Candidate bio description
Number one I am a dad. I have amazing daughters who I spend all of my free time with – most often ferrying them to and from extra-curricular activities, shopping, Starbucks, and playdates. I am a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School and was called to the bar in 2005 - I guess that makes me a mid-career lawyer now. I have been practicing law in Northwestern Ontario ever since. I started my career at a regional firm, and then I went solo in 2012. Last year, I hired a new grad from the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law. I have a great appreciation of what it is like to be a small firm lawyer in a remote part of this beautiful province. I represent clients on land claims, civil litigation, First Nation governance, and corporate/commercial matters. Recently, I acted for a First Nation in a settlement of a flooding land claim. I also acted for a party at the 7 First Nation Youth Inquest. I am a co-chair of the Indigenous Advisory Group to the Law Society of Ontario. I also volunteered on the working group which developed the Certified Specialist in Indigenous Legal Issues designation. For more information about me check out www.esquegalaw.com/2019-bencher-election.
What inspired you to run for bencher this year?
I want to be a voice for the Northwest Region and Outside Toronto at Convocation. I put my name forward now as I am still a relatively younger lawyer and know what it is like to start a small law office. If elected I will continue to seek the input from the membership, and the public, so that I can advance the voice of these regions appropriately. Through my involvement on the Indigenous Advisory Committee to the LSO I have been privy to many of the issues and initiatives that the LSO is grappling with. With this experience and insight, I am able to hit the ground running.
What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the legal profession?
There are many issues. When we consider the public interest though, I feel that access to justice is one of the most significant issues facing the legal profession. Access to justice has many different contributing factors and resulting consequences. One detrimental issue is the sky-high cost of getting a law degree, which appears to be increasing. If this trend continues, the amount of people from the Northwest Region who can afford to go to law school is going to be limited. That means fewer local licensees are going to be practicing in our region. If we do not address the issue of access to justice, our profession will begin to take a back seat to artificial information and electronic services that are available to consumers on the internet. This will only create larger problems and greater regulatory challenges for the profession. Artificial intelligence is another big issue, by itself, that is facing the legal profession already and which must be addressed as well.
What would be your first priority upon election?
My priority is to make sure the LSO has a presence in the north and to convey to the public and membership that their concerns are important. We need to communicate better with the public and members of our region. I was speaking with a member recently about the election, and he said that he didn't even fully understand what the LSO did. This member is a newer call! This lack of understanding suggests that there is a big problem and suggests that the regulator is not conveying its messages/programming/mandate to the public and membership in our region in an appropriate manner.
What do you hope to achieve over the next four years as a member of Convocation?
I hope to achieve a greater awareness among the public and bar in our region of what the LSO is and the services that are offered. I hope to open up the dialogue in our region about the issues faced by the profession and bring the feedback and perspectives I obtain to the Convocation. An immediate goal which can be achieved in the shorter term is to ensure that the LSO is visible in our region. For example, I would advocate for the movement away from billboards (one of which I saw on a side street in Thunder Bay) and to a greater social media presence. Most people are on those platforms now and we can use these platforms to reach the remote areas of this province. If the LSO is going to remain in the business of CPD programming, this service should pay for itself, and any profits should be used to minimize membership fees. CPDs should also be offered live to those who are outside of Toronto either directly by the LSO or in partnership with other providers. CPD programming events facilitate mentorship and networking opportunities that should be available to those outside of Toronto, and in particular available to the membership in the Northwest region as well.
What's the most pressing concern for the profession in your region of the province?
Just like I think that access to justice is the biggest issue facing the profession I feel that it is the most pressing concern for the profession in our region. New lawyers are coming out of school with ridiculous amounts of debt and licencing paths in our region are limited. We are going to see fewer and fewer people from our region being able to afford the costs of legal education. Our region is still suffering from the collapse of the forest industry from about 10-15 years ago. Many people from our region lost the jobs that they had in Alberta during the booming oil sands days which are now over. Indigenous communities continue to struggle with very challenging and serious social, health, and economic issues which leave very little left on the table.
Do you support the requirement to create and abide by a statement of principles?
I support the statement of principles. I do not understand why we as professionals cannot adopt principles that support the elimination of racism, discrimination, and barriers to access to justice. The regulator must continue to address these principles and the work as set out in the Challenges Facing Racialized Licensees: Final Report, the Working Together For Change: Strategies to Address Issues of Systemic Racism in the Legal Professions report and the Review Panel on Regulatory and Hearing Processes Affecting Indigenous People report. We must also continue the work in support of the retention of women in the profession.