Courage in Law Award

The annual Courage in Law Award was created by the Indigenous Law Students’ Association to recognize distinguished professional or academic accomplishments relating to courageous leadership and outstanding service. Recipients of the award are champions who display the highest ideals of the legal community in respect of the advancement of legal services for Indigenous peoples and fostering diversity within the legal profession.

– 2015 –

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Nikos Harris


David Rosenberg Q.C.


Cindy Blackstock

– 2012 –

ILSA Courage in Law Award

The ILSA presented the 1st Courage in Law Award in the spring of 2012 to Associate Dean David G. Duff and Professor Benjamin J. Goold (current Associate Dean), Indigenous Legal Studies Program Director Gordon Christie and Associate Director Andrea Hilland, and to the Law Students’ Society represented by President Roni Jones. These parties were instrumental in working collaboratively to create and implement a module on Aboriginal and treaty rights for first year Constitutional Law, taught by the school’s Indigenous legal scholars, exceeding new Federation of Law Societies of Canada standards.

ilsa 3

– 2013 –



On March 20th, 2013, the ILSA presented the 2nd Courage in Law Award to the Legal Services Society of BC, represented by Aboriginal Services Program Manager Pamela Shields, to The Hon. Judge Cunliff Barnett (retired), and to Gail Davidson who is the Executive Director of Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada.




Judge Barnett, a UBC Law alumnus, practiced in Prince Rupert and Vancouver before becoming a provincial court judge in Williams Lake. During his 23 years on the bench, he acquired repute for taking his court to rural communities where he created space for Indigenous legal traditions in his judicial decisions. He is well known for writing Canada’s first decisions on the prevalence of FASD observed in offenders cyclically caught up in the justice system. A current member of the Legal Services Society of BC Gladue Advisory Panel, Judge Barnett is developing a First Nations Court in Kamloops based on the model created in 2006 by The Hon. Judge Marion Buller Bennett in New Westminster.


Pamela Shields, a UBC Law alumnus, is a member of the Kainai (Blood) Tribe of the Blackfoot Confederacy in southern Alberta. She is a survivor of the government’s Indian residential school system. Pamela was formerly employed as a visual artist, and spent most of her adult life in San Francisco where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State University and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Mills College in Oakland, California. As a lawyer, Pamela’s profound care for the well-being of our shared society guides her tireless efforts to provide the legal profession with facts and competency training in relation to Section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code, defined in the decisions of R v Gladue, [1999] 1 SCR 688 and R v Ipeelee, [2012] 1 SCR 433, which requires jurists to promote restorative healing that fosters reconciliation for Indigenous peoples in both rural and urban collectivities.


Gail Davidson is a lawyer who advocates for global peace, universal rights, and accountability for violators. A strong component of Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada’s work concerns the advancement of issues relating to Indigenous rights. For the last two years, LRWC has organized a speaker series called “First Nations’ Rights: The Gap Between Law and Practice”, which has featured many advocates for indigenous rights, including Kenneth Deer, Cindy Blackstock, and Robert Morales. In 2011, LRWC acted as amicus curiae on behalf of the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group in their case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In its work with the United Nations, LRWC has advocated for the protection of indigenous women’s rights in Canada.


The three 2013 awardees, each in their own right, show why and how inclusion of Indigenous legal traditions in the common law will create impetus for the evolution of intelligence in Canada’s legal profession and thus greater sophistication in developing culturally inclusive solutions that harness our human based resources through cycles of causation premised on the fact that, just as a rope gains strength with additional strands, promoting diversity ensures societal growth and lasting equality.

The 2014 Courage in Law awardees include: Professor Michael Jackson, QC,  a faculty member at UBC Law who has been involved in the teaching and advocacy of human rights for over forty years – and has been instrumental in securing major victories for prisoners’ rights in two recent Supreme Court of Canada decisions. Lawyer Grace Woo has taught in the Program of Legal Studies for Native People at the University of Saskatchewan and is a retired member of the Law Society of British Columbia. She is the author of Ghost Dancing with Colonialism: Decolonization and Indigenous Rights at the Supreme Court of Canada (UBC Press, 2011) which includes a brief review of the development of international human rights law. Lawyer Sarah Rauch  graduated from the Faculty of Law at UBC in 2001, then articled with Legal Services Society and worked as an associate with Conroy & Company doing prisoners advocacy and criminal defence litigation before beginning her own practice in Vancouver in early 2006. Her interests are in rights and freedoms and the representation of people with challenges that place them at a disadvantage when negotiating the legal system. Photos of the 2014 awardees to come.

If you would like to nominate a 2015 award recipient, please send an email to with the champion’s name and specific contribution.

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