April 19, 2022 – Thunder Bay, Ont.
Aria Kamal, from Barrie, Ont., has been named as one of the recipients of the Royal Society of Canada’s inaugural Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella Prize.
Kamal began advancing equality in her community through her involvement with Dress for Success, a charitable organization that empowers women to achieve economic independence, where she worked closely with clients by providing them with business attire and professional development training to secure meaningful employment.
She also led information workshops on financial literacy, professional networking and job retention skills.
“I am very honoured to have been selected as Lakehead University’s inaugural winner of the Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella Prize,” Kamal said.
“Throughout my time in law school, I have firmly grasped that effective advocates must learn to recognize the lived experiences of their clients to the best of their ability.
“While standard legal education curriculums do not mandate courses on social justice-based advocacy, I truly believe that students must develop social context awareness through increased involvement in pro bono placements, clinic work and community outreach initiatives during law school,” she said.
Kamal said she is grateful for the unique opportunities and experiences that she has had as a student in the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law.
“I hope that future generations of law students will continue to interrogate the role of socio-legal inequities within the law and strive to ameliorate discrepancies between equality in the books and equality in practice.”
During her three years at the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law, Kamal continued to build her impressive resume in the area of social justice and equality. In her first year, she provided pro bono legal support to women seeking separation from their abusive common-law spouses at the Northwestern Ontario Women’s Centre (NWOWC).
Kamal documented her experience at NWOWC in a two-part series for The Lawyer’s Daily, titled “Disproportionate Effects of Poverty on Divorced Women: An Access to Justice Issue” and “Covert Socio-legal Implications of Self-Representation in Smaller Communities.”
In addition, she taught a workshop emphasizing the need to integrate intersectional equality within lawyer practices at the Law Needs Feminism Because national forum.
In her second year of law school, Kamal was hired by Pro Bono Students of Canada as a case worker for its Family Justice Centre. In this role, she developed free public legal education resources to assist self-represented litigants with their family law proceedings. She also prepared court forms and organized free summary legal advice meetings between low-income clients and volunteer family law lawyers.
In the summer, Kamal worked as a student for the Law Commission of Ontario, where she interrogated the role of racial biases in predictive policing technologies and devised law reform recommendations in consultations with leading experts in the province.
In her third and final year of law school, Kamal completed her Practice Placement at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, where she learned how to identify covert social inequalities in the law and how to provide just intervention to bring these issues to court.
Kamal has been a devoted volunteer throughout her law studies.
She was a Law Student Ambassador for the Ontario Bar Association-Student Section Executive, a Student Member at Large for the Ontario Bar Association-Women Lawyers Forum Executive, a Pro Bono Student for the Women’s Legal Education Action Fund, an Advisory Committee Member for Racism and Racial Discrimination for Lakehead University’s Office of Human Rights and Equity, and a volunteer for the Because I am a Girl: Speakers Bureau Member-PLAN Canada.
Please join the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law in congratulating Kamal on winning this prestigious prize. The Bora Laskin Faculty of Law is proud of her achievements, and recognizes the contributions of her fellow applicants, and all of the Faculty’s students in their collective commitment to social justice and equality.
The Royal Society of Canada established this prize in honour of Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella, a changemaker celebrated for her visionary intellectual contributions and commitment to building equality and equity across Canadian society and beyond.
During her distinguished career, Justice Abella has been responsible for many groundbreaking legal and judicial contributions. She chaired and authored the Ontario Study on Access to Legal Services by the Disabled in 1983 and was the sole Commissioner of the 1984 federal Royal Commission on Equality in Employment, creating the term and concept of “employment equity.”
She developed theories of “equality” and “discrimination” in her Royal Commission Report that were adopted by the Supreme Court of Canada in its first decision dealing with equality rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1989. The report has been implemented by governments around the world.
The Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella Prize is presented annually to a graduating law student in each of the law schools in Canada who is most likely to positively influence equity and social justice in Canada or globally.
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Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university with approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and over 2,000 faculty and staff at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead has nine faculties, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Law, Natural Resources Management, Science & Environmental Studies, and Social Sciences & Humanities. Lakehead University’s achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally, including being ranked, once again, among Canada’s Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities in Maclean’s 2021 University Rankings; as well as included in the top half of Times Higher Education's 2022 World Universities Rankings for the third consecutive year, and in the top 100 of 1,115 universities from around the world in THE's 2021 Impact Rankings (which assesses institutions against the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals). Visit www.lakeheadu.ca