From ‘Displaced’ to ‘Supreme’

Photo: Supreme Court of Canada

Photo: Supreme Court of Canada

Paralegal Judit Schonwald attended the Holocaust Remembrance Day at Osgoode Hall in Toronto. The event was especially moving this year, as Hon. Justice Rosalie Abella gave the keynote address.

An emotional and subdued event marked the Law Society of Upper Canada’s (LSUC) Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 28.

The keynote speaker, the Honourable Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella, captivated the audience with her poignant message to the legal profession. Justice Abella is known as a ground-breaker. She is the first Jewish woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada and could be said to embody the dreams of each immigrant to Canada.

The road from a Displaced Persons camp in Stuttgart, Germany, to the Supreme Court of Canada was a long and challenging adventure. Justice Abella told the Osgoode Hall audience that “Justice for me started with the injustice of the Holocaust.”

Born during the Nuremberg Trials, which attempted to serve justice to the millions who were systematically murdered by the Nazi regime, Justice Abella said she has been captivated by justice issues since the age of four.

Justice Abella said she found herself questioning the legal system after the Nuremberg Trials, asking herself: Where is the inherent morality of law? Where does the legal profession’s duty lie when upholding the law? What makes a judge or lawyer give up his independence for state approval? Could this happen again?

Justice Abella said she is a firm believer in democratic values. She stated, “Without tolerance there are no rights. Without rights there is no justice. Without justice, there is no hope.”

She warned legal professionals to be always vigilant, as we are the caretakers of democracy.

    Justice Abella was the sole Commissioner of the 1984 federal Royal Commission on Equality in Employment, creating the term and concept of “employment equity.” The theories of “equality” and “discrimination” she developed in her report 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.

    Each year, the Law Society holds Holocaust Remembrance Day events to promote dialogue and examine legal issues stemming from antisemitism, hate and human rights violations. Monday’s event was co-hosted by the Law Society of Upper Canada and the League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada.

    Also known as Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorates the lives of Jewish people who died in the Holocaust between 1933 and 1945.

Read more of paralegal Judit Schonwald‘s work at her blog.


  1. Thanks Tracey, it means a lot

  2. Tracey Gauley · ·

    What a fantastic article. Justice Abella’s journey is so inspiring – to say the least. I wish I could have heard her presentation in order to fully understand what she has suffered, endured and worked through, eventually arriving at the great level of success she is today. Again, great article.

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