Rosalie Abella

Louis LeBel Andromache Karakatsanis Michael Moldaver

Rosalie Silberman Abella

20170125 GlobalJuristAward Abella (cropped).jpg
Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada
Assumed office
October 4, 2004
Nominated byPaul Martin
Preceded byFrank Iacobucci / Louise Arbour
Personal details
Born (1946-07-01) July 1, 1946 (age 74)
Stuttgart, Germany
Spouse(s)Irving Abella

Rosalie Silberman Abella FRSC (born July 1, 1946) is a Canadian jurist. In 2004, Abella was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, becoming the first Jewish woman to sit on the Canadian Supreme Court bench.[1]

Early life

Rosalie Silberman Abella was born on July 1, 1946, the daughter of Jacob and Fanny Silberman.[2] She was born in a displaced persons camp in Stuttgart, Germany, where her father, a lawyer, was appointed by the Americans as head of legal services for displaced persons in the Allied Zone of Southwest Germany.[3][2] In 1950, her family was admitted into Canada, though Jacob Silberman was not allowed to practice law because he was not a citizen.[2] From a young age, Rosalie was determined to become a lawyer.[2][4] She attended Oakwood Collegiate Institute and Bathurst Heights Secondary School in Toronto, Ontario.[5] She then attended the University of Toronto, where she earned a B.A. in 1967, and an LL.B in 1970.[6] In 1964, Abella graduated from the Royal Conservatory of Music in classical piano.[7]


Abella was called to the Ontario bar in 1972.[8] Abella practised civil and criminal litigation until 1976, when at the age of 29, she was appointed to the Ontario Family Court (which is now part of the Ontario Court of Justice), becoming both the youngest and first pregnant judge in Canadian history.[9] She was appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal in 1992.[8]

In 1984, Abella was appointed as the sole Commissioner of the 1984 federal Royal Commission on Equality in Employment, coining the term and concept of "employment equity", a strategy for reducing barriers in employment faced by women, visible minorities, people with disabilities, and Aboriginal peoples.[8][7] The theories of "equality" and "discrimination" that were developed in the Report were adopted by the Canadian Supreme Court in its first decision regrading equality rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1989.[7] The recommendations outlined in report were adopted by other countries including, New Zealand, South Africa, and Northern Ireland.[8]

Abella has acted as chair of the Ontario Labour Relations Board, the Ontario Study into Access to Legal Services by the Disabled and the Ontario Law Reform Commission, and as a member of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and of the judicial inquiry into the Donald Marshall, Jr. case. She is considered one of Canada's foremost experts on human rights law, and has taught at McGill Law School in Montreal.[7]

In 2004, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin appointed Abella to the Supreme Court of Canada. Abella became the first Jewish woman to sit on the court.[10] She is eligible to serve on the Supreme Court until July 1, 2021 when she turns 75.[11]

In 1988, Abella moderated the televised English Language Leaders' Debate between Brian Mulroney (PC), John Turner (Liberal) and Ed Broadbent (NDP).[7]

Honours and Personal Life

Abella is the recipient of 37 honorary degrees, and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. She was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002.[12] She was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007.[13] In May 2016, she was awarded an honorary degree from Yale University,[14] becoming the first Canadian woman to earn such an honour.[8] In addition, she has been a judge of the Giller Prize.

In January 2017, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Center for International Human Rights named her the Global Jurist of the Year in 2016 for her lifelong commitment to human rights and international criminal justice.[15] In April 2018, Abella was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society.

Abella is married to historian Irving Abella,[8] and has two sons.

See also


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 15, 2013. Retrieved April 16, 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ a b c d "Rosalie Silberman Abella | Jewish Women's Archive". Retrieved January 20, 2020.
  3. ^ Text of a speech given by Justice Abella to the Empire Club in Toronto on February 9, 2011, entitled "The World is not Unfolding as it Should: International Justice in Crisis", "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 13, 2011. Retrieved February 4, 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link).
  4. ^ "Watch the Powerful Yale Graduation Address of the First Jewish Woman to Serve on Canada's Supreme Court". Tablet Magazine. June 16, 2016. Retrieved January 20, 2020.
  5. ^ Nurse, Donna Bailey (2006). "Just "Rosie"". U of T Magazine.
  6. ^ "The Honourable Rosalie Silberman Abella". Supreme Court of Canada. April 25, 2016. Archived from the original on October 1, 2016. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d e Canada, Supreme Court of (January 1, 2001). "Supreme Court of Canada - Biography - Rosalie Silberman Abella". Retrieved January 20, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Knelman, Martin (May 23, 2016). "Justice Rosalie Abella first Canadian woman to receive honorary Yale degree". Toronto Star. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
  9. ^ "The newest justices". CBC News. February 24, 2006. Retrieved October 8, 2007.
  10. ^ "How Justice Rosalie Abella made Yale law grads cry on the happiest day of their lives". CBC Radio. May 29, 2016. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
  11. ^ Shribman, David (August 26, 2019). "Revered from left and right, she'll soon be Canada's longest-serving judge". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 28, 2019.
  12. ^ "Golden Jubilee Medal".
  13. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved March 20, 2011.
  14. ^ "Honorary degrees awarded to nine outstanding individuals". Yale News. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
  15. ^ Fine, Sean (January 13, 2017). "Canadian judge Rosalie Abella named Global Jurist of the Year". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved January 12, 2017.