Women in Law Leadership Awards Ontario

The WILL Awards are presented annually to female members of the Ontario legal profession in recognition of their outstanding dedication, creativity, initiative, achievement, and contribution to the community, profession, legal scholarship, and pro bono activities.

Thank you for attending the 2024 WILL Awards Ontario held at the Ritz Carlton, Toronto, on April 11, 2024!

Nurjehan Mawani, C.M., LL.D (hon)
Recipient of the 2024 WILL Rosalie Silberman Abella Award for a lifetime of achievement in equity, diversity, and human rights.


Nurjehan Mawani C.M, LL.D. (hon) is a lawyer, public servant, diplomat and global Canadian. She is a trailblazer and champion of justice, gender equity, and inclusive development who has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of immigrants and refugees in Canada, and to advance rights and educational opportunities for women and girls internationally.

Under her leadership as the Chairperson and Chief Executive of the Immigration Refugee Board, Canada became the first country internationally to recognize gender-related persecution as a ground for refugee status under the Geneva Convention. As Commissioner of the Public Service Commission of Canada she championed equity, inclusion, and representation in the Public Service. From 2005-2019, she went on to serve as Diplomatic Representative of the Aga Khan Development Network, first to the Kyrgyz Republic and then Afghanistan. In both countries, she partnered with multiple stakeholders to improve quality of life, ensuring that women’s voices were included to advance equitable development as a path to peace, progress, and stability.

Nurjehan has received many prestigious honours for her contributions to public service, international development and the advancement of women including the Order of Canada and the Public Service of Canada Outstanding Achievement Award, as well as several honorary doctorates. Among her many recognitions, she received the Human Rights Award from the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the UNIFEM Canada Award for “an innovative ability to bridge law and policy and for far-reaching effects of the guidelines impacting the lives of thousands of refugee women and girls”.

Nurjehan currently serves on a number of boards, including as Governor and Vice-Chairperson of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), sits on Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Environment’s External Advisory Committee, and is a member of the Victoria Forum. She is a founding member of the International Association of Refugee and Migration Judges and a Senior Fellow at Massey College – where she serves on the Anti-Black Racism Advisory Council, the Senior Advisory Board of the Afghan Women’s Fellowship Program, and is the inaugural Chair in Global Engagement. In this role, she mentors Junior Fellows – connecting them to changemakers in Canada and around the world to build leadership and foster a deeper understanding of global issues.

Born in Mombasa, Kenya, Nurjehan attended the Inns of Court School of Law in England and was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn in 1968. She was subsequently admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales in 1973 and was called to the British Columbia Bar in 1985.

The WILL Awards Ontario recognize contributions to the legal profession in the following categories:

Leadership

The WILL Awards Ontario Individual Leadership Award is presented to an individual in recognition of their leadership in the profession. This award will recognize and applaud a lawyer who has shown extraordinary leadership in one or more of several areas including: 

  • legal skills and capabilities;
  • contribution to legal education and/or scholarship;
  •  demonstrated leadership in law and diversity initiatives;
  • and a commitment to being a positive role model for other lawyers.
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Mentorship

The WILL Awards Ontario Mentorship Award is presented to an individual in recognition of their commitment to the mentorship of lawyers. This award will recognize and applaud a lawyer who has a demonstrated interest in and proven track record of mentoring lawyers in Ontario.

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Law Firm Leadership

The WILL Awards Ontario Law Firm Award is presented to a law firm in recognition of its leadership in fostering a supportive environment for women in law.

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Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella

In honour of her retirement from the Supreme Court of Canada, our inaugural WILL Awards Ontario Gala recognized Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella for her accomplishments by bestowing an award in her name. The purpose of this award is to celebrate and recognize outstanding lifetime achievements in equity, diversity, and inclusion, and leadership in human rights for a female identifying lawyer in Canada.

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We Honour and Celebrate our Past Winners

Nurjehan Mawani, C.M., LL.D (hon)
2024
Professor Kathleen Mahoney, K.C.
2022

Sudevi Mukherjee-Gothi
2024

Signe Leisk
2024

McMillan LLP
2024
Women in Law Leadership Awards Ontario Sponsors
Thank you to our previous sponsors