2016 Law Society Award recipients

Posted: 03/29/2016

Honouring Excellence 2016 Law Society AwardsThe Law Society of Upper Canada recognized 14 exceptional members of the legal profession at its annual awards ceremony.

The Law Society Medal, the William J. Simpson Distinguished Paralegal Award, the Lincoln Alexander Award, the Laura Legge Award, and the inaugural J. Shirley Denison Award were presented at Osgoode Hall on May 25, 2016.

“Our 2016 honourees have very impressive and diverse professional experience and expertise — from the private sector, public sector and academia,” said Treasurer Janet E. Minor, who will be hosting the ceremony. “Each recipient represents the best of our professions and our professions’ core principles — commitment to the rule of law and access to justice.

The 2016 Law Society Medal recipients are:

Jennifer E. Babe, Toronto — Called to the Bar in 1982, Jennifer E. Babe is a solicitor at Miller Thomson LLP. She exemplifies leadership in the profession through her work with her clients, her teaching, her writing, pro bono legal services and community service, including work on law reform submissions through the OBA, CBA and other organizations. As chair of Miller Thomson’s pro bono committee, Babe leads by example in donating numerous hours to the development of two projects in conjunction with Ryerson University and Pro Bono Law Ontario.

Ronda Bessner, Toronto — Called to the Bar in 1983, Ronda Bessner has led an extraordinary career as a lawyer and has made significant contributions to Ontario and its legal community through her leadership and involvement in the Women’s Law Association, as well as her leadership in serving the people of Ontario in five public inquiries. She is a Visiting Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, and recently co-designed and co-chaired a pre-inquiry roundtable on Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women. She is also an adjudicator on the Consent and Capacity Board.

Ronald F. Caza, Ottawa — Called to the Bar in 1989, Ronald Caza, a renowned minority language rights advocate, has been practising law in both official languages for over 25 years. A partner of CazaSaikaley LLP, he has made significant contributions to the Franco-Ontarian community, not only as a lawyer, but also through his assiduous work with countless community organizations and charities.

Orlando Da Silva, Toronto — Called to the Bar in 1995, Orlando Da Silva, during his presidency of the Ontario Bar Association, successfully brought the issues of mental illness and mental health to the forefront of the profession. He has shown extraordinary courage by sharing his personal experience and struggles with depression. Da Silva is counsel in the Crown Law Office – Civil, Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario. In 2015, Canadian Lawyer magazine named Da Silva one of the Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers in Canada.

David Estrin, Toronto — Called to the Bar in 1971, David Estrin is recognized as a true pioneer and leader in the development of environmental law in Canada and internationally through his work as a lawyer, author, mentor and educator. A former senior partner, he is now counsel with Gowling WLG and senior research fellow with the Centre for International Governance Innovation. In the 1970s, he was a co-founder and first general counsel for the Canadian Environmental Law Association and founding editor of the Canadian Environmental Law Reports. He started Canada’s first private environmental law boutique (1976), and authored several authoritative environmental law texts. Recently he co-founded the Environmental Justice and Sustainability Law Clinical Program at Osgoode Hall Law School and co-chaired the International Bar Association’s Presidential Task Force on Climate Change Justice and Human Rights.

Linda Gehrke, Toronto — Called to the Bar in 1979, Linda Gehrke has been a leader in the profession throughout her 35 years as a lawyer, adjudicator, and in her work as the Lobbyist Registrar for the City of Toronto, where she was responsible for implementing the first municipal lobbyist registry. Gehrke played key role in expanding accountability and transparency in Toronto’s government processes and this has served as a role model for other jurisdictions.

Kathy Laird, Toronto — Called to the Bar in 1979, Kathy Laird has used her career to promote access to justice and social equality. She has worked with others to develop new legal services and to reform laws affecting low income tenants, domestic workers, Aboriginal community members and human rights claimants. As a community clinic lawyer, she has represented the rights of people facing eviction and homelessness before the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the Supreme Court of Canada. Since 2008, Laird has been the Executive Director of the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, overseeing the establishment of a unique and valuable legal service for human rights claimants. Not satisfied with merely applying the law, Laird has pushed successfully for legislative, policy and institutional changes that promote equality.

Professor Errol Mendes, O.Ont., Ottawa — Called to the Bar in 1986, the University of Ottawa professor has made an extraordinary contribution as an academic, legal advisor, adjudicator and teacher. He is recognized as an expert on constitutional law, corporate governance, human rights and diversity. As commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Mendes has helped to develop several of the Commission’s new approaches to combating systemic discrimination in Ontario.

Peter Rosenthal, Toronto — Called to the Bar in 1992, Peter Rosenthal has devoted his legal career striving to increase social justice. He has represented homeless people, members of First Nations, dozens of political activists, small political parties, families of victims of police killings and many others. Rosenthal is also Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Toronto.

Professor Frederick Zemans, Toronto — Called to the Bar in 1966, Professor Frederick Zemans is a distinguished member of the Faculty of Law at Osgoode Hall Law School and a pioneer in the field of Alternative Dispute Resolution. He was the founding director of the Parkdale Community Legal Service clinic. Established in 1971, the clinic was a ground-breaking initiative in the legal profession. Zemans pioneered the experiential training of law students who provided legal services to low-income residents. The initiative was part of Osgoode’s Intensive Program in Poverty Law.

The 2016 William J. Simpson Distinguished Paralegal Award recipient is John Tzanis.

John Tzanis, Toronto — Licensed in 2008, John Tzanis is recognized for his leadership in the paralegal profession. He led the successful unification of the two provincial paralegal professional associations, leading to the establishment of the Ontario Paralegal Association. Tzanis is recognized for his extensive contributions on paralegal issues with colleges, the provincial government, and the Law Society. He is the owner and operator of Continental Legal Services Professional Corporation. In 2014, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Ontario Paralegal Association.

The 2016 Lincoln Alexander Award recipient is Mary Lou Dingle, Q.C.

Mary Lou Dingle, Q.C., Hamilton — Called to the Bar in 1964, Mary Lou Dingle is recognized for her lifetime of service to the Hamilton community through her outstanding community involvement and volunteerism. She is a trailblazer, mentor and role model to countless lawyers in Hamilton and beyond. As a solicitor, she has a high level of expertise and knowledge of estates and trusts.

The 2016 Laura Legge Award recipient is Lisa Borsook.

Lisa Borsook, Toronto — Called to the Bar in 1982, Lisa Borsook has demonstrated extraordinary achievement and leadership throughout her career as managing partner and now as executive partner at WeirFoulds LLP. Borsook is one of the first of few women to be named managing partner of a large law firm in Ontario. She is recognized for her contributions and advocacy of diversity and women in the legal profession, as well as her work on other boards and service in the community.

The inaugural J. Shirley Denison Award recipient is Jenny Vuay Quan.

Jenny Vuay Quan, Toronto — Licensed in 2012, paralegal Jenny Vuay Quan is the inaugural recipient of the J. Shirley Denison Award. Quan has served for more than 28 years as a Community Legal Worker for the Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic. For almost three decades, she has helped thousands of clients, many of whom are disadvantaged and suffer from mental illness and trauma.