To Judge Sandra E. Oxner (BA’62, LLB’65, LLM‘01), the law is a special profession, one that empowers all who practise it to pursue change in social justice through legal means. That belief inspired Judge Oxner to create the Yogis & Keddy Chair in Human Rights Law at Dalhousie University.

The chair will support research and teaching in the field of human rights, fostering study at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, while developing collaborative programs with other academic institutions and governments.

A ‘natural choice’

“This was a natural choice,” says Judge Oxner. “The chair is in memory of my late husband Donald Keddy, who lived his life unconsciously applying modern principles of equality.  It also honours Professor Emeritus John Yogis, my classmate, whose life and professional work also exemplify concern about equality for all.”

Judge Oxner was also motivated by the university’s seminars following the entrenchment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, opportunities for students from China to study at the law school, and the former Dean Ronald St. John MacDonald’s efforts to make human rights a part of the school’s fabric.

Her gift is equally appropriate in that Judge Oxner chairs the law school’s Commonwealth Judicial Education Institute, a voluntary organization that links Commonwealth judicial education bodies, assists judicial reform in developing countries and trains leaders through judicial education. She was further compelled to establish the chair by her experiences as a Dalhousie law student.

“The school managed to make a lawyer out of me – an achievement not without challenges. It took me into its master’s program when I was convalescing from a heart operation and provided the therapy for me to regain verbal skills lost through the operation.”

In honour of Professor Yogis

By establishing the chair in Professor Yogis’ name, Judge Oxner’s intent is to encourage fellow alumni to support the initiative. “He taught so many Dalhousie law graduates and he is the longest-serving full-time law professor. This is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate through a donation an appreciation of his inspiration, dedication, kindness and support to so many of us over the years.

Given that so many social ills can be alleviated or eradicated through legal legislation, treaties and judicial decisions, Judge Oxner says “my hope is that the chair will attract students interested in honing legal skills to do such work.”