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Faculty of Law

Soberman Award winner’s political star on the rise

(June 22, 2016)

Nate Erskine-Smith, Law’10 (Arstci’07), sitting at his office desk, where his Dan Soberman Outstanding Young Alumni Award is proudly displayed
Nate Erskine-Smith, Law’10 (Arstci’07), sitting at his office desk, where his Dan Soberman Outstanding Young Alumni Award is proudly displayed

George Bernard Shaw got it wrong when he quipped that “Youth is wasted on the young.” The celebrated Irish playwright surely would have had to reconsider his words if he’d ever met Nathaniel “Nate” Erskine-Smith, Law’10 (Arstci’07), the 2016 winner of the Dan Soberman Outstanding Young Alumni Award.

Erskine-Smith has accomplished more in the last six years than many people do in an entire career. “Winning an alumni award when I’m still just 31 seems a bit strange, but I’m honoured to do so, and I’ll continue working hard to earn it,” he said.

After articling, he earned an LLM at Oxford, graduating with distinction. In 2012 he returned home to Toronto, where he volunteered with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and then began a successful practice as a litigator with the boutique law firm Kramer Simaan Dhillon LLP.

As his five classmate nominators noted, “Nate has always had a keen interest in politics and public service.” In October 2015 he won election to Parliament as the Liberal MP for the Toronto riding of Beaches-East York, beating the runner-up incumbent candidate by a margin of more than 10,000 votes. He had some help from a number of classmates who volunteered on his campaign.

While he’s only been an MP for less than a year, Erskine-Smith has already distinguished himself both in the House of Commons and in his work as a member of two committees: Public Safety and National Security Committee and Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. In addition, he’s President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Canadian contingent.

Erskine-Smith was unable to attend the 2016 Celebrate Queen’s Law alumni reception in Toronto on May 31, when his award was presented. He was in Ottawa, serving the public in the House of Commons by casting his vote on the Trudeau government’s controversial assisted dying bill. He did give an acceptance speech via Skype, musing that he’s “come a long way” since his first-year of studies at Queen’s Law. “The class of Law’10 is very special,” he said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the friendship, loyalty and support of my classmates.

“I’d also like to thank my professors who shared with me a way of thinking and a sense of values and creativeness that help me every day in what I do.

— Ken Cuthbertson