Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA)’s H. Bruce. T. Hillyer Award

On the afternoon of Thursday, April 26th, 2018, I was presented with the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA)’s H. Bruce. T. Hillyer Award.

I am deeply honored to receive this award and to be recognized as someone who exemplifies the spirit of OTLA. It was really humbling to receive the award in the presence of so many leaders in our profession that afternoon.

Below is the speech I gave…

When I started to think about my thank you speech and what I was going to say the tragedy in Toronto had not happened.

It is hard to celebrate something when it is so close to this tragic event. I know all of our thoughts and prayers go out to the survivors and to the families of those who were so senselessly killed.

I did still however want to say a few words. I wanted to thank my law partner, Chris Dawson, who is here for nominating me and my life partner, my wife of 42 years, Rhonda who is not here, for putting up with me.

I have seen many changes in the legal profession over my many years in practice. Some good, others not so good. One of the important positives is the great increase of women in the practice of law and their increasing influence in the profession.

The ongoing efforts of inclusion and diversity are also a positive thing that I have been able to see unfold during my time as a lawyer and that the Members of the Bar now more accurately reflect the members of our society. When I graduated, my graduating class was mostly male and white. We still have work to do, but we are going in the right direction.

On the negative side are the increased Government intrusions into people’s rights and benefits who are victims of motor vehicle accidents. Something many of us have been fighting since 1990 and continue to fight. All of those killed or injured on Yonge Street this week will be victims again of our insurance system. I am sure that is not something that will be reported by the media or given any thought by the Government.

Another negative thing is the increasing trend towards having people tried, convicted and sentenced in the media without any opportunity to defend themselves. We also are seeing lawyers who speak out negatively about other lawyers who are advocating for someone or something that may be unpopular.
As advocates, we have a duty to advocate for our clients and to act for them even if we do not like them or their positions.

Voltaire is attributed with the statement “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

The strength of a democracy is the independence of its judiciary and we as advocates must always be fighting to ensure its preservations as it comes under increasing assault by our Governments, by the media and by the public.

Thank You.

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