Christian Whalen of Fredericton Wins CBA’s 2015 John Tait Award of Excellence

  • February 20, 2015

Ottawa – Christian Whalen, Deputy Advocate and Senior Legal Counsel with the New Brunswick Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, is the recipient of the Canadian Bar Association’s (CBA) 2015 John Tait Award of Excellence. The award is presented each year to a public law or office sector lawyer who has achieved the highest standards of professional conduct and competence and made significant contributions to social justice or community affairs, and who exemplifies preeminent public service.

“As a tireless advocate for human rights throughout his career, Christian has played a key role in the community on many different levels,” noted Rolf Warburton, Chair of the CBA Public Sector Lawyers’ Forum. “His significant contribution to social justice has enriched our profession’s obligations to protect vulnerable persons and children, those most in need of advocacy.”

Mr. Whalen began his career in private practice after clerking at the Federal Court of Canada. In 2001, he joined the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission as Legal Counsel. He later served as Legal Counsel in the Offices of the Ombudsman and then Child and Youth Advocate in the Province of New Brunswick.

Christian Whalen’s leadership has led to a wide range of improvements in the areas of law and justice in New Brunswick, from reforms to the Human Rights Act  that recognize new grounds of discrimination, to important administrative and law reforms to integrate services to children and youth, and to raising the profile of children as a special constituency who require legal representation and advocacy.

Mr. Whalen’s commitment to both promoting children’s rights and the CBA is exemplary. He initiated and co-led the development and implementation of a mandatory Child Rights Impact Assessment process for all Cabinet policy decisions in New Brunswick, a first of its kind in North America. He has founded and served as Secretary-General to a Working Group on Children's Rights in the Francophonie. He helped found ACCESS, a national network of Knowledge Transfer which was recently awarded a five year $25 million grant to transform services to youth 11 to 25 years of age in Canada struggling with mental illness.

He established and chaired the first Children's Law section in Canada, through the CBA New Brunswick Branch. He also served as founding Chair of the CBA’s Children’s Law Committee, which was recently awarded Law Foundations for the Future funding to develop a toolkit for legal practitioners across Canada on use of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. He has established and directed the International Summer Course on the Rights of the Child at the University of Moncton, over the past four years.

His accomplishments and contributions go beyond the legal profession. Mr. Whalen has volunteered his time with various community organizations, particularly in the performing arts sector. He has served as Chairperson of the New Brunswick Foundation for the Arts and Vice-Chair of the New Brunswick Arts Board.

The John Tait Award of Excellence was established in 1998 to honour, recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of public sector lawyers in Canada. Originally named the Inukshuk Award of Excellence, it was renamed in August 1999 to honour John Tait, an outstanding lawyer, public servant and friend of the CBA who passed away in 1999. It takes the form of a statue of Inukshuk (or direction finder, a symbol of showing the way) by an Inuit artist.

Mr. Whalen will receive the award on Saturday, Feb. 21, at the Fairmont Château Laurier, during the CBA Mid-Winter Meeting of Council.

The meeting is open to accredited media. Please contact Hannah Bernstein at for accreditation.

The CBA is dedicated to support for the rule of law, and improvement in the law and the administration of justice. Some 36,000 lawyers, law teachers, and law students from across Canada are members.