Monday, June 15, 2009

The Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission is ready to get back to work after the appointment last week of Justice Murray Sinclair as chairman.

Also appointed as commissioners were educator and journalist Marie Wilson and Chief Wilton Littlechild from Maskawacis Cree Territory, who was the first Treaty First Nations person to obtain a law degree from the University of Alberta.

The appointments follow the October 2008 resignation of former TRC chairman and Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Harry LaForme, whose departure was later followed by two commissioners he’d accused of undermining his authority.

Sinclair was Manitoba’s first Aboriginal judge and is a third-degree member of the Midewiwin Society of the Ojibway.

He was appointed associate chief judge of the Provincial Court of Manitoba in 1988, around which time he also was appointed co-commissioner of Manitoba’s Aboriginal Justice Inquiry. He was appointed to the Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba in January 2001.

Six new judges have been appointed to the Ontario Court of Justice, beefing up the judicial presence in courtrooms across the province.

Justice Mara Green, called to the bar in 1996, previously practised criminal law in Toronto, focusing on cases involving the mentally ill, including Ontario Review Board hearings.

In 2002, she co-founded the firm Schreck & Greene, and has been involved in all levels of the criminal court including the Ontario Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of Canada. Greene has served as a board member of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association. She will preside in Toronto.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell, called in 1986, began his career practising in the private bar before becoming a prosecutor with the federal Department of Justice for 20 years.

He spent three years as deputy director of the Federal Prosecution Service, and in 2007 joined the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General as a member of the Guns and Gangs Unit. He also will preside in Toronto.

Justice Heather Perkins-McVey, called in 1988, embarked on her career as a criminal lawyer with the firm Shore Davis Perkins-McVey in Ottawa.

She has since worked as a sole practitioner focusing on criminal matters involving mental health issues. In 2008, she was named a special advocate by the federal Justice minister. She took part in developing mental health courts in Ottawa. She will preside in Ottawa.

Justice Wayne Rabley, called in 1984, has worked as a sole practitioner for his entire career, focusing on criminal and family law, along with civil litigation. Rabley was a founding member and the first elected president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association of Kitchener-Waterloo, and served as an executive member from 1998 to 2004. He will preside in London.

Justice Richard Schwarzl, called in 1990, began his career as a member of the private bar and part-time assistant Crown attorney. In 1992, he became a full-time prosecutor throughout southern Ontario. Schwarzl has acted as a dedicated Crown for domestic violence, sexual assault, and child-abuse prosecutions. He will preside in Brampton.

Justice Maria Speyer, called in 1988, started out as an associate at Giffen Lee & Wagner in Kitchener until 1991, when she became a partner at Grant Shields & Speyer in Cambridge for a year. Since 2003 she has been a prosecutor with the Ministry of the Attorney General, and became deputy Crown attorney for Toronto west.  She will preside in Hamilton.

WeirFoulds LLP litigation partner Frank Walwyn is the latest appointment to the Ontario Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee.

The 13-person committee is responsible for reviewing applications for judicial vacancies at the Ontario Court of Justice, deciding upon top applicants and interviewing them to compile a list of recommended applicants for the attorney general.

Walwyn also acts as president of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, is a director of The Advocates’ Society, and is a member of the board of Community Legal Education Ontario.

The University of Windsor has released its list of recipients of honourary degrees during its spring convocation schedule, and prominent lawyers are on the list.

Purdy Crawford, a graduate of Dalhousie Law School and Harvard Law School, will be recognized with an honourary doctor of laws degree.

Crawford practised with Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP before joining Imasco as CEO in 1985. He currently sits on the boards of several Canadian companies, and has been named a companion of the Order of Canada.
William Twining, a leading figure in British legal education, also will receive an honourary doctor of laws.

Baker & McKenzie  LLPLLP has raided Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP’s insolvency and restructuring practice, luring lawyers Chris Besant, Frank Spizzirri, and Lydia Salvi.

“We are excited to have Chris, Frank, and Lydia join the firm,” said Baker & McKenzie North American managing partner Peter Engstrom.
“Adding lawyers of this caliber will significantly strengthen the North American restructuring and insolvency practice - a key area especially in the current global economic climate.”

Besant will act as chairman of the firm’s Canadian financial restructuring and recovery practice. He has “significant experience” working for clients in various industries on all aspects of insolvency law, and also writes and speaks on the topic, said the firm in a release.

Spizzirri will focus on litigation and adversarial proceedings, while Salvi will work mainly on corporate restructurings, distressed merger and acquisition transactions, and secured financings.

“The attraction of this well-regarded team strengthens our existing capabilities in this area and ensures that we are well-positioned to service our clients’ needs both here in Canada and in the increasingly important cross-border market,” said Jim Holloway, managing partner of the firm’s Toronto office.

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