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U of A law graduate awarded the Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella Prize

Cardinal-Stewart received the award for her positive influence on equity and social justice.

Anita Cardinal-Stewart, a 2022 University of Alberta law graduate, was awarded the Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella Prize.

Cardinal-Stewart has been involved in multiple student associations; she also arranged a vigil at the Alberta Legislature Building and a run and walk to raise money and awareness after the discovery of unmarked graves at former sites of residential schools.

The Royal Society of Canada established the prize in honour of Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella, a changemaker who is celebrated for her contributions and commitment to building equality and equity across Canadian society.

The prize is awarded to 23 law graduates who are selected for being the most likely to positively influence equity and social justice in Canada or globally. 

Cardinal-Stewart was shocked to have received the award, and grateful for the recognition.

“I was very touched by such a recognition for [the] many years that I’ve committed to change,” she said. ”It seems like no one sees you, and that’s really amazing and heartwarming when you are recognized, [knowing] that people see you and the work that you do.”

The community work that Cardinal-Stewart has been involved in includes creating an inclusive and diverse space at the U of A Law Centre, serving as president of the Indigenous Law Students’ Association, president of the National Indigenous Law Students’ Association, and serving as a student representative on the Indigenous Bar Association.

“Those organizations really helped to create a platform to be able to help Indigenous law students become more visible, not just at the university but across Canada.”

Cardinal-Stewart established an Indigenous Student Representative on the Law Students’ Association (LSA), which was “something [that] was long overdue.” She also worked with the president of the LSA to create a vice-president of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in the LSA. 

“[Creating a vice-president of EDI] took a lot of people to help make it happen but spearheading that was such an important … opportunity to create better spaces.”

After the discovery of 215 unmarked graves on the site of a former Kamloops residential school, and more unmarked graves at other sites, Cardinal-Stewart arranged a vigil at the Alberta Legislature together with the Indigenous Law Students’ Association. The vigil was an opportunity “for everybody to come together and grieve, and honour and remember.”

“[The discovery of the graves] hit my community really hard — myself as well, and there was a lot of grief that we’re still feeling.”

Cardinal-Stewart said her father and grandparents attended a residential school.

“Being [the] first generation who didn’t have to go to these schools … was something that I felt that we needed to do something about.”

After the vigil, Cardinal-Stewart arranged the first-ever annual Orange Shirt Day Run/Walk Every Child Matters on September 30, 2021.  

Cardinal-Stewart arranged the event to bring people together, raise money, and continue the conversation to raise awareness of unmarked graves and residential schools. Registration to the event was full and raised over $10,000 for three different organizations: Water Warriors YEG, Bear Clan Patrol, and the Indian Residential School Survivor Society. 

The planning for the second annual walk and run is in progress. Cardinal-Stewart hopes that this year’s event is bigger than the last year.

After graduation, Cardinal-Stewart plans to article at the law firm she has worked at as a paralegal since 2016. She plans to focus on Aboriginal law, civil litigation, and family law. 

Cardinal-Stewart has three children and one grandchild; she wants to continue to be involved in community work and trying to make a “better world” for her children. 

Cardinal-Stewart emphasized that community support has helped her along her journey.

“If it weren’t for my community, associates, [and] my family, I would certainly not be here and be able to do all the things that I’ve been able to do. I’m very grateful for them.”

Martin Bendico

Martin Bendico is the 2022 - 23 News Editor. Martin is a business student with a major in Business Economics and Law and a minor in Strategy, Entrepreneurship, and Management. He is also working towards a Certificate in Real Estate and a Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

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