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2017 Winner Senator Murray Sinclair

Congratulations to Senator Murray Sinclair, recipient of the 2017 Tarnopolsky Award! ICJ Canada is thrilled to recognize someone who has contributed so much to human rights and indigenous issues. Senator Sinclair provided an outstanding speech on Canada's ongoing reconciliation with indigenous peoples. You can view a recording of his speech by clicking on this link to the CPAC website

2016 Winner Jennifer Bond

DSC 0015 copyJennifer Bond is the 2016 winner of the Walter S. Tarnopolsky Award. 

She is Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa; Chair of the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative; and Founder and Faculty Director of the University of Ottawa Refugee Hub. She has also served as Special Advisor to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship; was on the founding executive of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, and led the creation of the Refugee Sponsorship Support Program (“SSP”), which has mobilized over 1,300 pro-bono lawyers to assist Canadians across the country seeking to privately sponsor refugees. She has published extensively, is a frequent media commentator, has given numerous presentations at national and international events, and has contributed to litigation, including by appearing in interventions in important refugee cases at the Supreme Court of Canada. She holds a BA and BCom from the University of Calgary, an LLB from the University of Victoria, and an LLM from Yale Law School.

Her nomination was supported by several colleagues who noted Professor Bond’s truly outstanding dedication to refugees over the past decade. She has demonstrated exceptional leadership, advocacy, and community building in the face of the migrant crisis, and been a great source of inspiration to many people through her work.

One of the Tarnopolsky award criteria for 2016 was that it must be awarded to a person not yet at the midpoint of his or her career. With her remarkable achievements to date, Professor Bond is an extremely deserving candidate.

On January 31, 2017, ICJC members, colleagues, Parliamentarians, lawyers, and other members of the community gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to recognize her Professor Bond's achievements.

Following the Award Ceremony, in lieu of giving a traditional address, Independent Senator for Ontario Ratna Omidvar joined Professor Bond for an engaging discussion on "Responding to the Refugee Crisis". Watch it online:



2015 Winner Louise Arbour, C.C., G.O.Q.

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.

Louise Arbour et alSarah-Michèle Vincent-Wright, Stéphane Beaulac, Louise Arbour, Frédéric Bérard, Errol Mendes, Pierre Dalphond, and Nathalie Des Rosiers, at the reception in honour of Madam Arbour

2014 Winner Robin Sully

Robin Sully

On Nov. 15, 2014, ICJ Canada Board member Robin Sully was presented with the Tarnolpolsky award for her outstanding contribution to human rights in her capacity as the Canadian Bar Association’s Director of International Development, a position in which she served for almost 20 years.

The award was presented in Ottawa, at the Canadian Council for International Law’s annual conference, by fellow ICJ Board member Errol Mendes.

Robin’s nomination was supported by heartfelt letters written by 25 senior judges and lawyers from Canada, Asia, and Africa who had had the opportunity to work with Robin and experience her passion for supporting the rule of law around the globe. Robin’s “principled and unwavering commitment to her goals,” her “collaborative and respectful approach to all players”, and her “boundless energy and enthusiasm” were cited as key reasons for the significant human rights results achieved through the CBA’s international projects during the almost 20 years that she served as Director of International Development. This award recognizes her great contribution to the field.

Please click pdfhere to read the comments Robin delivered at the Award ceremony, and click pdfhere to read Robin’s paper entitled, “Rule of Law and the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda – It’s About Justice!”.

2013 Winner Paul Champ

Paul Champ

Paul Champ is an Ottawa-based litigation lawyer who focuses on human rights, employment, labour, and public interest law. His commitment to the protection of civil liberties and fundamental human rights is reflected in his work with groups such as First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, Amnesty International, and the Pictou Landing Health Centre.

He was awarded the 2013 Walter S. Tarnopolsky Award for outstanding contribution to the field of human rights on November 13, 2013. Nearly 70 people gathered for the presentation and reception held on the 12th floor of the Desmarais Building on the University of Ottawa campus. The presentation was made by Philippe Dufresne, President of ICJ Canada.

Mr. Champ spoke eloquently and frankly on the challenges for access to justice and human rights in Canada from a practitioner’s perspective. His full address may be viewed below.

2012 Winner Elise Groulx

Elise Groulx webMontreal lawyer, Elise Groulx, Ad.E., LL.M. was awarded the 2012 Walter S. Tarnopolsky Award for outstanding contribution to the field of human rights. Ms. Groulx has been a practicing criminal defence lawyer in Canada for more than twenty-five years and has been actively engaged in international criminal defence law since 1997, when she founded and became the first President of the International Criminal Defence Attorneys Association (ICDAA), which serves lawyers practicing before international criminal tribunals.

In 2003, Ms. Groulx was the first elected President of the International Criminal Bar (ICB) and has been its Honorary President since December 2005. The ICB supports lawyers practicing before the International Criminal Court and works to protect the independence of the legal profession and improve access to justice in the new international justice system. Ms. Groulx received the Tarnopolsky Award at the Annual Meeting of ICJ Canada on August 12, 2012 in Vancouver. The award was presented by John Waddell, then-ICJ Canada Vice-President for British Columbia. Ms. Groulx delivered the Tarnopolsky address on the development of international justice and international criminal law.

2011 Winner Dr. James Orbinski

James Orbinski

The 2011 Walter S. Tarnopolsky Award for outstanding contribution to the field of human rights went to Dr. James Orbinski, OC, MSC, MC, MA. Dr. Orbinski is Lana Professor Medicine and of Political Science at the University of Toronto. Among his many other achievements, as International President of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) from 1998 to 2001, he launched its Access to Essential Medicines Campaign and accepted the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to MSF.

Because Dr. Orbinski was unable to attend the 2011 Annual Meeting in Halifax, the presentation and Tarnopolsky address took place at the University of Toronto on December 6, 2011. In dealing with equity, law, and global health, Dr. Orbinski explained the importance of telling stories of human suffering and understanding the broader political question: who gets what, when, and how? Legal and political institutions have historically not prevented mass genocide by Hitler’s Reich, by Stalin’s regime, or by tribal groups in Rwanda. But what, he asked, has been done recently?

Dr. Orbinski said that the right to life and health are achieving some legal recognition internationally. But first there must be the right to speak. In this regard, the creation of the International Criminal Court was a seminal human achievement: an institution created by politics which believes that no one is above the law when it brings indictments and registers convictions against war criminals for genocide and other war crimes.

One of the first acts of the ICC, he said, was to recognize the plight of victims, not just through kindness and sympathy, but through the provision of essential medicines, doctors, and non-medical assistance. He discussed the role of MSF at length, particularly during the period when he was its President. Dr. Orbinski also commented on the acute food shortage in Malawi, the impact of climate change on global health, and the health threats to many countries from unforeseen pandemics. He stressed the need for strong political leadership among Western nations throughout his presentation.

Dr. Orbinski’s talk was followed by a robust discussion with the lawyers, doctors, and medical students in attendance.

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 pdfhere to read the 2007 Tarnopolsky address delivered by Mr. Matas, entitled “The Right to Counsel: An essential human right".