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2.4 Social Justice, Law and Equality: Honouring Judge Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré

In 2012, Judge Westmoreland-Traoré was approaching the mandatory retirement age for judges in Quebec, and so this conference was held in honour and highlight her long career fighting for social justice causes. The event occurred March 16-17, 2012 at the McGill Faculty of Law.

In Montreal, issues of justice for minorities, especially in a place that is overwhelmed with arguments about everything from language to ethnic origins, is at the forefront of social policy debates. These issues are more than intellectual fodder in Montreal—they are issues lived out daily in the streets of the city as much as they are in the decisions faced by the judicial system. Hosting this conference provided both a deserved send-off for the retiring Judge and an excellent opportunity to combine grassroots activism with legal theory.

By bringing together diverse sectors of the legal community into dialogue with one another, this conference fostered improved communication between these various elements regarding substantive and pressing issues in Quebec society, such as the use of corrective or redistributive justice as an alternative to other forms of justice in impoverished areas or the challenges in dealing with racial profiling within the justice system. The conference also increased the awareness of social justice issues among legal scholars and practitioners.

Download the Social Justice, Law and Equality Official Program [.pdf].

About Judge Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré

The Honourable Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré of the Court of Québec is the first Black judge appointed in the history of Québec. She also holds the distinction of being the first Black dean of a Canadian law school (University of Windsor).

She was born in Verdun (Montréal) in 1942 of immigrant parents from the former British colony of Guyana. After earning a law degree from the Université de Montréal and a doctorate from the Université de Paris II, she practised law until 1976. During the 1970s, she also lectured on law at the Université de Montréal and at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

In addition to her academic engagements, Judge Westmoreland-Traoré was a member of the Office de protection des consommateurs du Québec from 1979 to 1983 and a Commissioner for the Canadian Human Rights Commission from 1983 to 1985. In 1985, she became the first chair of Québec's Conseil des communautés culturelles et de l’immigration, and served as the Employment Equity Commissioner of Ontario from 1991 to 1995. In 1996, she became the Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Windsor. The Honourable Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré also served as an advisor in the Truth Commission in Haiti (Commission nationale de vérité et de justice). In 1999, she was appointed to the Court of Québec for the District of Montreal.

Judge Westmoreland-Traoré, an Officer of the National Order of Québec, has received numerous awards including: a medal from the Université de Montréal for her extraordinary contribution to human rights; the Canadian Jewish Congress’ Alan Rose Award for human rights; the Montreal Association of Black Business Persons and Professionals’ Jackie Robinson Achievement Award; the Canadian Bar Association’s 2005 Touchstone Award for her outstanding contribution to the promotion of equality in Canada’s legal community; the Mérite Christine-Tourigny, awarded by the Barreau du Québec for her social involvement and contribution to the advancement of women in the legal profession; and the Droits et Libertés award [.pdf] from the Québec Commission des droits de la personne et les droits de la jeunesse. She is also the recipient of honorary doctorates from the University of Ottawa and l’Université du Québec à Montréal.

Read Gifts in Action: Honouring Judge Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré in  Law|Focus online