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Canadian judge Rosalie Abella named Global Jurist of the Year

Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella was named the fourth winner of the award by Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Center for International Human Rights.

A Canadian judge has been named Global Jurist of the Year by a Chicago law school.

Justice Rosalie Abella, 70, who has been a member of the Supreme Court of Canada since 2004, was named the fourth winner of the award by Northwestern Pritzker School of Law's Center for International Human Rights. Past winners are Justice Gloria Escobar, president of the Guatemalan Constitutional Court, Justice Shireen Fisher, president of the Special Court for Sierra Leone; and Acting Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke of South Africa's Constitutional Court.

David Jacobson, who was U.S. Ambassador to Canada from 2009 to 2013, nominated her for the award, which is for a current judge who has shown a lifetime of commitment in the face of adversity to defending human rights or principles of international criminal justice.

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"What I said in my nomination that really distinguished Rosie from so many other great jurists in Canada, the U.S. and around the world, is the way she brings extraordinary human decency to the law," Mr. Jacobson said in an interview.

"I've never met any judge in my life, and I know a lot of them – I used to be a lawyer – who understands people better than Rosie, and the importance of people in the judicial process. I think the human quality she brings to the bench is unsurpassed in my experience."

The school called her a pioneer, describing her as Canada's first Jewish female judge on any court (the University of Toronto graduate joined Ontario's Family Court in 1976, when she was 29), and on the Supreme Court. It noted that she was born in a refugee camp in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1946 to two Holocaust survivors, and that her father, who studied law in Poland before the Second World War, inspired her to become a lawyer. It cited her work heading a 1984 commission on equality in employment that led her to create the Canadian concept of employment equity, and a 1998 ruling she wrote when she was a member of the Ontario Court of Appeal that extended survivor benefits to same-sex partners.

"Justice Abella has stood throughout her judicial career for the enforcement of human rights principles for all Canadians, regardless of their gender, ethnicity or station in life," David Scheffer, director of the Center for International Human Rights, said in a release.

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The award is her latest honour. Last month, by a unanimous decision in the British Parliament, she was elected a bencher of the Middle Temple, a self-regulating legal body for England and Wales. And last spring, she became the first Canadian given an honorary degree by Yale University.

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