2007 Winner David Matas
Winnipeg lawyer David Matas was selected as the recipient of the 2007 Tarnopolsky Human Rights Award recognizing his contributions to domestic and international human rights. At the time of his award, Matas maintained a private refugee, immigration and human rights law practice in Winnipeg, and had authored eight books. He was also involved in a number of international groups promoting human rights and high-profile cases before the Supreme Court of Canada. The award was presented by Mr. Justice Ian Binnie at the CBA Canadian Judges Forum session, Aug. 13,2007, at the Canadian Legal Conference in Calgary.
He is renowned for his long and impressive track record of advocating for human rights, both on the national and international levels; and for working tirelessly at promoting the Canadian vision of human rights abroad and defending of those rights at home.
Prior to being honoured with the Tarnopolsky award, Matas served as a member of the Canadian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, in the Task Force on Immigration Practices and Procedures in 1980-1981, and as a member of Canadian delegation to the United Nations Conference on an International Criminal Court in 1998. He was a member of the Canadian delegation to the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust in 2000, served as director of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development (later Rights and Democracy) from 1997 to 2003, and was part of Canadian delegation to the Organization on Security and Co-operation in Europe Conferences on Anti-Semitism in Vienna in 2003 and Berlin in 2004.
Active in many organizations, Matas has served as senior honourary counsel for B'nai Brith Canada since 1989, was senior legal co-ordinator for Amnesty International's Canadian Section, and chaired the Canadian Jewish Congress's legal committee on war crimes from 1981 to 1984. He also served as councillor of the International Commission of Jurists' Canadian Section from 1983 to 1994 and as vice-president for the Prairie provinces from 1994 to 2003.
Matas received his bachelor of arts from the University of Manitoba in 1964, his master's degree from Princeton University in 1965, and a bachelor of arts in jurisprudence in 1967 and bachelor of civil law 1968 from Oxford University. He was a law clerk to the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1968-1969, a member of the federal government's Foreign Ownership Working Group in 1969, and a special assistant to the federal solicitor general in 1971-1972.
Click here to read the 2007 Tarnopolsky address delivered by Mr. Matas, entitled “The Right to Counsel: An essential human right".