Sarah Beamish
Master of Global Affairs, Munk School

MGA alumni-turned-faculty Sarah Beamish wins 2023 Precedent Setter Award

Precedent Magazine has recognized Sarah for her decades-long journey as a human rights advocate, a journey that eventually saw her elected as the youngest-ever and first Canadian Global Chair of Amnesty International, at the same time as she built a practice based on partnership with Indigenous people and other people who have faced systemic injustices.

Photography by Daniel Ehrenworth; hair and makeup by Jasmine Merinsky
Photography by Daniel Ehrenworth; hair and makeup by Jasmine Merinsky

Sarah was honoured to be nominated for the award by Senator Yvonne Boyer, Dr. Tawanda Mutasah, Dr. Alex Neve, and her colleague, Julia Tousaw.

Senator Boyer and Julia Tousaw told Precedent Magazine:

There is no such thing as a culturally neutral practice of law, and few advocates understand or apply this with Sarah’s insight or effectiveness. Whether arguing that creed protections must include Afro-Indigenous belief systems; that implied consent analysis involving Indigenous parents must account for their reasonable fears of child apprehension; that law firms should consider the kinship ties and intergenerational traumas of Indigenous clients when assessing conflict of interest; that defamation perpetuating harmful stereotypes should attract heightened damages; or that systemic racism in the housing and job markets should inform damages for wrongful eviction and dismissal, Sarah is always pushing the law to evolve toward justice, doing so with practicality and creativity.

Dr. Mutasah and Dr. Neve remarked:

[Sarah] is both a holistic, big-picture thinker and very attentive to the small pieces of the puzzles she examines. We have been constantly struck by her determination and ability to make important and creative connections across social issues that are often treated as separate and distinct, such as the environment, the rights of Indigenous peoples, international justice, human rights, and anti-poverty work. […] While many feel there is little they can do to shape discourse and policy with respect to such daunting problems, all of our experience is that Sarah will always find a way forward, a way that does make a difference. And will continue to set inspiring precedents at every turn.

Sarah congratulates her fellow award winners, thanks her nominators and the panel of judges, and honours the many clients whose trust has made her legal work possible. Special thanks to the remarkable family who allowed Sarah to discuss their story with Precedent Magazine.

Read more about the winners

Learn more about Sarah Beamish

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