Hilary Young named University Research Scholar

Author: Ed Bowes

Posted on Apr 11, 2024

Category: Students , Alumni , Faculty

UNB Law’s Professor Hilary Young was recently named a University Research Scholar at the 2024 President’s Awards. This award recognizes Prof. Young’s exceptional scholarship and internationally acclaimed research in the areas of defamation, tort, and health law.

“It was gratifying to be recognized for my research contributions. When I first started as a scholar, I struggled to know what made for good research subjects, and the learning curve was steep. Now, I see research topics everywhere. Just reading the newspaper generates ideas.”

Prof. Young’s research tends to centre on complex policy issues around free speech and reputation, around ensuring appropriate remedies, and, increasingly, access to justice.

“I love that legal research involves solving stimulating puzzles but can also have significant real-world effects. The combination of fun work and potentially impactful results is incredibly motivating. Having the luxury of time to delve deeply has allowed me to work with others to contribute to better laws or better access to justice.”

The project that the University Research Scholar Award will fund looks at the increasing use of defamation law to combat speech that is offensive but doesn't necessarily harm reputation. According to Prof. Young, the law has been used to express disdain for bigoted speech, for example, but has also been used as a weapon against those who call out others' bigotry, as in the recent Hansman v Neufeld case at the Supreme Court. Prof. Young will use the examples of bigoted speech and counterspeech to review what it means for something to be defamatory.

“While over the centuries this would have included exposing someone to hatred or ridicule—which both bigoted speech and counterspeech arguably do—the modern approach is grounded in harm to reputation. This is because reputational harm, but not offence, justifies defamation law's restriction on freedom of expression. I'll work on developing a theory of what it means to be defamatory and show that modern courts are often not focusing on reputation, despite claiming to.”

Prof. Young’s nomination was led by Prof. John Kleefeld and co-signed by a group of UNB Law colleagues.

“Hilary is an incredible asset to our law school,” said Prof. Kleefeld. “Her research is cited by courts nationwide, influencing legislation and making a tangible impact. She is a valuable mentor to junior colleagues in the faculty and is a fine example of teaching excellence combined with research prowess. Nominating Prof. Young was an easy decision.”

Award citation presented by David Magee, Vice-President (Research)

Dr. Hilary Young, a respected figure in UNB's law faculty, specializes in defamation, tort and health law. Her research has left a significant mark on legal scholarship and reform globally. Notably, her expertise in defamation law has garnered attention, with her works cited by esteemed courts including Canada's Supreme Court. Hilary's influence extends beyond academia; she's actively engaged in law reform projects across Canada and internationally.

Furthermore, Hilary's efforts have led to tangible legal changes, such as the adoption of a model law for removing non-consensual intimate images from the internet in New Brunswick and PEI. Her contributions to tort law and health law are equally notable, culminating in co-authoring leading legal treatises and publishing in reputable journals.

Her commitment to research is underscored by consistent external funding and numerous conference presentations over the past decade. Hilary is not only an accomplished scholar but also actively engages in public legal education, collaborating with various organizations and contributing to media discussions on legal issues, including COVID-19 vaccination mandates.

Moreover, she plays a pivotal role in mentoring junior colleagues, providing guidance on grant applications, facilitating scholarly discussions and contributing as a peer reviewer. Hilary's multifaceted contributions enrich both the academic and public spheres of law.