A Review of the Conference Dedicated to the Honourable Rosalie Silberman Abella — A Life of Firsts

Post by
Wednesday, July 13, 2022
Posted in Latest News

This two-day conference organized jointly by the uOttawa Public Law Centre, the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice, the Human Rights Research and Education Centre, and The Advocates’ Society took place on May 12 and 13, 2022, in person in Ottawa and online.

The program was set up to mark the retirement of the Honourable Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella from the Supreme Court of Canada (on July 1, 2021), and to highlight her influence on law and society. The event brought together some 65 speakers from Canada and abroad. Over 250 participants attended the event, in person or online.

A remarkable woman and jurist with an impressive career

Justice Silberman Abella was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2004, the first Jewish woman appointed to Canada’s top court. Her remarkable life has been a series of firsts. Born in a displaced persons camp in Stuttgart, Germany, she had a storied career before joining Canada’s top court.

Her career is impressive. She was a practising lawyer, family court judge (the first pregnant person and first refugee appointed to the judiciary in Canada), law reformer (Chair of the Ontario Law Reform Commission), labour adjudicator (Chair of the Ontario Labour Relations Board), law professor (McGill Faculty of Law), appeal court justice and commission of inquiry head (her 1984 federal Royal Commission on Equality in Employment created the term and concept of “employment equity”). She was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1997, to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007, and to the American Philosophical Society in 2018 and in 2020, she was awarded the Knight Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit by the President of Germany.

She is also a graduate of the Royal Conservatory of Music, has judged the Giller Literary Prize, moderated a Prime Ministerial Leader’s Debate and spellbound audiences around the globe with her oratory. She has left her imprint on the Supreme Court of Canada, the law in Canada and around the world and on Canada as a nation and as a global ambassador for Canadian values and jurisprudence.

Many special events on the agenda


The conference kicked off on Wednesday, May 11, 2022 with a welcome reception and art exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada. All participants and friends of Justice Abella were invited to admire 9 carefully selected works, with special comments explaining their links with Justice Abella’s background and personality.



A few students from the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law

Renowned lawyer Guy Pratte (Partner at BLG) was the Master of Ceremonies for a memorable banquet taking place on Thursday, May 12, 2022. Among the many homages that were delivered on this occasion, there was a very moving musical tribute from the Royal Conservatory of Music, featuring violinist Evan Pyne and pianist Ellen Annor-Adjei.

From left to right: The Honourable David Lametti, The Honourable Rosalie Abella, Violinist Evan Pyne, Pianist Ellen Annor-Adjei and Lawyer Guy Pratte

During the two-day conference, numerous sessions and presentations highlighted the outstanding legacy of Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella’s remarkable career.



The event came to an end on Friday, May 13, 2022 with a lively fireside chat between Rosalie Abella and well-known journalist and author Paul Wells.




Videos of the event

Click on the following link to watch some of the panels, filmed by CPAC (the Cable Public Affairs Channel): https://www.cpac.ca/search?type=all&order=desc&key=Abella&page=1

Thank yous

Thank you to all the speakers and participants.

Thank you to the “AbellaFest” Conference partners: Stockwoods LLP, Supreme Advocacy LLP, Henein Hutchison LLP, The Royal Society of Canada, Lenczner Slaght, Goldblatt Partners LLP, Juristes Power Law & Pape Chaudhury LLP.



Thank you to the conference co-chairs: Gerald Chan, Stockwoods LLP, former law clerk to Justice Abella; Stephen Bindman, Visiting Fellow, Faculty of Law (Common Law Section), University of Ottawa; Professor Vanessa MacDonnell, Co-Director, uOttawa Public Law Centre, University of Ottawa Faculty of Law.



About the author



Since its inception in 1974, the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice (CIAJ) brings together individuals and institutions involved in the administration of justice and promotes excellence through knowledge, learning and the exchange of ideas. CIAJ offers customized training and multidisciplinary programs designed for all stakeholders in the justice system, prepares reports and issues recommendations that could lay the groundwork for change.