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Joanne St. Lewis is a Law Professor in the Common Law Section of the University of Ottawa where her work examines the operation of social justice principles and legal culture. She is a lecturer in the University of Southern California CREATE Homeland Security Center of Excellence, Executive Program on Counter-Terrorism. Her areas of current research include digital defamation and social justice communities; art, culture and the law; and the equality rights of African/Canadian women and girls.
Professor St. Lewis is an advisor to CLAIHR (Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights) and CRARR (Center Research-Action Race Relations). She was co-counsel for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and judicial review at the Federal Court Trial Division, on the test regarding discriminatory funding of Aboriginal child welfare services on reserve. She served as the founding Faculty advisor to the Black Law Students Association of Canada for its first 17 years. She advises a number of student organizations based or initiated at the University of Ottawa including the Black Law Students-Ottawa branch, the Women’s Legal Mentorship Program (WLMP), the Canadian Association of Environmental Law Students (CAELS) and the CLAIHR-uOttawa student branch.
Joanne is the first and only Black woman to elected as a Bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the governing body for over 41,000 Ontario lawyers in its 217 year history. During that time she served as the Chair of its Equity and Aboriginal Issues Committee and Chair of the Human Rights Monitoring Group. She led the establishment of Working Groups on Aboriginal Issues, Disability Rights, and French Language Services. The Retention of Women in the Legal Profession project was initiated under her mandate.
She was co-chair of the CBA Working Group on Racial Equality and the author of the report Virtual Justice: Systemic Racism in the Canadian Legal Profession. In 1989 she became the founding Director of the Education Equity Program in the Common Law Section. She has held positions with the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Ontario Race Relations Directorate. She has served as the Director of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF). She was also the Special Assistant Government Affairs to the Grand Chief of the Crees of Quebec.
Professor St. Lewis is the recipient of the 2012 National Hero Award from the Black Law Students Association of Canada, the United Nations Association of Canada 2009 Honoured Champion Award in recognition of the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, the 2009 Canadian Association of Black Lawyers Celebrating Excellence Award, the 2008 DreamKEEPERS’ Life Achievement Award from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Coalition, the 2004 Ottawa Life Magazine Top 50 People in the Capital and the 2001 Canadian Association of Black Lawyers Recognition of Black Women’s Contribution to the Law Award.