Candidate bio description
Born in Port Arthur, ON (now Thunder Bay). Obtained a BA and MA from the University of Manitoba, and LLB from Queen’s University. Served 3 years in the Canadian Army in the Brigade Signals Squadron and in the 1st Parachute Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment. Practised Labour and Administrative Law. Certified Specialist in Labour Law. Adjudicator on LSO Administrative Tribunal. Previous Editor-in-Chief of Management Rights, a Federated Press Legal Journal. Past Alternate Chair of Ontario Review Board. Past OBA Council Member and past Director on OBA Board of Directors. Honorary Colonel (ret.) of Lake Superior Scottish Regiment (LSSR) and current member of LSSR Senate. Married with 3 children, 4 granddaughters, 2 step-grandsons.
What inspired you to run for bencher this year?
I have enjoyed my 4 years as a Bencher where I served on LSO Committees including Access to Justice, Professional Development and Competence, Equity and Indigenous Affairs, as well as the ABS Working Group. I found the issues both interesting and challenging and the work satisfying, and I appreciated the positive personal and working relationships I formed with other Benchers and LSO staff. I would like the opportunity to continue to work on ongoing innovative and progressive initiatives which include increasing access to justice, promoting more diversity and inclusivity in the profession, improving awareness of Indigenous history, culture and traditions, encouraging optimum use of digital technology in delivery of legal services, and increasing and improving mentoring/coaching and Helpline programmes.
What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the legal profession?
Money, and the lack thereof, has led to the rising phenomenon of self-represented and unrepresented litigants which is straining the justice system. It is a vicious circle. Tuition fees are rising exponentially leaving many students with a staggering debt load. Licensing fees, insurance costs, and other levies are often a burden for sole and small firm practitioners, especially in small towns and rural areas. This financial reality has led to many lawyers preferring to practice in larger centres, leaving many areas of the province under-serviced. Escalating legal fees are often required to cope with the cost of the debt load, or to subsidize the necessary, constant need to upgrade costly technology, or to access expensive legal research tools. The result is that many people cannot afford representation. Most people do not qualify for Legal Aid, but cannot afford high legal fees. Legal Aid itself cannot meet the current demands. The dilemma of how to deliver necessary legal services in a fair, affordable and equitable way, and the emergence of self-represented or unrepresented litigants are two of the biggest issues facing the legal profession.
What would be your first priority upon election?
My first priority upon election is to seek ways to create financial incentives to encourage more lawyers to practice in under-serviced rural and remote areas. I also intend to seek ways to reduce the financial strain on lawyers who do practice in these areas as well those who practice in sole and small firms. This could be in the form of allowing more graduated licensing fees or less onerous CPD Costs. I will strongly support LSO’s current plan to act as a technology resource base to help lawyers reduce overhead costs.
What do you hope to achieve over the next four years as a member of Convocation?
During the usual intensive orientation of new Benchers and the setting of a new 4 year strategic plan, I will strongly encourage the expansion of the LSO’s new Indigenous Awareness programme which I attended in December and which I found extremely informative and helpful. I also will promote the continuing implementation of the mentoring/coaching programme for new lawyers, and the enhancement of access to the Lawyers’ Helpline in response to suggestions from the profession in a 2017 survey.
What's the most pressing concern for the profession in your region of the province?
The most pressing concern in the Northwest Region is the difficulty of providing equal, affordable and economical access to justice in our large geographical area with its many remote and fly-in communities needing legal services. Many have no, or very limited, access to legal resources and practitioners. There is also a need in our Region for greater knowledge, understanding and accommodation of Indigenous cultural and traditional practices given the large Indigenous population.
Do you support the requirement to create and abide by a statement of principles?
Yes I support the requirement. To the extent that women, minorities and racialized licensees experience discrimination in hiring and employment practices, there is a need to formally acknowledge our commitment to recognize and eliminate discrimination. The statement confirms the obligation we have in the profession to treat everyone in a fair and equitable way.