Grace to receive women’s law award

Toronto lawyer Elizabeth Grace will be awarded the Women’s Law Association of Ontario 2014 President’s Award in recognition of her outstanding service within the profession and her leadership role in advancing the position of women in Ontario.

The WLAO President’s Award recognizes a woman who has made a substantial contribution to the legal community as an academic, adjudicator, litigator, solicitor, author or related profession. The recipient demonstrates a commitment to the promotion of women in the law and is recognized as a leader. She also encompasses the ideals of the Women’s Law Association and is engaged, aware and connected to issues – substantive and personal – facing women in the legal profession today.

Grace, partner with Lerners LLP, is described as someone who has made a “substantial” and lasting contribution to the legal community as an advocate and to the promotion of women in the practice of law.

“She personifies the values that this award was created to recognize,” states her nomination letter.

Grace’s experience as an advocate extends all the way from claims in discrimination and harassment, to professional negligence, to health and employment-related matters through to commercial disputes.

Early in her career she made the unusual decision to apply that broad experience and expertise as an advocate to becoming a driving force behind the development of a new body of law in Ontario where one had been lacking: law that would provide civil redress to victims of sexual assault and abuse.

Of particular significance was her determination to ensure that the law made space for victims who are doubly disadvantaged, having been a victim of sexual abuse or assault and also suffering from additional disadvantages, such as being a member of a visible minority or suffering from mental health issues.

“Elizabeth has been unwavering in her determination to ensure that those suffering these sorts of disadvantages could find in her a voice and a guide through a system historically inaccessible to them,” says her nomination letter.

Grace is praised as an inspiration to other women who have chosen the legal profession and as someone who has proven that it is possible to achieve success following a road that’s less travelled and more authentic.

“She has been a pioneer in this area of law and has been instrumental in raising the standard of the bench and bar in dealing with these cases by helping fellow lawyers and judges, as well as many other important stakeholders, understand the complex issues that arise out of civil sexual abuse claims,” says her nomination letter.

In 2013, she was sought out by Pro Bono Law Ontario to assist a judge of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice as amicus curiae. The request was for an amicus to assist in the conduct of a trial where the court was faced with an unrepresented defendant in a complex civil sexual assault case.

She was an invited member of the working group that drafted the Guide for the Provision of Legal Services in Cases Involving Claims of Sexual Abuse, which was approved by the Equity and Aboriginal Issues Committee of the Law Society of Upper Canada and formally adopted by convocation in 2012.

She has spoken at numerous events and has been a regular speaker at The Canadian Institute’s semi-annual conferences on Institutional Liability for Sexual Assault, Abuse and Harassment.

She co-authored Civil Liability for Sexual Abuse and Violence in Canada, the leading text cited by courts across Canada in sexual abuse decisions and contributed a chapter entitled “Pathways to Justice for Residential School Claimants” in Aboriginal Rights Litigation.

She has also contributed articles, as author and co-author, to a host of legal industry publications. Many of her published works have been cited by Canadian courts, including the Ontario and Alberta Courts of Appeal.

The WLAO Annual Award Gala honouring Grace is set for June 5 at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto. It runs from 6:30 to 9 p.m. To learn more, visit the WLAO website.

This article originally appeared on AdvocateDaily.com
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