Justice Rosalie Abella—a prolific career with the Supreme Court of Canada

July 12, 2021

On July 1, Justice Rosalie Abella’s time at the Supreme Court of Canada officially ended after nearly 17 years and around 200 rulings. Litigation partner Andrew Bernstein shared his thoughts with The Globe and Mail on some of Justice Abella’s most memorable court decisions.

In 2015, public-sector workers in Saskatchewan deemed unable to strike due to the essential nature of their work challenged the Supreme Court of Canada on their restricted rights, unprotected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Justice Abella argued that the withdrawal of labour was essential to fair collective bargaining, effectively reversing the rule designated back in 1987.

In respect to this decision, Andrew explained, “when you ask what’s changed since 1987, the answer is ‘not that much.’ Justice Abella, and enough of her colleagues, simply believed that the original decision was wrong, and she reversed it.” He remarked that it was likely her most controversial ruling.

Read: As her former clerks, Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella’s legacy is deeply personal.

While her successor Mahmud Jamal has been appointed at the Supreme Court of Canada, Justice Abella will embark on several visiting professor, research scholar and jurist appointments at academic institutions across the U.S. and Canada. Her Supreme Court legacy remains to be one of the most influential and prolific ones across the globe due to her humane approach to common law and relentless advocacy for minority groups in Canada.


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