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Rosalie Silberman Abella

Rosalie Silberman Abella’s early experiences as a refugee fueled her dedication to justice and led her to become the first Jewish woman elected to the Supreme Court of Canada. Abella was born in a displaced person’s camp after World War II and immigrated with her family to Canada, where her father, a respected lawyer, was unable to practice law because of his immigrant status. Abella chose to follow in her father’s footsteps, earning a place on the Human Rights Commission of Ontario and the Labor Relations Tribunal when she was still in her twenties and writing a vital study on disabled people’s access to legal services. Her report on gender equality in employment created the categories for fairness and discrimination that were adopted by the Canadian Constitution in 1982, and has been implemented by New Zealand, Northern Ireland, and South Africa as well. She has written extensively on the law, served as visiting professor for both McGill University and the University of Toronto, and chaired the Constitutional Conferences to decide the status of Quebec within Canada. In 2004, she was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Abella, Rosalie - still image [media]
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Justice Rosalie Abella's life has been a series of "firsts": She was Canada's first Jewish woman judge and the country’s youngest ever. She was the first woman chair of the Ontario Labour Relations Board and the first woman in the British Commonwealth to become the head of a Law Reform Commission. In August 2004, she was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, becoming the first Jewish woman to sit on the Canadian Supreme Court bench. Abella is shown here in a photograph taken in 1983.

Institution: Justice Rosalie Abella

Date of Birth
July 1, 1946
Place of Birth
Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Rosalie Silberman Abella." (Viewed on November 30, 2015) <>.


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