2016 Zenith Award Winners


Kael McKenzie, Provincial Court of Manitoba

Justice Kael McKenzie became Canada’s first openly transgender judge in 2015. He is a member of the Manitoba Métis Nation and served in the Canadian Armed Forces. Before taking up his judicial appointment, Justice McKenzie served five years as a Crown prosecutor in family, commercial and civil law. He has been an active member of the legal and LGBTQ communities and co-chaired the CBA’s sexual-orientation and gender-identity conference for three years. He has served on the Manitoba Women’s Advisory Council and was president of the Rainbow Resource Centre. He also advocated for Bill 18, which enabled gay-straight alliances in Manitoba high schools. His appointment was recognized as a victory for quality, equality and diversity on the Manitoba Bench.

RBC General Counsel Group

With the shortage of articling positions after the global financial crisis, the RBC General Counsel Group (GCG) showed important insight in seeing the specific threat to minority groups already struggling to find positions. In response, GCG created the RBC Aboriginal Articling Program in 2011. Never having taken on articling students before, much thought was given to providing the same level of education and experience as a traditional law firm. Accordingly, GCG formed partnerships with Bay Street firms, including Dentons, and each RBC Aboriginal Articling student has spent 10- 12 weeks working in the Toronto litigation department of Dentons, participating in all aspects of the Dentons student professional development curriculum. The student is also invited to participate in RBC’s professional development sessions and a knowledge-management lawyer at RBC helps ensure Law Society CLE requirements are fulfilled.

Zeïneb Mellouli, Lavery, de Billy, L.L.P.

Zeïneb Mellouli promotes fundamental rights through constant work involving the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. She helped Lawyers Without Borders draft its protest in the case of Raif Badawi, who was sentenced in 2012 to a decade in prison and 1,000 lashes for criticizing Saudi Arabia’s clerics. Zeïneb works to effect diversity and change through the Canadian and Québec Maghreb Associations, the ethno-cultural diversity committee of the Montréal Bar (2011 to 2014), the Montréal Bar’s inclusive profession forum and the Groupe de travail-forum sur la diversité ethnoculturelle, which promotes diversity in large Québec law firms. She is also a member of the board of the Fondation du Centre de réadaptation Lucie-Bruneau, raising money for integration of individuals with physical disabilities.

Indigenous Blacks & Mi’kmaq (IB&M) Initiative, Schulich School of Law

The Indigenous Blacks and Mi’kmaq (IB&M) Initiative is the result of efforts by African Nova Scotian communities and Mi’kmaq First Nations to obtain access to legal education and the legal profession and to address racism in the justice system. These efforts led to Dalhousie University’s study entitled “Breaking Barriers: Report of the Task Force on Access for Black and Native People.” These efforts coincided with the work of the Royal Commission on the Donald Marshall, Jr., Prosecution, which recommended that the IB&M Initiative “receive the financial support of the Governments of Canada and Nova Scotia, and the Nova Scotia Bar.” Through the hard work and persistence of the Advisory Board, community members, directors, students, faculty and staff, the IB&M Initiative grew to become a model for access to legal education and the legal profession.

Anthony Morgan, Falconers LLP

Anthony Morgan is an advocate for the rights of black citizens through regular columns in leading Toronto newspapers and other publications. Anthony is the author of the Universal Charter on Media Representations of Black Peoples, which challenges the media to more closely examine its coverage of black people and communities. He has also been a leader in the decades-long fight against police carding of citizens, which has been applied in a disproportionate and discriminatory fashion against black citizens and other minorities. New rules now require police to state their reasons for requesting identification; inform anyone who voluntarily complies of their right not to give identifying information; and provide everyone they stop with a document that includes the name and badge number of the officer.