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College of Law Associate Professor Sarah Buhler earned her Master of Laws at the University of Saskatchewan in 2011 before becoming a faculty member. (Photo: Katie Brickman-Young)

Sarah Buhler: Champion of human rights

For Sarah Buhler, human rights are a core value she has held from an early age.

Growing up in Thailand, her parents worked in international development with organizations that were focused on human rights and sustainable development.

“I was exposed at a very early age, so it has always been important for me to look around and see that the world is not fair, equal or just,” said Buhler (LLM’11), an associate professor with the College of Law at the University of Saskatchewan (USask).

That experience led Buhler to a life of helping others. After her undergrad degree, she worked as a volunteer co-ordinator for a Winnipeg inner-city drop-in centre. Her experiences led her to an interest in pursuing law as a career.

“I think I wanted to believe that the legal system could be a place where some of these struggles for justice could be resolved,” she said.

Buhler completed her law degree at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto in 2002 and then moved back to Saskatoon and was called to the bar in 2003, receiving the Saskatoon Bar Association Award for highest standing in the provincial admission examinations. She went on to complete her Master of Laws from USask in 2011.

In Saskatoon, Buhler worked for a private law firm, but kept looking for opportunities to do work that felt aligned with her values and interests.

“One of the coolest things I did in private practice was I was co-counsel for the same-sex marriage challenge in Saskatchewan in 2004,” she said. “That was an amazing opportunity to be working on such an incredibly important case at the time.”

Buhler continued to look for opportunities in which she could connect her education with human rights and access to justice in the community, which led her to becoming involved with the new community legal clinic in Saskatoon, Community Legal Assistance Services for Saskatoon Inner City (CLASSIC) in 2007. She eventually took on the role of CLASSIC’s first executive director and supervising lawyer.

After completing her master’s degree, a position opened in the College of Law with a vision to have a faculty member who would be connected to CLASSIC, an opportunity she was well positioned for.

“It was a matter of following my heart and I feel so lucky to be in this position and to get to do work that I really feel connected to,” she said.

December 10 marks the day that the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For Buhler, the day holds a lot of meaning and is a reminder that human rights are for everyone.

“I feel like we are in a time right now in politics and in history where it seems that there are people who have forgotten about the importance of human rights and it should be central to everything we do in society,” she said. “It feels more important than ever to reflect on what that means and how human rights is an ongoing struggle and everyone needs to be engaged.”

Buhler is continuing her research in the area of access to justice and was recently awarded the Elizabeth Fry Society of Saskatchewan Lady of Justice Award in 2018.

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