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:

2017 – Stephanie Ovens
2016 – Shely Polak
2015 – Katie Hunter
2013 – Joanna Hunt
2012 – Jaclyn Mackenzie
2011 – Ambreen Walji
2010 – Tiffany Lau

The deadline to submit your application for this award is May 1st each year. Please see the below application requirements in our Terms of Reference document, and download the Application form, and Teacher/Professor Report Forms to complete and submit.

Nick Bala Scholarship Award Terms of Reference
Nick Bala Scholarship Application
Nick Bala Teacher-Professor Report Forms

The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, Ontario honors Professor Nicholas Bala with an annual scholarship to a student who demonstrates qualities similar to his own. He is one of Canada’s most respected legal scholars and his contributions to family law seem endless. His work is interdisciplinary in scope and he has had a major impact on developing knowledge on the effect of legislation and the justice system on children and families. He has written extensively on many areas of family justice issues.

The AFCC-O is pleased to announce we appointed we have two recipients of the 2018 Nicholas Bala Award for Student Excellence.

Beth Ambury obtained her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Western Ontario and her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree at the University of Montana. She taught daycare and preschool throughout this time, which put her on the path to a career advocating for children and their families.

Ms. Ambury graduated from Queen’s University’s Faculty of Law in 2018. There, she participated in the Walsh Family Law Moot, first as an oralist then as a student coach. She worked as a student caseworker at the Queen’s Family Law Clinic (QFLC), where she prepared family court documents for self-representing litigants and guided them through the court process. She also worked with Pro Bono Students Canada’s Family Law Project as volunteer and then as project coordinator for the group of students providing access to justice to family litigants in Kingston. These clinical experiences taught her the most invaluable skills of law school: how to engage vulnerable clients, listen effectively, and create productive relationships to help clients translate the legally-significant issues of their individual situations into precise court documents. Ms. Ambury acted as Professor Bala’s research assistant from 2016-2018, where she conducted research into family court litigant experiences, parental alienation, spousal support entitlement, and child support.

Ms. Ambury is currently articling at a small law firm in Napanee, Ontario. She is interested in interdisciplinary family law to ensure that children are best supported through their family breakdown to minimize long-term negative effects from the trauma of separation.


Shawn Stewart obtained an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a Sociology minor, and an Honours Bachelor of Education from the University of Windsor. He volunteered with Big Brothers and Big sisters for two years. During his undergrad he was employed by Windsor Family Respite, where he was a program coordinator for Fantastic Fridays; a social program for Autistic young teens from the ages of 12-18.

Shawn attended the University of Windsor for Law and graduated in June of 2018. In his time at the Law school he worked for Legal Assistance Windsor, and was part of Pro Bono Student Canada’s (PBSC) Family Law Project, volunteering at the Ontario Court of Justice.  Shawn created the Windsor Family Law Society at Windsor Law and was the first ever President. He was invited to speak at the Windsor AFCC Roundtable on November 30th, 2016 to discuss the future of Family Law in Ontario. Shawn represented Windsor Law in their first ever National Baseball Arbitration Competition held in Tulane, Louisiana this past January.  In 2017 Shawn became the Program Coordinator for Windsor Law’s PBSC program, and spoke at the National PBSC conference in May of 2018 on how to successfully organize a PBSC chapter for success.

Shawn has accepted an articling position with Kirwin Partner LLP in Windsor ON, and is currently working there to complete his articles. Shawn still continues to provide in home respite services in Windsor.


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.