Two exceptional human rights defenders honoured by Law Society

Waleed Abu al-Khair and Cindy Blackstock, PhD, recognized for extensive contributions to human rights

TORONTO, Feb. 23, 2017 /CNW/ - The Law Society of Upper Canada honoured two exceptional human rights advocates last night at Osgoode Hall.

Human rights defenders Waleed Abu al-Khair and Cindy Blackstock, PhD, were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the advancement of human rights and the promotion of the rule of law provincially, nationally and internationally.

"We are extremely pleased to honour Dr. Blackstock and Mr. Abu al-Khair, both of whom have shown remarkable courage and conviction in their tireless efforts to promote human rights, said Law Society Treasurer Paul B. Schabas at the evening ceremony. "Through Dr. Blackstock's efforts to address systemic discrimination of First Nations children, she has made a significant and lasting contribution that will have a powerful impact on generations of First Nations children," he said. "Mr. Abu al-Khair has sacrificed a great deal. In honouring him with the Law Society's Human Rights Award, we say to him, and to others like him, your sacrifice does not go unrecognized," said Treasurer Schabas.

Recipient Waleed Abu al-Khair, 37, has been arbitrarily imprisoned in Saudi Arabia since April 15, 2014. He is a prominent human rights lawyer and activist and is the founder of the organization the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia. He has worked tirelessly to defend human rights and the rule of law for all — in the face of extreme adversity and at the cost of his own freedom. Gail Davidson, Executive Director of Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada, accepted the award on his behalf.

"Waleed began practising law in 2007 and since then he has used the written and spoken word coupled with his legal knowledge, to fearlessly advocate for reforms to improve the lives of all in Saudi Arabia by calling on the government to allow its citizens to enjoy internationally protected rights such as rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and the right to participate in public affairs. He has also advocated passionately for the equal rights of women and on behalf of prisoners of conscience," Davidson said.

Recipient Cindy Blackstock, PhD (Social Work), is a highly respected and outstanding advocate for First Nations children and youth in Canada working to address systemic discrimination in the child welfare system. She is a member of the Gitksan First Nation, and has 25 years of social work experience in child protection and Indigenous children's rights.

In her remarks to the 180 attendees, Dr. Blackstock said: "This award is dedicated to all the First Nations children who have borne the weight of Canada's discrimination for decades and the thousands of non-Aboriginal children and youth who now stand with them for justice. Equity for children must come in a leap, not in a shuffle. They only have one childhood."

Teresa Donnelly, chair of Law Society's Human Rights Monitoring Group, said: "When the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law is threatened, either at home or abroad, it affects us all. The Law Society of Upper Canada and the Human Rights Monitoring Group speak out against injustice perpetrated against members of the legal profession and judges in the discharge of their professional duties. This injustice includes harassment, intimidation, threats, unlawful detention, unlawful house arrest, torture and even death."

The Human Rights Monitoring Group is a group of benchers of the Law Society of Upper Canada appointed by Convocation to monitor human rights violations that target members of the legal profession and the judiciary as a result of the discharge of their legitimate professional duties.

The Human Rights Award was established in 2013 by the Law Society as part of its long-standing commitment to human rights, the rule of law, and access to justice. It is granted every two years to individuals for their devotion to these principles either over a long term, or for a single, outstanding act of service. 

The Law Society of Upper Canada is the governing body for more than 50,000 lawyers and 8,000 paralegals in the province of Ontario, Canada. The Law Society is committed to preserving the rule of law and to the maintenance of an independent Bar.

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SOURCE The Law Society of Upper Canada

For further information: Media contact: For more information, please contact Susan Tonkin, Communications Advisor - Media Relations, at 416-947-7605 or stonkin@lsuc.on.ca.

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