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Mirilyn Sharp

City of Toronto Electoral Region
Mirilyn Sharp

Candidate bio description

I graduated from U of T Law School in 1985 and was called to the Ontario Bar in 1987 (I started law school at age 3, making me only 39 years old!). I have been a litigation lawyer at Blaney McMurtry, LLP for my entire career, with a heavy focus on class actions for the last 25 years. As the only female partner in my firm when the Class Proceedings Act was first introduced in Ontario, I was asked to defend a large multinational pharmaceutical company that had been sued in one of the first Ontario class actions, brought by women who had received silicone gel breast implants. So began my career as a class action litigator. The breast implant litigation started when I was pregnant with my first kid, and was finally resolved just before her Sweet 16. I have acted on a wide variety of class actions in various provinces and courts across Canada including class actions claiming damages arising from the Hepatitis B vaccine, Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) implants, auto insurance deductibles, the Ontario-wide blackout, the Sunrise Propane explosion, collagen based wrinkle creams, and ruined vacations. I am currently the Chair of the OBA Class Actions Section Executive. I previously served as the Newsletter Editor of the Class Actions Section Executive for two years and as a member-at-large on the OBA Civil Litigation Section Executive. In my various roles on the OBA Executives I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy both the time spent at monthly meetings and the countless hours spent researching the latest class action cases, cajoling fellow litigators to write articles, and then editing and compiling the articles for the OBA Class Actions Section Newsletter. During my time on the Class Actions Section Executive committee, I have participated and continue to participate in several subcommittees including the LCO Working Group and the Class Actions Bench/Bar Committee, and acting as co-chair of the Class Actions Colloquium. I recently moderated a Webinar featuring former Chief Justice Winkler and spoke at the OBA Institute on the pros and cons of costs in class actions. I have also been a mentor to a young lawyer for the last few years in a 'matching program' organized by the OBA, a fabulous experience for both of us! By far the most significant thing I have accomplished in my life, however, is the raising of my now adult children, all of whom continue to bring me a great deal of pride. Sydney is in third year medical school hoping to become a general surgeon. Asher has applied to medical school and is waiting for the May 16 results. Jordyn is applying to law school in September. Robert Fulghum famously wrote over 30 years ago, "all I really need to know I learned in kindergarten." My editorial addition: "much of what I now know, I learned from raising my kids.”

What inspired you to run for bencher this year?

Over the last 30 plus years I have experienced and watched other (fabulous) women lawyers experience barriers to career success, merely because they have chosen to have children. If I am able to influence a change in how law firms perceive and treat lawyers who choose to have children, I will have left this world a better place, not only for the lawyers and their children, but also for the public at large. As so eloquently put by Charlotte Proudman, "achieving gender, class and race parity needs to be the aim of the legal profession, so that we properly reflect the society we represent – and inequality is stamped out for good”.

What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the legal profession?

I am concerned that the cost of legal services has soared far beyond anything an individual client can afford. I have been both a lawyer and a client and can attest to the fact that it is not only an emotionally draining experience to be a client in a lawsuit, it is prohibitively costly. We need to find a way to make legal services more accessible, particularly in areas of law where the issues involve human rights, custody and child support, criminal charges and the like. As a class action litigator, I am keenly aware of the need for access to justice, not just for plaintiffs but also for defendants. At the same time, I am aware that the cost of a legal education has risen astronomically, from the $1000 per year I paid at U of T Law School, to the almost $40,000 per year Jordyn will face when she enters law school in 2020. Add to that the cost to become licensed as a lawyer after law school, as well as the yearly fees to be an insured member of the LSO, and it is not surprising that the practice of law is becoming less and less accessible. And don't even get me started on the problems many young law graduates face in finding an articling position and/or an associate position. We need to fix this!

What would be your first priority upon election?

Over the years, I have been on many committees with other lawyers and one thing is certain. There will be many many opinions, not only concerning what the priorities should be, but also in relation to how the committee should deal with those priorities. It is somewhat premature for me to make a specific election promise, other than to say that I will devote my time, energy and passion toward finding ways to make legal services more accessible to the public, to make a legal education more accessible to future lawyers, and, most importantly, to make sure that lawyers who choose to have children are not disadvantaged in their careers as a result.

What do you hope to achieve over the next four years as a member of Convocation?

I am hoping to further the causes outlined above and, in addition, sit on the LSO Tribunal. In my younger days as a lawyer, I did a lot of work for the Lawyers Professional Indemnity Company (now LawPRO), providing coverage advice concerning lawyers who had been sued in relation to fraudulent real estate and other commercial transactions. I developed an expertise in carefully reviewing the relevant documents, interviewing the defendant lawyers, and ultimately making a decision as to whether the lawyers were active participants in the fraud, willfully blind to the fraud, or simply innocent dupes. In whatever role I take on as a Bencher, I pledge to devote my time, skills and empathy toward furthering the goals of the LSO.

What's the most pressing concern for the profession in your region of the province?

The issues I've outlined above affect all regions, including my region (Toronto). Concerns about financial accessibility are of particular concern in Toronto where the cost to purchase a home or rent an apartment has, like everything else, skyrocketed. In addition, concerns about accessibility to legal services and to a legal education are particularly pressing for segments of the population that have been historically oppressed. It is our job as lawyers and Benchers to do whatever we can to remove the barriers that have existed for years. As Hillel said, "if not now, when".

Do you support the requirement to create and abide by a statement of principles?

I am the daughter of Holocaust survivors. My parents came to Canada at the end of the war, with a limited education and no money. They learned to speak English in their teens, and eventually my father graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School. I grew up hearing harrowing stories of the extreme prejudice that was faced by my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles during that dark period in history. My upbringing has made me acutely aware of the harm that can come when prejudices are allowed to influence behaviour. I am aware of the recent debate about the SOP. Having now spoken to various lawyers about this issue, and having now read the various positions being taken by those for and against the SOP, I am of the view that the SOP is a positive step in the right direction. As was said by Bob Tarantino “when we swear oaths and affirm principles, we seek to change ourselves and the world for the better. A profession that doesn’t require that of its members probably isn’t worth the name, and certainly isn’t worth the esteem."

Poll Question

What do you see as the top issue that prospective benchers need to address if they are elected?