Abu al-Khair and Cindy Blackstock, PhD, recognized for extensive contributions
to human rights
Toronto, ON — The Law Society
of Upper Canada honoured two exceptional human rights advocates last night at
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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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