Law Society Announces 2016 Award Recipients

by pmnationtalk on March 11, 2016497 Views

Law Society introduces J. Shirley Denison Award in recognition of significant contributions to access to justice and poverty issues.

Toronto, ON — Fourteen members of Ontario’s legal professions will be recognized for their exceptional career achievements and contributions to their communities at the annual Law Society Awards ceremony on May 25, 2016, at Osgoode Hall.

“This year’s recipients are outstanding legal professionals and I look forward to honouring them at our upcoming ceremony,” said Law Society Treasurer Janet E. Minor. “I am also very pleased to present the very first J. Shirley Denison Award, established in honour of former Treasurer John Shirley Denison, KC. This award will be bestowed annually upon a lawyer or paralegal in recognition of significant contributions to access to justice and the relief of poverty.

“Our 2016 honourees have very impressive and diverse professional experience and expertise — from the private sector, public sector and academia. They are leaders in their fields — from environmental law to language rights and human rights. They are involved with our professions and in their communities and in the advancement of social justice issues. Each recipient represents the best of our professions and our professions’ core principles — commitment to the rule of law and access to justice.

The awards presented in May are: The Law Society Medal, The Lincoln Alexander Award, The Laura Legge Award, The William J. Simpson Distinguished Paralegal Award and the inaugural The J. Shirley Denison Award.

The 2016 honourees are:

Law Society Medal recipients (10)
Jennifer Babe, Toronto — Called to the Bar in 1982, Jennifer 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. 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 Ontario public inquiries. She is also 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 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.

David Estrin, Toronto — Called to the Bar in 1971, David Estrin is recognized as a true pioneer 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 Gowlings LLP and senior research fellow with the Centre for International Governance Innovation. David’s personal commitment to the protection of the environment led to the creation of CELA (Canadian Environmental Law Association) in 1970, Canada’s first law clinic dedicated to such issues.

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 has played key role in expanding accountability and transparency in Toronto’s government processes and this has served as a role model for other jurisdictions.

Katherine Laird, Toronto — Called to the Bar in 1979, Katherine Laird has dedicated her entire professional life/career to the improvement of the lives of those most marginalized in Ontario. She has been a leader in developing law reform proposals, speciality community clinics, legislative amendments and other legal initiatives to serve the most vulnerable. Since 2008, Laird has been the Executive Director of the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, overseeing the establishment and development of a unique and valuable legal service for human rights claimants.

Professor Errol Mendes, OOnt., 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 dedicated his legal career to representing those who are most marginalized and disadvantaged in our society, including vulnerable youth, homeless citizens, and members of Indigenous communities. He is widely recognized as a strong advocate on social justice issues. Rosenthal is also a professor of mathematics 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.

William J. Simpson Distinguished Paralegal Award recipient
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.

Lincoln Alexander Award recipient
Mary Lou Dingle, QC, Hamilton — Called to the Bar in 1964, Mary Lou Dingle is recognized for her lifetime of service to the Hamiltoncommunity 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.

Laura Legge Award recipient
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.

  1. Shirley Denison Award recipient
    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.

The Law Society regulates lawyers and paralegals in Ontario in the public interest. The Law Society has a mandate to protect the public interest, to maintain and advance the cause of justice and the rule of law, to facilitate access to justice for the people of Ontario and act in a timely, open and efficient manner.

Media Contact

Susan Tonkin, Communications Advisor, | 416-947-7605

The Law Society of Upper Canada
Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON, M5H 2N6
Follow us on Twitter @LawsocietyLSUC


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