This award recognizes one winner each year from the province for being a champion of access to justice.
“[When I found out I won] I was so surprised that I didn’t say anything to anybody, including my husband and my son, for a day,” says Bahdi, having been nominated for the award by the university’s president, Alan Wildeman. “I just closed the email that said I won and said, ‘I’m going to let this process for a while.’”
According to Kirsti Mathers McHenry, director of policy and programs at the law foundation, this year marks a record number of nominations for the award.
Bahdi’s work and research is focused on human rights — specifically, those of Muslim and Arab people post 9/11.
Another facet of her work includes involvement overseas. One project included working with the Palestinian judiciary regarding educational programming to enhance the way human rights are taught and understood and examining ways programs were developed and delivered helped to achieve this goal.
Bahdi also continues to work with colleagues at Birzeit University in the West Bank, writing about their experiences with that project. She is a visiting professor for the graduate program there in democracy and human rights.
Currently, she is working on a quantitative study about access to justice for Arab communities in Ontario with Windsor sociology professor Suzanne McMurphy. Bahdi says it is the first of its kind in the country.
The study consists of reaching out to members of Arab communities and questioning people on their perceptions of the Canadian legal system from personal experiences. They are also reaching out to service providers and community organizations to learn what services are available to help this community access justice and what those gaps, if any, might be.
“I try to bring perspectives to the forefront of discussions that might not otherwise be fully appreciated or understood partly because the Arab community is fairly diverse in Canada. There are people that have been part of Canadian society for decades and there are also members who are new to Canada,” she says. “I try to give a voice to some of those perspectives and I hopefully will have an impact on decision-making in some sort of way.”
Bahdi is also responsible for helping to introduce a mandatory access to justice course at the law school in 2003.
“When you have the privilege of being a law professor, you get to do work that’s meaningful to you and that’s what I’ve been able to do for the last 15 years,” the professor says. “To actually receive recognition and validation that what you’re doing and the issues that you work on are important outside of your own institution is very important and very humbling.”
The award will be presented to Bahdi at a ceremony later this year.