Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré and Micheline A. Rawlins were the first Black Female Provincial Judges appointed in Central Canada.
Who is Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré?
In 1942, Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré was born in Verdun, which is now part of Montreal. The daughter of Guyanese immigrants, she entered Marianopolis College, and then went on to study law at the Université de Montréal.
During her legal studies, Ms. Westmoreland- Traoré was involved in Crossroads International, which took her to Senegal in 1964 and then to Togo in 1965.
In 1966, she graduated with her law degree from the Université de Montréal and went on to earn a Doctorate of State from the University of Paris II.
A Multifaceted Legal Career
Ms. Westmoreland-Traoré’s legal career moved from legal practice, to teaching and eventually serving in the judiciary.
She was called to the Quebec Bar in 1969 and started practicing law in 1970 at the law firm of Mergler, Melançon. Throughout the 1970s she taught at both the Université de Montréal and Université du Québec à Montréal. She specialized in a number of areas including immigration and citizenship law, human rights, family law and not-for-profit organization law.
From 1979 to 1983 she served as a member in the Office de protection des consommateurs du Québec. Afterwards, from 1983 – 1985, Ms. Westmoreland-Traoré was a Commissioner for the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
During the 1980s, Ms. Westmoreland-Traoré helped establish Conseil des communautés culturelles et de l’immigration du Québec and in 1985 became its first Chair. In 1991, Junita Westmoreland-Traoré was named to an Officer of the Ordre National du Quebec. In that same year, she became the Employment Equity Commissioner of Ontario until 1995.
Prior to being appointed the Bench, Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré was the first Black Law School Dean. From 1996 to 1999 Ms. Westmoreland-Traoré served as Dean of the University of Windsor’s Faculty of Law. She joined Ontario’s Bar in 1997.
In April 1999, Ms. Westmoreland-Traoré was appointed to the Criminal and Penal Division and the Youth Division of the Court of Quebec and became the first Black Female Judge in Quebec.
Justice Westmoreland-Traoré served on the Board of the Canadian Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges and co-chaired the Equality and Diversity Committee of the Canadian Association of Provincial Court Judges.
Who is Micheline A. Rawlins?
In 1951, Micheline A. Rawlins was born in Montreal. Eventually, she attended McGill University where she received a B.A. in 1975. From there Ms. Rawlins went on earn a LLB from the University of Windsor in 1978.
Ms. Rawlins was called to the Bar in 1982 and went on to work as an assistant Crown Attorney in Kent County.
A Passion for the Law and Community
Along with the law, Ms. Rawlins had a passion for serving the Windsor community. Throughout the 1980s, she served on the boards of a number of community agencies including Robinson House, Windsor Urban alliance, Windsor Media Council, the Girl Guides, the Boy Scouts and the University of Windsor Board of Governors.
In 1992, Micheline A. Rawlins was the first Black Woman appointed to the Ontario Court of Justice.
Justice Rawlins has received a number of honours and awards over the years. She was awarded the National Congress of Black Women Outstanding Contributions to Women, to Law and to Canada Award in 2002 as well as the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal. In 2004, she was named Windsor Woman of the Year.
At the 2009 International Women’s Day Forum held at the Law Society Justice Rawlins advocated for more women on the Bench and stated that “judges must bring their personal perspectives to the bench without fear of being called less than impartial, and that the definition of perspective does not necessarily equate to male privilege.”