Award Description: The President’s Distinguished Service Award is an annual award that honours a member for his or her exemplary contributions to the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, Ontario Chapter, over a sustained period of time. The individual has made significant and voluntary contributions to AFCC-O objectives through committee participation, education, leadership and mentoring. Through his or her contributions to the AFCC-O, and to the greater family justice system in Ontario, the recipient has demonstrated a strong commitment to promoting a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to serving the needs of children and their families. Nominations should include the candidate’s C.V. and a letter of recommendation outlining the reasons for nomination.

Note: In recognition of AFCC-O’s 10th Year Anniversary, for the year 2018 the President’s Distinguished Service Award was replaced with the “10 in 10” Awards of Excellence in Family Justice.  Please visit our 2018 AFCC-O 10th Anniversary Conference webpage for details on this award and join us in congratulating the appointed recipients of this award.

The AFCC-O is pleased to announce that the Honourable Justice Eleanor Schnall  was the recipient of the 2017 President’s Distinguished Service Award.

The Honourable Justice Eleanor Schnall has offered the community almost 50 years of guidance and wisdom as a teacher, lawyer, and finally, as a Criminal and Family Court Judge. Over the last number of years, she has provided exemplary and unfailing leadership and direction in London’s Youth Therapeutic Court. In 2015, Justice Schnall was the recipient of the London Family Court Clinic’s Frank Brennan Award, to recognize her tireless efforts and determination in identifying and eliminating service barriers and gaps for youth straddling both the justice and mental health systems.

Justice Schnall has also been a leading voice in London, Ontario for the development of domestic violence policies. She co-founded Women’s Community House, a shelter in London for abused women and children, and she served on the first board of what is now the London Abused Women’s Centre. She has been a member of the London Coordinating Committee to End Woman Abuse for more than 35 years, and she serves on the Advisory Committee to the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children affiliated with Western University. In 2016, Justice Schnall was the recipient of the John Robinson Award, to recognize outstanding achievement in the work to end violence against women.

Previous Recipients:
2016 – Jennifer Suzor
2015 – Dr. Barbara Fidler
2013 – Vince Ramsay
2012 – AFCC-O Outreach Committee – Deborah Moskovitch (chair), Dena Moyal, Steven Benmor, Linda Popielarczyk, Linda Chodos, Angela Khelem, and Maggie Hall
2011 – patti cross

Nicholas Bala Award For Student Excellence

Previous Recipients:

2019 – Priya Khalsa
2018 – Beth Ambury; Shawn Stewart
2017 – Stephanie Ovens
2016 – Shely Polak
2015 – Katie Hunter
2013 – Joanna Hunt
2012 – Jaclyn Mackenzie
2011 – Ambreen Walji
2010 – Tiffany Lau

Award Description: From 2010 to 2019 the AFCC-O had the Bala Award for Student Excellence to recognize achievement by students in law, social work and related disciplines who intended to pursue careers  in Family Law.  The Award was created when the Ontario Chapter was getting established to help us connect with students.

Since 2010, the AFCC-O has had an extensive program of outreach to professional students, including establishing the Walsh Family Moot and the Walsh Family Negotiation Competition, and expanded its conference scholarship program and mentoring program, so in 2019 the Board decided to cease giving this Award.  The AFCC-O continues to strive to strengthen ties to students and to support and mentor those starting their careers.

The AFCC-O also acknowledges the contributions to Family Justice of  Professor Nicholas Bala, whose interdisciplinary research has had a major impact on developing knowledge on the effect of legislation and the justice system on children and families.  The Award was named in his honour in 2010 when he had 4th stage metastatic melanoma, but happily he survived, served on the AFCC-O Board for three years, and presented the 2019 (and last) winner with the Award!

The winner of the 2019 Nicholas Bala Award for Student Excellence is Priya Khalsa.

Priya Khalsa obtained her Honours Bachelor of Health Sciences with a Psychology minor from Western University. During her undergrad, she volunteered with young adults at a mental health care hospital and with impoverished children in the Dominican Republic, planning English language learning activities.

Ms. Khalsa graduated from the combined Juris Doctor and Master of Social Work program at the University of Toronto in 2019. At the Faculty of Social Work, she specialized in Children and their Families and acquired a solid understanding of child and adolescent welfare in the context of the family microsystem. She completed her social work placement at Ujima House, where she supervised therapeutic access visits and provided support to racialized families who faced child protection concerns and other personal barriers.

At the Faculty of Law, she participated in the Walsh Family Law Negotiation Competition, first as a competitor then as a student coach. She was also part of Pro Bono Students Canada’s Family Law Project (PBSC), volunteering at the Ontario Court of Justice. She is especially interested in interdisciplinary family law. She completed a full year law and social work practicum at the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Supervised Access Program where she developed a 6-chapter family law and supervised access e-learning module to assist in the training of social work professionals.

From 2018-2019, she was part of PBSC’s Bioethics Project at Sick Kids Hospital where she conducted research and presented on “The Best Interests of the Child: What Can Healthcare Law Learn from Family Law?”. She became interested in expert evidence and family law after presenting on the topic of expert evidence bias at the Canadian Academy of Psychiatry and the Law conference. In 2018, she joined the Board of Directors for Family Services York Region, a non-profit organization devoted to the wellbeing of youth and their families. Ms. Khalsa is currently articling at J K Hannaford Barristers in Toronto.



In October 2016, the AFCC-O presented two special awards in memory of two colleagues:

The Honourable Justice Geraldine Waldman for Excellence in the Intersection of Family Law and Criminal Law Relating to Domestic Violence

The Honourable Justice Geraldine Waldman was an innovator and an outstanding voice for families and children, particularly victims of domestic violence. Justice Waldman was appointed to the Ontario Court of Justice in 1992. She pioneered the creation of the first Canadian court dedicated to hearing domestic violence cases that included both family law and criminal law issues.

Dr. Peter Jaffe was the recipient of this award in recognition of his outstanding dedication to serving families and children affected by domestic violence, and his commitment to educating and mentoring others working in this area.

The Lorraine Martin Award for Excellence in Dispute Resolution

Lorraine Martin was a pioneer of family mediation and is remembered for her varied contributions to the field of dispute resolution. Lorraine was the Director of the Custody/Access Clinical Program at the Office of the Children’s Lawyer for 17 years.

Ms. Antoinette Clarke was the recipient of this award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to facilitating the resolution of family disputes in a family, child focused and culturally sensitive manner.