The Dena Moyal Distinguished Service Award is an annual award that honours a member for their exemplary contributions to the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts – Ontario Chapter over a sustained period of time. Past recipients of the award have made significant and voluntary contributions to AFCC-O objectives through committee participation, education, leadership and mentoring. Through their contributions to AFCC-O and to the greater family justice system in Ontario, candidates for this award must have demonstrated a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to serving the needs of children and their families.
The recipient of this year’s Dena Moyal Award is Prof. Nicholas Bala. Prof. Bala’s contributions to the AFCC-O and the greater family justice system of Ontario and beyond have been exemplary, sustained and much of it inter-disciplinary. The legacy work that makes all of us at AFCC-O so very proud is the AFCC-O Parenting Plan Guide and Template, an initiative that Prof. Bala proposed in 2018 when he was a member of the Board of Directors of AFCC-O and that he chaired and led to a successful conclusion and release in January 2020—since updated and translated into French.
Within the AFCC-O community, Prof. Bala was a long-time member of the Board of Directors. He is a stalwart member of the Standing Sub-Group of AFCC-O in Kingston. Prof. Bala is a constant presence in AFCC-O working groups who have made submissions on topical issues, such as the AFCC-O Response to the Bonkalo Report. So, too, is Prof. Bala a constant presence in AFCC-O research, including as a member of the three person team investigating “COVID-19 Pandemic and Family Justice in Ontario” in the period 2020-2022. Prof. Bala’s work has been recognized by AFCC Parent, in 2008 when he won the Stanley Cohen Distinguished Research Award, and in 2020 when he and Barbara Fidler received the President’s Award.
In the greater family justice system, since 1980 Prof. Bala has been on the Faculty at Queen’s Law, as well as a Visiting Professor at other universities. Prof. Bala is an expert on Family and Children’s Law, with research focusing on issues related to parental separation issues including parental alienation and relocation; children in the family courts, including the role of child’s counsel and judicial interviewing of children; spousal abuse and its effects on children; children in the criminal courts; and access to family justice. Much of his research work is interdisciplinary; he has undertaken many collaborative projects with psychologists, social workers, criminologists and health professionals to better understand the effects of involvement in the justice system on children, youth and families. Prof. Bala has published extensively in journals in law, medicine, psychology and social work. His work is often quoted by all levels of court in Canada, including the Supreme Court of Canada and courts of appeal across the country, and he has also been cited by courts internationally.
Prof. Bala has been in the vanguard of family law research and professional education for years, as a result of which he has garnered many prestigious awards, including the Queen’s University Prize for Excellence in Research in 2006, the Law Society of Ontario Medal in 2009 for his contributions to family justice education and research and the Ontario Bar Association Award of Excellence in Family Law in 2009. In 2013 Prof. Bala was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 2019 he was named the William R. Lederman Distinguished Professor at Queen’s University.
In short, Prof. Bala’s contributions to AFCC-O and to the greater family justice system are a gold star standard, exemplary by any measure.