder has travelled the world seeking justice for his friend and in doing so, has directly taken on one of the most powerful authoritarian regimes in the world. Mr. Browder’s story highlights the power of the individual, sticking by one’s principles, and the human cost of seemingly larger than life political issues.
Mr. Browder is a deeply compelling speaker, full of wit and humour, and his story is deeply poignant as well. The question period was brilliantly moderated by the Hon. Ian Binnie, former Supreme Court of Canada justice. Both in his presentation and the question period Mr. Browder reminded of us of how fragile the rule of law truly is and how greed, power, and corruption are constant threats to it. And, on an even more human level, he reminded us what can happen when the rule of law is not respected, and of the lives that are so frequently lost, including those of lawyers such as his courageous lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
The ICJC has been dedicated to pursuit of justice and promotion of human rights through engaging national and international legal systems for over five decades. In our globalized world, where businesses, communities, and friendships consistently cross borders, realizing these goals is more important now than ever before.
Eight law students from the University of Ottawa and the University of Toronto were able to attend this interesting and enlightening event due to the generosity of Mr. Charles Coffey, who donated a table so that the students could attend free of charge. We are greatly appreciative of his kindness and generosity.
On October 15, ICJC, in conjunction with the University of Ottawa's Human Rights Research and Education Centre, hosted Marwan Muhammad, advisor to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, for an event on Islamophobia. Mr. Muhammad spoke about the harms of Islamophobia, and the responsibility of all members of society, including non-Muslims, to address it. CLICK HERE to find out more.