Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella receive honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters

Victoria University in the University of Toronto celebrated Charter Day Convocation on Wednesday, October 8, 2014. Charter Day is celebrated annually and commemorates the founding of Victoria College in Cobourg, Ontario, in 1836. The convocation celebrates and recognizes the academic achievements of Victoria College students. At the ceremony, the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters was conferred upon two recipients: Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella.

The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, P.C. was called to the Bar of Alberta in 1969 and to the Bar of British Columbia in 1971. In 1981 she was appointed to the County Court of Vancouver, and later that year, to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. She was appointed to the Court of Appeal of British Columbia in 1985 and appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in 1988. In 1989 she was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, where she was appointed on January 7, 2000 the 17th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, the first woman to hold this position and the longest serving Chief Justice in Canadian history. She was presented for the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, by Professor Sophia Reibetanz Moreau Vic 9T4 (Law and Philosophy, U of T). Professor Moreau served as clerk to the Chief Justice in 2002–2003.

The Honourable Rosalie Silberman Abella, FRSC, graduated from U of T’s Faculty of Law in 1970. In 1976, at the age of 29, she was appointed to the Ontario Family Court. While still in her 20s she was appointed a member of the Human Rights Commission of Ontario, the Premier’s Advisory Committee on Confederation, the Ontario Public Service Labour Relations Tribunal, and of the University of Toronto Academic Discipline Tribunal. She also wrote a ground-breaking study on Access to Legal Services by the Disabled. She was the sole Commissioner and author of the 1984 federal Royal Commission on Equality in Employment, in which she created the term and concept of ‘employment equity,’ a new and unique strategy for reducing barriers in employment faced by minorities. Abella is Canada’s first Jewish woman judge and the country’s youngest ever. She was the first woman chair of the Ontario Labour Relations Board and the first woman in the British Commonwealth to become the head of a Law Reform Commission. In August 2004, she was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, becoming the first Jewish woman to sit on the Canadian Supreme Court bench. She was presented for the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, by Professor Kent Roach Vic 8T4 (Prichard-Wilson Chair of Law and Public Policy, Faculty of Law, U of T).

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