At the end of April, Ontario’s lawyers will elect or re-elect Benchers to the Law Society of Upper Canada. Benchers are elected for a four-year term and serve as the governing board of the Law Society. As representatives of Ontario’s legal community, these Benchers will shape the current and the future legal landscape.
The WLMP is not endorsing any Bencher Candidates. However, the issues facing Ontario’s and Canada’s legal community are complex and important. We encourage all lawyers eligible to cast a vote for change an innovation.
The need to address inequities faced by female lawyers, LGBTQ lawyers and racialized lawyers is paramount. Additionally, the growth of ABS models, access to justice issues and reviewing the Law Society’s LPP Articling program and future are articling are just some of the challenges facing Ontario’s legal community.
The WLMP feels strongly that Ontario’s Benchers should reflect true diversity. The Law Society’s Justicia program has done a lot to identify and address the issue of the retention of women in the law, but there is a still lot to do. The recent Racialized Lawyers report also raises many issues that must be addressed.
To help inform you as you make your decisions and cast your ballot, we will be posting a list of the female Benchers. Whether you were just Called to the Bar or have been a member of the Bar for many years, your vote matters. For information on casting your ballot, see the Law Society’s 2015 Bencher Election information.
The following list is listed in alphabetical order by surname. The information was gleaned from available posted online sources such as LinkedIn, Precedent Magazine, The Law Times and individual Bencher election web pages and the Law Society’s 2015 Bencher Candidate list.
Female Bencher Candidates Toronto Region
Karen Andrews – Ms. Andrews has been working in the Community Legal Clinic system for about twenty years. She feels strongly that access to justice is a key issue, in particular to low-income Ontarians. She graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1993.
Renatta Austin – Ms. Austin was Called to the Bar in 2013. Among the legal services she provides are administrative law and civil litigation as well as government relations advice. Ms. Austin’s Bencher campaign theme is #younglawyerswantin. One of the areas she is interested in focusing on is modernizing Ontario’s legal profession in an effort to help Ontarians access justice.
Rebecca Catherine Durcan – Ms. Durcan’s practice focuses on professional regulation with Steinecke Maciura LeBlanc where she is a partner. Through her practice, Ms. Durcan is in touch with the trends in professional regulation and its public interest role in maintaining public confidence. If elected, she is interested in working on supporting small firms and increasing diversity within the profession. Ms. Durcan completed her Masters in Health Law in 2006 at Osgoode Hall Law School.
Avvy Yao-Yao Go – Ms. Go is running for re-election as Bencher. She series on the Law Society’s Access to Justice Committee, Equity and Aboriginal Issues Committee, the Human Rights Monitoring Group and the Challenges Facing Racialized Licensees Working Group. Ms. Go is also a founding officer of the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (“FACL”). If re-elected, she hopes to ensure that recommendations from the Challenges Facing Racialized Lawyers Report are implemented.
Barbara Hendrickson – Ms. Hendrickson’s practice focuses on securities. She has been active with the CBA. If elected, among the issues Ms. Hendrickson wishes to address is affordable CPD and new solutions to training new lawyers.
Janet Leiper – Ms. Leiper was Called to the Bar in 1987. She is a sole practitioner, who focuses on criminal and administrative advocacy. She has served on numerous Law Society committees including: Audit and Finance, Professional Regulation, Equity and Aboriginal and Access to Justice. In 2014, Ms. Leiper completed her term as the City of Toronto’s Integrity Commissioner.
Ishfahan Merali – Ms. Merali has served as Tribunal Counsel at the Consent & Capacity Board since 2012. She is running in the Bencher Election, with “running mate“ Bencher Janet Leiper. If elected, one of her goals is increasing accessibility and inclusiveness at the Law Society in a meaningful way. She has spent her entire public service career working to advance the rights of women, and other diverse groups who face barriers and challenges in society. Previously, Ms. Merali served as Counsel, Ministry of the Attorney General and Ontario Human Rights Commission and held the position of Equity Officer (Senior Position) at University of Toronto from 2009-2010.
Janet E. Minor – Current Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada and was elected as a Bencher in 2006. Treasurer Minor was Called to the Bar in 1975. She serves as General Counsel in Ontario’s Ministry of Attorney General. She has served on numerous Law Society committees and was a Founding Director of the Association of Law Officers of the Crown.
Barbara Murchie – Ms. Murchie is running for re-election. She is a partner at Bennett Jones LLP. During her first term as Bencher, Ms. Murchie serves on a number of committee such as the professional standards, the retention of women in private practice and the LawPro Board. One of her priorities is increasing access to justice.
Sandra Y. Nishikawa– Ms. Nishikawa was Called to the Bar in both Ontario and New York in 1999. She is counsel at the Ministry of the Attorney General, Crown Law Office Civil Division. Ms. Nishikawa is the Chair of the Equity Advisory Group and was involved in the Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees project and The Action Group on Access to Justice. If elected, she plans to focus on access to justice and monitoring the Law Society’s Law Practice Program to ensure it does not become a second tier program that disproportionately impacts equality seeking groups.
Gina Papageorgiou – Ms. Papageorgiou is a sole practitioner and she is also counsel to the Class Proceedings Fund of the Law Foundation. She is the Vice-Chair and Treasurer of the Human Rights Legal Support Centre. Ms. Papageorgiou is the former President of the Barbara Schlifer Clinic. If elected, she plans to make access to justice and diversity issues.
Susan Jane von Achten – Ms. Von Achten is a defence lawyer in Toronto.
Tanya C. Walker – Ms. Walker opened her own law firm, Walker Law Professional Corporation five years ago. In 2014, she received the National Nar Association, Chair’s Award for Outstanding Services for her work as Community Service Co-Chair, from the Young Lawyers Division. If elected, some of the issues she plans to focus on include the issues faced by newly Called lawyers as well as ensuring increased diversity.
Tannis Allison Walker – Ms. Walker is a lawyer in Toronto.
Heather L. Zordel – Ms. Zordel is a partner at Cassels Brock & Blackwell LPP. She has been practicing corporate and securities law for over 25 years. Ms. Zordel believes Convocation would benefit from a corporate solicitor’s perspective.