For over three decades Shawna has worked tirelessly for equality and the human rights of women, children, youth and families in her role as a lawyer, clinical social worker, forensic social worker, and educator. In 2008, Shawna successfully argued the case of R. v. LTH at the Supreme Court of Canada and established precedent-setting police procedures across Canada regarding the rights of youth under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Throughout the years, Shawna has been a member of many community boards, advisory committees and regulatory bodies. She held the position of President of the Board of Directors of the Community Justice Society of Halifax, and is a past member of the Board of Examiners for the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers. She is the founder of the National Institute of Forensic Social Work, which she established in Canada in 2016 to bridge the professions of law and social work. Shawna is also a founding member of the Black Community Advocates Association of Nova Scotia started in 2000. Shawna was appointed to the Federal Government Task Force on Visible Minorities by the President of the Treasury Board of Canada and assisted in drafting the Federal Government employment equity plan, entitled Embracing Change in the Federal Public Service, regarding the hiring of visible minorities in the Federal Public Service.
Shawna is held in high regard and recognized for her dedication to the community and her professions. She has received numerous awards and recognition for her work on a local and national level. In 2017, Shawna was nominated by the Canadian Lawyer Magazine for the, Top 25 Most Influential lawyers in Canada. She received the Distinguished Service Award from the Canadian Association of Social Workers/NSCSW in 2016. In 2015, she was inducted into the Hon. Bertha Wilson Honor Society. In 2014, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Black Law Students Association of Canada. In 2011, she was appointed to the Queens Counsel. Shawna is the inaugural recipient of the Hon. Justice Lome Clarke, Q.C. award for Access to Justice in 2010. In 2009, she received the People Making a Difference award from the Black Law Students Association of Canada. In 2006, she received the Elizabeth Fry Society – Rebels with a Cause award. In 2003, she received the Black Community Advocates Association of Nova Scotia Recognition Award, and in 2001 she received the Treasury Board of Canada Service Award.
Shawna holds several degrees including a B.A., BSW., MSW., and a J.D. from Dalhousie University. As well, she holds certificates in mediation, community development, and the legal aspects of health administration. Shawna is currently pursuing a PhD at Memorial University in Newfoundland. Her previous graduate research and current doctoral research is specific to women, children and families regarding the impact and influences of trans-generational and inter-generational trauma. Her other research interests concern race, gender and resiliency after historical and racial trauma, gender based violence, professional development in forensic social work and human service practice, collaborative family law, and corrections reintegration programming.
Shawna is the proud mother of two adult children, Sierra and Bryce, and grandmother to a beautiful and brilliant little girl named Alayah.