Supreme Court of Canada Judge Andromache Karakatsanis (LLB ’80) told students at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School during a Jan. 8 visit that a just rule of law “is what makes Canada the envy of the world” and must be safeguarded.
It was alumna Karakatsanis’ first time back to the law school since being appointed to the country’s highest bench in 2011. The day’s activities included an hour-long chat with Juris Doctor (JD) students in the poverty law intensive program at Parkdale Community Legal Services; the unveiling of a plaque donated by the Osgoode student chapter of the Hellenic Canadian Lawyers’ Association; a roundtable discussion about research with faculty and graduate students; and a plenary address in the afternoon.
Supreme Court of Canada Judge Andromache Karakatsanis speaks to students in the poverty law intensive program at Parkdale Community Legal Services about her days as a student in the program. Osgoode Professor Janet Mosher (left) is the academic director at Parkdale.
Karakatsanis, who participated in the Parkdale program when she was an Osgoode student, told a room full of current Parkdale students that working in the Queen Street West clinic was “one of the most interesting and satisfying experiences” of her law education.
For someone who had led “a happy and sheltered life”, finding herself in a poverty law setting providing legal services for marginalized individuals was an eye-opener. She recalled meeting people in crisis, such as the family “who had had their second or third baby taken away” and the woman who phoned to say she had taken an overdose of pills. Karakatsanis was able to keep the woman on the phone until the medics arrived, who reported that she would be okay.
Karakatsanis said she learned a great deal during her time at Parkdale, including the importance of getting past appearances and the superficial, having empathy for people who face challenges, and being part of a community that comes together to do what it thinks is right.
Above: Karakatsanis unveiled a plaque that was donated by the Osgoode student chapter of the Hellenic Canadian Lawyers’ Association. The plaque is inscribed with the Oath of Themis, the goddess of order and justice. From left, Osgoode Dean Lorne Sossin, JD students Georgette Andreopoulos and Stephanie Voudouris of the Osgoode Hellenic Students’ Association, Karakatsanis and Osgoode Associate Dean James Stribopoulos. Missing from the photo are JD students Jerry Kardonis, Christopher Kalantzis, Thomas Mastoras and Harry Sarros of the Osgoode Hellenic Students’ Association.
“Everyone deserves strong representation,” said Karakatsanis, who worked in private practice for several years then with the Ontario Public Service for 15 years where she rose to become the province’s senior public servant as secretary of the Cabinet and clerk of the Executive Council. She was appointed a judge of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in 2002, the Court of Appeal in 2010 and the Supreme Court of Canada in 2011.
It was in a plenary address to students in Osgoode’s Ethical Lawyering in a Global Community course, which Karakatsanis delivered mostly in English but also in French, that she described the law as “an ancient and noble profession” and said that Canada’s just rule of law must be safeguarded.
“As lawyers, you will play a critical role in shaping our society and maintaining our way of life as Canadians,” she told the students.