Signa Daum Shanks, an associate professor and director, Indigenous outreach, at Osgoode Hall Law School, will receive the Women’s Law Association of Ontario (WLAO) 2020 President’s Award.
The award recognizes a woman who has made a substantial contribution to the legal community as an academic, adjudicator, litigator, solicitor, author or in a related profession.
Daum Shanks is receiving the award for her leadership, for demonstrating a commitment to the promotion of women in the law and for being engaged, aware and connected to issues facing women in the legal profession. She was nominated in early May by Justice Audrey Ramsay, who later joined the Ontario Superior Court.
“I think I’ve found the best results from leaning on people, and then trying to respect whatever reflections they have when I dish what’s on my mind,” Daum Shanks said, describing her approach to the legal profession. “That means taking challenges from them along with any compliments, realising that I need to show grace when brainstorming or decompressing and then making sure I’ve reinforced a trusting relationship with the person before that moment wraps up.
“That’s good protocol,” she continued. “It’s good professionalism, and hopefully it’s also what a friend would do.”
Daum Shanks, a Métis who was born and raised in Saskatchewan, joined Osgoode’s full-time faculty in 2014, and teaches torts, law and economics, game theory and the law (via Monash University Law School) and Indigenous peoples and Canadian law. She was Osgoode’s inaugural director of Indigenous outreach from 2014-18. She is a recipient of a 2017 York Research Leaders Award and an Initiatives in the Classroom Grant for her efforts at introducing Indigenous methods and content to various circles within York University’s greater community.
Active within the legal profession, she has presented to the Law Society of Ontario’s Continuing Professional Development program on Indigenous legal issues. She is an elected member of the Ontario Bar Association’s (OBA) Provincial Council, the elected Toronto representative on the OBA’s Board of Directors for 2020-21, after acting as a member-at-large and on the executive of the OBA’s Women Lawyers’ Forum. The United Nations has appointed Daum Shanks to be a participant in the UN’s annual Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
Daum Shanks is the organizer of Project Fact(a), a think tank of legal researchers from across Canada analyzing various topics that have caught international attention during the 2018 R. v. Stanley trial following the shooting of Colten Boushie.
“When articling, I was told by a senior lawyer to never forget that my reputation was all I had, and I hope I’ve remembered that more often than not when establishing new contacts, learning with students, and talking with neighbours and family,” she recalled.
“In the end, that is all we really have. That reputation should be about integrity, consistency, kindness and finding the fun or supportive relations in any moment, however heavy it may be.”
Daum Shanks will receive the award at a virtual gala event on Aug. 6. A “pay as you can” registration portal is in place to support the WLAO.