Three Ottawa-based legal professionals recognized for outstanding achievements

law society

Three Ottawa-based legal professionals will be recognized for their career achievements at the Law Society of Ontario 2024 awards ceremony in May. 

“The law society awards recognize excellence. I am pleased to celebrate this year’s award recipients and to acknowledge the remarkable ways they have contributed to their communities and the legal sector,” said society treasurer Jacqueline Horvat in a press release. “Their commitment and dedication are an inspiration to the professions.”

This year’s recipients include Juliet Chang Knapton, Rob Cunningham and Prakash Diar, all of whom are based in Ottawa. 

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Knapton will receive the Lincoln Alexander Award, which recognizes an Ontario lawyer or paralegal for long-standing interest and commitment to the public and community service. 

Called to the bar in 2005, Knapton is a legal educator at the University of Ottawa and has previously been a civil litigator and federal tribunal adjudicator. She is chair of the Roundtable of Legal Diversity Associations and has held a number of leadership positions at the Ontario Bar Association.

In addition to her work, she has been an active volunteer for a number of community and advocacy groups, including the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers, LSO Equity Advisory Group, the County of Carleton Law Association, the Ottawa Lawyers Feed the Hungry program, and the Emily Murphy Non-Profit Housing Corporation.

“Juliet’s commitment to inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility principles and practices are rooted in her desire to serve with compassion,” her bio from the law society reads. “Her unceasing efforts on behalf of marginalized groups make Juliet an inspiration to her colleagues and the legal profession.”

Rob Cunningham will be one of several recipients of the Law Society Medal, which is awarded to lawyers who have made a significant contribution to the profession, where the service is “in accordance with the highest ideals of the legal profession.”

A full-time lawyer and senior policy analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society, Cunningham has committed his career to the control of tobacco, becoming internationally recognized as an expert on the topic. His reforms contributed to the use of photos on tobacco warning labels to demonstrate its health effects, a practice now used in more than 135 countries and jurisdictions. 

Cunningham has also acted as an adviser to the World Health Organization and other national governments and health organizations worldwide. He has been awarded a medal from the World Health Organization and been named National Public Health Hero by the Canadian Public Health Association.

“Rob’s dedication has saved thousands of lives, prevented vast numbers of youth from using tobacco, and will continue to benefit generations to come,” his bio reads.

Prakash Diar will receive the Human Rights Award, which recognizes a legal professional for devotion to the advancement of human rights and the rule of law. He received the award in 2023. According to the law society, the award is granted to one individual every two years. 

Diar began his career in his native South Africa, helping to expose the unjust apartheid system and defending many political prisoners. He was arrested and detained in solitary confinement for a month without charge. As a result of his work, Diar’s life was threatened by the state. Canada facilitated his safe passage to Ottawa in 1989.

After being called to the Ontario bar in 1993, Diar joined the Canadian Human Rights Commission, where he litigated precedent-setting cases involving systemic racial discrimination.

Diar joined the Department of Justice in 2000, focusing on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Between 2018 and 2021, Diar trained more than 2,000 Ministry of Justice employees on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. He also worked on developing Canada’s Indigenous Justice Strategy to address systemic discrimination and the over-representation of Indigenous and Black peoples in the criminal legal system.

In 2022, Diar received the Diversity Award from South Asian Bar Association of Toronto and the Pioneer Award from the South Asian Bar Association of North America.

“Prakash’s human rights work and the obstacles he has faced have led to an inspiring career that reflects the highest ideals of the legal profession,” his bio states.

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