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Longtime Queen's lawyer always looked to mediation, reconciliation

In honour of Queen’s 175th anniversary, the Equity Office and the Human Rights Office will bestow their Human Rights Initiative, Employment Equity, and Steve Cutway Accessibility awards on alumni in 2017. Over the next three weeks, the Gazette will profile the winners ahead of the award ceremony Feb. 27.

 

Even though she served many years as the University’s Legal Counsel, Diane Kelly (Law’83) admits that legal action is not the best approach in certain situations.

[Diane Kelly]
Diane Kelly, winner of the 2016 Queen's Human Rights Initiative Award, built positive and inclusive relationships during her career as Queen's legal counsel.

“Litigation might be great for solving things like contractual issues, but it is a very destructive tool for solving people problems,” Ms. Kelly says. “With issues where there is human interaction, I favour approaches that rely on mediation, conciliation, and education.”

That collaborative and cooperative attitude – a hallmark of Ms. Kelly and her career at Queen’s – has earned her the 2016 Queen’s Human Rights Initiative Award.

“Even though Diane has retired from Queen’s, her impact in the areas of accessibility, equity, and human rights at the university continues to be felt,” says Irène Bujara, University Adviser on Equity and Human Rights. “Staff and faculty at Queen’s continue to receive important education and training in relation to human rights due to Diane’s creativity and resourcefulness.”

Queen’s, like other employers in Canada, is subject to federal and provincial legislation designed to safeguard human rights. In her role, Ms. Kelly had to ensure Queen’s met its legal obligations. Rather than stop at legislative compliance, Ms. Kelly sought to build positive and inclusive relationships with people across campus, giving them the tools and information they needed to make a difference.

[Queen's 175th logo]

To accomplish that goal, Ms. Kelly worked with the Human Rights Office to establish in 2009 the innovative Human Rights Legislation Group (HRLG). The group, which still exists today, brings together representatives from all academic and non-academic units to learn more about the issues and to discuss the constantly evolving landscape of human rights-related legislation.

“By establishing the Human Rights Legislation Group, we were trying to combat the lack of understanding that stalls progress on these issues,” Ms. Kelly says. “We really saw the group as a way to help people across campus realize that legislation and related initiatives from the Human Rights Office lead to a more productive work environment.”

Ms. Kelly’s strong connection to Queen’s dates back many years. She completed her undergraduate degree in the Faculty of Arts and Science before attending Queen’s Law and specializing in administrative law. Her father Garfield Kelly, a Queen’s graduate, served as vice-dean in Queen’s Faculty of Health Sciences, and he was a faculty member in the School of Medicine.

After earning her law degree, Ms. Kelly joined Cunningham Swan law firm in Kingston. Before too long, though, Ms. Kelly reconnected with Queen’s. She accepted a secondment with the university and, in 2007, she agreed to join Queen’s on a full-time basis and serve as the in-house legal counsel.

Ms. Kelly says she is thrilled to have her work recognized with the Human Rights Initiative Award.

“I was very emotional when I read the email. The award is one of the biggest honours I have received,” she says. “I know that some of the initiatives are continuing, and that’s a testament to the people in the Human Rights Office. Working with them for so many years really confirmed for me that they are masters of their craft.”

Ms. Kelly will receive the award on Feb. 27. During that event, she will also participate in a panel discussion with the winners of the Steve Cutway Accessibility Award and the Employment Equity Award. All are welcome to attend the event. Email the Equity Office to RSVP. Visit the Queen’s Events Calendar for information