Louise Otis was presented with the 2015 edition of Québec’s Justice Award by Minister of Justice Stéphanie Vallée, for her outstanding and unwavering commitment and devotion to the promotion of law and access to justice, and to the enhancement of Québec’s social outreach.
Even before out-of-court dispute resolution methods became a core element of the recent civil justice system reform, Louise Otis was already a pioneer in the field. In 1998, as a Judge at Québec’s Court of Appeal, she designed and instituted a mediation pilot project that became one of the first judicial conciliation systems in the world. The program, which went on to become an international model, was instrumental in making Québec a leader in the field of out-of-court dispute resolution.
Louise Otis, a graduate of Laval University’s Faculty of Law and a member of the Québec Bar Association since 1975, specialized in labour law and administrative law until her appointment as a Judge. In 1983, following the adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, she focused her practice on public and constitutional law. She also presented some major cases to the Supreme Court.
Alongside her legal practice, she taught at Laval University’s Faculty of Law from 1984 to 1987, and at the Québec Bar School for nearly 10 years. In 1981 she became a member of Québec’s justice advisory board (the Conseil consultatif de la justice), where she was called up on to make recommendations to the Minister on issues relating to justice, including legislative reforms. She held this position until 1985.
In 1990, she was appointed as a Judge to the Superior Court of Québec, and three years later she was appointed as a Judge to the Québec Court of Appeal, where she remained until 2009. In her 29 years on the bench, she handed down more than 3,000 judgments in civil, administrative, criminal and commercial cases. She is approached on a regular basis by foreign legislators and jurists for her expertise in the field of conflict and dispute resolution methods.
In 2007, as a specialist in non-contentious dispute resolution procedures, she was recruited by the United Nations Secretary-General to help redesign the United Nations system of administration of justice. She has also published a number of works on mediation, legal impartiality and consensual justice. Her contribution to the book entitled Recours et procédure en appel won her the Walter Owen Book Prize, awarded by the Foundation for Legal Research.
Since retiring as a Judge, Louise Otis has worked as a civil and commercial mediator and arbitrator. She is also Adjunct Professor at McGill University’s Faculty of Law. She is a regular member of international governance and justice reform missions with several organizations including the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and more recently, the Global Fund of Geneva. She is President of the Administrative Tribunal of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and President of the Appeal Court at the International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF). She is also a member of the Administrative Tribunal of the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).
Her numerous distinctions include an honorary doctorate from Sherbrooke University (2000), the Québec Bar Association’s Medal (2011), the Boulton Senior Fellowship at McGill University’s Faculty of Law (2011), the YMCA’s Peace Medal (2012), the title of Officer of the Ordre national du Québec (2003) and the title of Officer of the Order of Canada (2015).
In 2002, the Strauss Institute for Dispute Resolution, in California, presented her with its Distinguished Service Award, and in 2008, the Canadian National Mediation Advocacy Competition (CNMAC) paid tribute to her by creating the Louise Otis Award for Excellence in ADR, to recognize excellence in academic methods of extra-judicial conflict resolution at law schools.
In the usual order: the Honourable Nicole Duval Hesler, Chief Justice of the Québec Court of Appeal , award winner Louise Otis, and Stéphanie Vallée, Québec’s Minister of Justice.