Spotlight on Viscount Bennett Fellowship

  • May 13, 2019

Karine McLaren, a law professor from the Université de Moncton, and Scott Franks, an associate with Olthui Kleer Townshend LLP in Toronto, are the joint recipients of this year’s Viscount Bennett Award.

It’s just the 13th time since the prize was first awarded in 1946 that the CBA’s largest award has been split between two recipients. The $25,000 prize was made possible through a trust fund established in 1943 by former CBA President and Prime Minister R.B. Bennett to encourage high standards of legal education, training and ethics.

Award organizers, noting that most of the applications each year have traditionally come from central Canada, made an effort to reach out to a wider field in 2018. That effort was rewarded with a total of 31 applications representing all but a few of the provinces.

Six applicants who made the shortlist were invited to come to Ottawa to be interviewed by the members of the Fellowship Committee. CBA Board members Jason Cooke of Nova Scotia, Stephen Mansell from Nunavut and Marie Laure Leclercq from Quebec said this year’s slate was “exceedingly high-calibre.”

“Karine McLaren’s focus on access to justice issues contributes to and helps influence public policy development.  Her aim to facilitate access to justice and to training in both official languages is important,” the panel said. “Scott Franks’ work in the area of truth and reconciliation and his interest in the intersection of Indigenous Law and legal education is timely and compelling.  Both recipients demonstrated to us that they are equally dedicated to conducting important research which is highly relevant to the CBA and the law.”

McLaren graduated in 1998 from London Guildhall University with her LL.B. and practised in England for nearly 10 years. In 2016 she received a Master of Laws degree and a Bachelor of Translation degree from the Université de Moncton, where she’s currently Director for the Centre de traduction et de terminologie juridiques.

She has appeared before House of Commons and Senate Standing Committees on Official Languages testifying on the difficulties linked to the implementation of the Official Languages Act in the Canadian legal system. 

“The challenges linked to access to justice and the rule of law, in both official languages, are for me, fundamentally important to the Canadian legal system,” says McLaren, who will be pursing her Doctorate in Law at the Université Laval.

Holding both a Juris Doctor from Osgoode Hall and a bachelor in political science from McGill, Franks clerked for Supreme Court Justice Andromache Karakatsanis before becoming an instructor in Indigenous Law and Policy at the University of Toronto in 2018. In 2017 he joined Olthui Kleer Townshend where he practises in a number of areas including constitutional law, and various facets of Aboriginal law, as well as  business development and corporate law.

“My vision is to foster reciprocity between Indigenous and Canadian laws, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities and within Canadian legal education,” says Franks. “My focus is to investigate the existing barriers which impede the successful implementation of transformative Indigenous legal education and cultural competency in law schools and the legal profession.”

When he spoke at the CBA’s 2019 AGM in Ottawa, Justice Minister David Lametti mentioned winning the Viscount Bennett Award in 1991, saying it allowed him to pursue his studies at Oxford. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me … to be able to pursue a legal education that allowed me then, I hope, to make a positive contribution both as a university professor, academic and lawyer, and now as an elected official and Minister of Justice.”

If you know a legal scholar who could benefit from the generous Viscount Bennett Fellowship, the deadline for applications for next year’s award is Friday, Nov. 15. Check out the web page for details.