For Immediate Release
August 15, 2008
QUÉBEC CITY – Nova Scotia Family Court Judge Corrine Sparks has won the Canadian Bar Association's (CBA) 2008 Touchstone Award for her outstanding accomplishments in promoting equality in the Canadian legal profession.
“Judge Sparks has broken down barriers for other women, and particularly women of colour, in the legal profession,” said Janet Oh, Chair of the CBA Standing Committee on Equity. “Thanks to her efforts, the legal community has made important advances in the area of equality.”
Judge Sparks has actively fostered and facilitated judicial education, particularly in the area of gender and racial discrimination and the court, and she has developed educational programs in the area of social context judicial education. She previously served as a member of the CBA Gender Equality Task Force where, in addition to other duties, she completed a study on women of colour in the legal profession.
Judge Sparks’ 1994 ruling in R. v. R. (S.D.), in which she took judicial notice of racism among police officers and acquitted a black youth of assaulting and resisting a police officer, was met with a backlash. The Nova Scotia Supreme Court overturned the acquittal in a ruling later affirmed by the province's Court of Appeal.
The Supreme Court of Canada restored the acquittal in a 1997 decision that added an important dimension to discussions of judicial bias. The court recognized that judges cannot and should not lay aside their life experience when judging.
Judge Sparks has written and spoken often on the subject of racism. In 2007 the Dalhousie Black Law Students’ Association created the Judge Corrine Sparks Award to recognize students who are “committed to using their legal education as a tool for change in their community.”
She graduated from Dalhousie Law School in 1987, returning in 2001 to complete an L.L.M. She practiced family and real estate law and served on the boards of several organizations aiding black children and mental health.
Appointed to the court in 1997, Judge Sparks is the first black woman to serve on the judiciary in Canada and the first Nova Scotian person of color appointed to the bench.
The Touchstone Award celebrates the accomplishments of an individual or an organization that has excelled in promoting equality in the legal profession, the judiciary, or the legal community in Canada. The award recognizes significant national initiatives to advance equality and/or contribution relating to race, disability, sexual orientation or other diversity issues in the community.
The Standing Committee on Equity will present the award at the Touchstone Reception, held as part of the Canadian Legal Conference in Québec City, on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2008 at 4:30 p.m. in the Les Plaines room of the Hilton Québec. The event is open to accredited journalists who have registered with the CBA Media Centre.
The Canadian Bar Association is dedicated to improvement in the law and the administration of justice. Some 37,000 lawyers, law teachers, and law students from across Canada are members.
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CONTACT: Hannah Bernstein, Canadian Bar Association, Aug. 15-19, Québec City Convention Centre, room 2103, Tel: 418-649-5218; E-mail: email@example.com.