Recent Alum, Clemence Thabet JD ’23 Wins Abella Prize

Faculty of Law - Common Law Section
Awards and recognition
Equity, diversity and inclusion
Social justice

By Common Law

Communication, Faculty of Law

Clemence Thabet wins the Rosalie Abella Justice prize
Clemence Thabet with Professor Chad Garfield, former President of the Royal Society of Canada
Last spring, Clémence Thabet received the University Gold Medal for the highest cumulative grade point average in the entire JD Program when they graduated from the combined programme de common law en français and political science program.

Now, they are the Common Law Section’s second winner of the Royal Society of Canada’s Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella Prize.  

The Prize, in the amount of $1,000, is presented annually to a graduating law student in each of the law schools in Canada who is most likely to positively influence equity and social justice in Canada or globally. It was created to mark Justice Abella’s retirement from the Supreme Court of Canada in 2021. 

A former Parliamentary Page and tour guide, Clémence chose law as a career path “out of an explicit desire to enact change and practice social justice lawyering.”

Clémence was an executive of OUTLaw for two years, striving towards the creation of safe communal spaces for queer and trans students. As a member of the Regroupement étudiant de common law en français (RÉCLEF), they also created a twinning system to ensure francophone students starting law school online could nevertheless have an adequate support system. 

Among their many activities were work at the Equality Law Clinic, as a caseworker at the University of Ottawa Community Legal Clinic’s tenant division, a volunteer at Pro Bono Students’ Canada’s ID Clinic and an intake volunteer with the Capital Rainbow Refuge, developing an array of trauma-informed interviewing skills. 

Clémence’s first published article in the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law analysed the equality tendencies in Justice Abella’s immigration and refugee law rulings. 

The prize was presented to Clémence after the Faculty hosted a screening of the new documentary Without Precedent: The Supreme Life of Rosalie Abella.

Clémence, who is currently articling for a Toronto firm, conducted a question-and-answer session with Justice Abella following the screening.

“I am honored to be receiving the Abella Prize and thrilled to be interviewing Justice Abella following the release of Without Precedent,” they said.

Clemence Thabet and Rosalie Abella onstage at the Bytowne Theatre
Clemence Thabet and Rosalie Abella standing in front of a yellow wall

“Criminal law, tort law, contract law - all of that is taught in law school. But equality law is something you learn from watching lawyers and judges create it. Justice Abella has always been one of those inspirations for me and has played an important role in teaching me the scope of everything equality law can be.”