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2008 Manitoba Bar Association Mid-Winter Award Luncheon, Friday, January 25, 2008
Distinguished Service Award Winner
Mr. David Matas

by Sofia Mirza, Fillmore Riley LLP & Co-Chair of
the Mid-Winter Organizing Committee
January 7, 2008

Distinguished Service Award Winner Mr. David Matas
Distinguished Service Award Winner Mr. David Matas

The Manitoba Bar Association and the Mid-Winter Organizing Committee are pleased to announce the recipient of the 2008 Distinguished Service Award, Mr. David Matas, international human rights advocate and former delegate to the United Nations General Assembly.

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Mr. Matas completed his Bachelor of Arts at the University of Manitoba in 1964 and his Masters of Arts from Princeton University in 1965. At the University of Oxford, Mr. Matas completed his Bachelor of Arts (Jurisprudence) in 1967 and his Bachelor of Civil Law in 1968. Following his studies, he was selected to serve as Law Clerk to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1968 and 1969; while also a member of the Foreign Ownership Working Group of the Government of Canada. Thereafter, in 1969, he became a Middle Temple United Kingdom Barrister, completed his articles at Thompson Dorfman Sweatman LLP in Winnipeg and was called to the Manitoba Bar in 1971.

Among his numerous government appointments, Mr. Matas served as special assistant to the Solicitor General of Canada in 1971-72, and was an associate of the law firm of Schwartz, McJannet, Weinberg in Winnipeg from 1973 to 1979. In addition to his appointment as a member of the Canadian delegation to the United Nations, he was also appointed to the Task Force on Immigration Practices & Procedures in 1980-81, as a delegate to the United Nations Conference on an International Criminal Court in 1998, the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust in 2000, as Director of the International Centre for Human Rights & Democratic Development which became Rights and Democracy from 1997 to 2003, and as a member of the Canadian delegation to the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe Conferences on Anti-Semitism and Intolerance in Vienna in 2003, Berlin in 2004, and Bucharest earlier this year in 2007. He has also appeared before the Supreme of Court of Canada on numerous high profile immigration and human rights cases.

Mr. Matas’ dedication to the affairs of the legal profession and his outstanding contribution to the promotion of domestic and human rights have been demonstrated by his work with Amnesty International as a member of the Standing Committee on the Mandate of the International Executive Committee from 1993 to 1999 and the Anti-Impunity Working Group from 2002 to 2005, as well as acting as its current Canadian Section Legal Coordinator (English speaking branch) as of 1980. He also served as a member of the Canadian Bar Association’s Committee on the Constitution, its Working Group on Racial Equality in the Legal Profession, the Racial Equality Implementation Committee, is a current member of the Standing Committee on Equity, has served as Chair of the Constitutional, International and Immigration Law Sections, the Working Group on the Review of the Canadian Human Rights Act and is the current Chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s Federal Court Bar Bench Liaison Committee. In addition to his activities with the Canadian Bar Association, Mr. Matas also served as Director of the International Defence & Aid Fund for South Africa in Canada and the Canadian-South Africa Cooperation and the Manitoba Association of Rights & Liberties, Chair of the Working Group on Overseas Protection and its Task Force, Chair of the Legal Committee on War Crimes, Co-Chair of the Canadian-Helsinki Watch Group, Co-Chair of the Race Relations and the Law Project and is a founding member and legal counsel to “Beyond Borders”, a volunteer organization which advances the rights of children. He has also served as Moderator of the International Assembly to End Child Pornography, Child Prostitution and Trafficking, in Bangkok in 2002 and Rio De Janeiro in 2005.

Among his numerous achievements are his academic appointments as a Lecturer in Constitutional Law at McGill University in 1972 and 1973, in the field of Economics in 1982, in International Law in 1985, Civil Liberties from 1986 to 1988 and is the current Lecturer in Immigration & Refugee Law at the University of Manitoba Faculty of Law. Mr. Matas is also an accomplished author having published various books and manuscripts; his latest work of 2007 with David Kilgour being, “Bloody Harvest: Report into Allegations of Organ Harvesting of Falung Gong practitioners in China”.

Having been recognized for these and his other achievements, Mr. Matas has been honoured with the Governor-General's Confederation Medal in 1992, the Jewish War Veterans Victory in Europe Fifteenth Anniversary Medal in 1995, the Outstanding Achievement Award, Manitoba Association of Rights & Liberties in 1996, an Honourary Doctorate of Law from Concordia University in 1996, the Dr. Percy Barsky Humanitarian Award Canadian Shaare Zedek Hospital Foundation; the Centennial Community Service Award of the National Council of Jewish Women (Winnipeg Section) and the Lord Reading Law Society of Montreal Honouree in 1997, the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada Midwest Region Human Rights Achievement Award and the Community Legal Education Association Manitoba Human Rights Achievement Award in 1999, the B'nai Brith Canada Presidential Citation in 2004 and 2005, the Vancouver Interfaith Brotherhood Person of the Year Award in 2006, and the International Commission of Jurists Walter Tarnopolsky Human Rights Award and Asia Pacific Human Rights Watch Charitable Trust Guardian of Justice Award in 2007.

It is with great pleasure that the Manitoba Bar Association and the Mid-Winter CLE Organizing Committee recognize the contributions of Mr. David Matas to the legal profession, with the Distinguished Service Award for 2008. The award will be formally presented to David Matas at the Distinguished Service Award Luncheon on Friday, January 25, 2008 at the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg. The Committee looks forward to seeing you there.

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