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2003 Gruber Justice Prize Press Release

Rosalie Silberman Abella Headshot
Rosalie Silberman Abella
Bertha Wilson Headshot
Bertha Wilson


Peter Gruber Foundation Justice Prize Honored Justices for Advancing Jurisprudence of Equality

Marrakech, Morocco, Oct. 8. -- Two Canadian judges known for their passion for social justice--and their conviction that courts play a critical role in pursuing it--were awarded the 2003 Justice Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation. The prize was presented in Marrakech, Morocco at a ceremony under the high patronage of His Majesty Mohammed VI, the King of Morocco.

Madame Justice Bertha Wilson, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, and Madame Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella, a Justice of the Court of Appeal for Ontario, were selected by the Foundation's Justice Advisory Board, a group of seven eminent international jurists and attorneys, to receive the third annual award.

The Justice Advisory Board members who selected the winners are: the Honorable Arlin Adams, retired U.S. Court of Appeals judge; the Honorable Prafull N. Bhagwati, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India and vice chairman of the UN Human Rights Committee; the Honorable Christine Chanet, Présidente Commité des Droits de l'Homme des Nations Unies; the Honorable Driss Dahak, Premier Président de la Cour Suprême Royaume du Maroc; Sir Anthony Gubbay, former Chief Justice of Zimbabwe and 2001 Justice Prize laureate; the Honorable Albie Sachs, Constitutional Court of South Africa; and Jerome J. Shestack, Esq., former president of the American Bar Association.

The winners of the prize were introduced by Madame Justice Claire L'Heureux Dubé, retired from the Supreme Court of Canada. Justice Dubé said, "Both Bertha and Rosie, as we call them affectionately in Canada, are inspiring, principled, independent, impartial, and true to the fundamental values of our society. They represent the best in the legal profession, and their jurisprudence and writings have made an immense difference both in our country and in our world, particularly in their understanding, interpretation, and application of the notion of equality, which is a fundamental tenet of justice for all."

Justice Dubé added, "Both Bertha Wilson and Rosie Abella, on and off the Bench, have promoted the rights of outsiders and are champions of human rights and equality. Their contributions to jurisprudence and society are simply outstanding."

Jerome J. Shestack, Esq., former president of the American Bar Association, said of Justice Abella, "Most lawyers are denied the opportunity to make the law a better instrument of justice than he or she found it. Rosie found the opportunity and seized it with passionate intensity. She has pioneered and championed women's rights and human rights and the causes of the needy, the disabled, and the brutalized. She has made a difference in her own country and set an example for others."

The citation from the Peter Gruber Foundation announcing Justices Wilson and Abella as this year's winners reads, "Madame Justices Wilson and Abella have broken barriers limiting participation of women in the legal system and enriched jurisprudence in Canada and beyond with their innovative vision and technique. They have advanced the jurisprudence of equality and developed concepts of public responsibility for promoting human rights. They have highlighted the need to overcome discrimination against groups subjected to historic and systemic disadvantage. As exemplary advocates for justice, they have, by their judicial work and their activity in the public realm, served as inspirational figures to present and future generations."

Peter Gruber, creator of the Foundation that bears his name, said, "Justices Wilson and Abella have shown vision and courage throughout their careers. In all respects they are an inspiration for the selfless contributions they have made to the cause of international justice and the rule of law."

Previous winners of the Justice Prize are: (2002) Fali Sam Nariman, President of the Bar Association of India; and (2001) the Law Society of Zimbabwe and that country's former Chief Justice, Sir Anthony Roy Gubbay.

The Peter Gruber Foundation
The Foundation awards a series of prizes annually, recognizing achievements in various fields. A distinguished Advisory Board in each field area determines the recipients. It is a philanthropic organization, funded solely by Peter Gruber. In addition to its international awards program, it provides funding for many charitable initiatives, principally in the U.S. Virgin Islands where it is located. Information on the Foundation is available at