“A New Chapter Begins”: Common Law’s Class of 2012“Whatever road you decide to take, you have to dare, you have to dream big,” stated University of Ottawa Chancellor, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, at the Faculty of Law Spring Convocation ceremony on June 3, 2012 at the National Arts Centre. “Don’t back down in the face of an obstacle. Remove the word impossible from your vocabulary.”
Before a crowd of more than 300 graduates from the Faculty of Law, Chancellor Jean was formally welcomed to her prestigious new position by University of Ottawa President and Vice-Chancellor, Allan Rock (’71), who noted that he shared much in common with this year’s graduates. “I am myself a proud graduate of our law school. I remember sitting where you are sitting. I know that it’s a very different world into which you are graduating. Some would say a more difficult world. But let me reassure you by telling you two things: firstly, you have already demonstrated the personal quality necessary to meet and overcome those challenges. Let me also say that the world needs you if we’re going to find solutions. All of us look forward to seeing just how you are going to change the world.”
In addition to highlighting the Faculty’s impressive mooting record in 2012, the Chancellor and President also called attention to the 12 Aboriginal graduates in attendance, many of whom wore specially-designed graduation stoles bearing both the University’s logo and their own nations’ symbols. “We salute their accomplishment,” said Chancellor Jean, “and we know that they will make their marks in their communities and in our country.”
This year’s honorary doctorate was conferred upon Jane Doe, an educator, activist, and writer who explores issues of gender, race, class and crimes of sexual violence. In 1986, the Metro Toronto Police failed to issue a warning to women in a Toronto neighbourhood about a sexual predator who scaled the sides of apartment buildings and entered the balconies of women who lived alone. Jane Doe won a landmark legal victory against the Toronto Police Service, suing them for the violation of her constitutional right to equality and for the failure to warn her of the threat of a serial rapist. Owing to a publication ban, her name cannot be published.
“When it comes to today’s honorary doctorate recipient,” said Bruce Feldthusen, Dean of the Common Law Section, “one begins to run out of superlatives. Jane Doe has devoted over two decades of her life to working in Canada’s diverse women’s communities, advocating on issues of gender, race and class, and examining how they affect women’s equality in the context of the crime of sexual assault. She stands as an inspiring example of how one person’s voice and strong commitment can influence policy, drive change and better the lives of those who seek equality and respect.”
Jane Doe thanked the Faculty of Law for its ongoing support of her work, noting in particular the contributions of Professor Elizabeth Sheehy. Addressing the graduating students, she urged the class of 2012 to “rejoice in the possibility to reflect change, to be change. We must understand that our role, our responsibility, our privilege is to challenge the law, to change and shape it to reflect our communities and our cultures.”
Among the celebrating graduates was Alexa Biscaro, who earned the University Gold Medal for the highest cumulative grade point average for the entire Common Law program. Alexa also received the Éditions Yvon Blais Prize for Excellence in the French JD Program, the George W. Ainslie Memorial Prize, and the Osgoode Society Prize for Canadian Legal History. Another new graduate, Keith David Rose received the The University Silver Medal for the second-highest cumulative grade point average in the entire JD program, the Beament Green Prize in Advocacy, the McCarthy Tétrault LLP Technology Law Award, and joined Alexa as a recipient of the Osgoode Society Prize for Canadian Legal History.
Click here for a full list of Common Law prize winners.
“You can be very proud of what you have achieved,” said Chancellor Jean. “Proud now that you have reached this moment where your years of work are being rewarded. And now your adventure continues and a new chapter begins. Your pathways to knowledge are infinite and you can travel them for a lifetime.”
The Common Law Section takes great pride in congratulating the class of 2012!