2016 Zenith Award Winners

Marc-André Blanchard is an esteemed lawyer from Québec who in April became Canada’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations. In this role, Ambassador Blanchard works to advance Canada’s interests, promote international development, security and human rights, and to keep our government informed on multilateral issues. Prior to his appointment, Ambassador Blanchard had been the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of McCarthy Tétrault LLP, one of the country’s most prominent law firms. He also has a long history of political involvement, as the former president of the Québec Liberal Party and, more recently, as a member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s transition team. Ambassador Blanchard holds several degrees including a Master's in Public Administration and a Master’s in International Affairs from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. He is a Lexpert Rising Stars alumnus, and in 2013 was named one of the 25 most influential lawyers in Canada by Canadian Lawyer.



Osgoode Black Law Students Association, Osgoode Hall Law School

The Osgoode Black Law Students Association (BLSA) has celebrated Black History Month with the creation of The Honourable Lincoln Alexander Award, an Osgoode-focused video and unique displays on black lawyers. This year, the BLSA created a composite photo of all of the black law students who have graduated from Osgoode and officially unveiled it at the Lincoln Alexander Award Ceremony. BLSA President Kyle Elliott said the BLSA wanted to briefly change the conversation from broader issues of racial profiling, police brutality and racial inequality to focus on a celebration of black excellence and “how we might properly acknowledge, celebrate and pay tribute to those Black students at Osgoode who have gone before us.” They discovered, incidentally, that Osgoode’s first black law graduate was in the Class of 1900.

Renatta Austin

Renatta Austin is a University of Toronto Law School graduate who operates a one-woman law firm, specializing in administrative law, child and youth law, and criminal and quasi-criminal law. While at U of T, she was a leader in the launch of See Yourself Here, a program that encourages young people from minority backgrounds to pursue legal education. Today she is an advocate for access to justice who represents mostly low-income clients. In order to keep fees low, she started her firm operating out of her home and the Great Library at the Law Society of Upper Canada. A large part of her work is in education, where there is no legal-aid structure, representing students suspended or expelled for offences such as fighting.