Legal aid, diversity top issues in OBA election

Lawyers Karen Perron and Jeffrey Percival are running in an election for the future chair of the Ontario Bar Association.

Legal aid, diversity top issues in OBA election
Either Karen Perron or Jeffrey Percival will be elected second vice president of the OBA.

Lawyers Karen Perron and Jeffrey Percival are running in an election for the future chair of the Ontario Bar Association.

Either Perron or Percival will be elected second vice president and be next in line to lead the advocacy organization, which represents 17,000 lawyers, judges, and other members of the legal profession. Voting ends on Friday, June 28.

It will mark a transition period for the OBA, as Colin Stevenson succeeds Lynne Vicars as as chair and Charlene Theodore moves into the role of first vice president. The winner of the upcoming election — Perron or Percival — will succeed Theodore.

Both Perron and Percival list diversity and sustainable funding for legal aid as major issues on their platforms.

Percival said in his platform that the OBA should sustain its existing diversity initiatives, while Perron added on her website that she hoped the OBA would provide members with “toolkits” for issues such as gender equality, Francophone rights, and collaborations to “indigenize the OBA.”

Perron said that in light of recent cuts to legal aid funding, the OBA should have volunteering opportunities on its website so lawyers can more easily give back to those in need.

“We must advocate strongly for sustainable Legal Aid funding from the province and we should have a fulsome Council discussion on the role of Pro Bono services across Ontario,” said Percival in his campaign platform.

Perron is the organization’s chair of sections and a partner at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP in Ottawa. She works on commercial litigation, such as banking, bankruptcy and insolvency cases and directors' and officers' liability, BLG’s website says.

The OBA’s chair of professional development, Percival is a partner at Pallett Valo LLP, in Mississauga, where he heads the employment and labour practice. His practice includes defending car manufacturers and engineering firms from product liability and professional negligence claims, as well as defamation claims and defence work for architects and construction trust claims, Pallett Valo LLP’s website says.

In addition to highlighting needs for improved diversity and access to justice, Perron said she hopes to focus on “membership outreach” and improving access to the OBA if elected. She noted that her upbringing in Northern Ontario, where she worked from a young age, sparked her interest in business.

“I would ensure that the OBA steadfastly continues to push the CBA towards greater cost efficiencies and innovative funding models to further reduce the cost of membership,” she wrote, and suggested that the OBA institute a hotline, and a buddy or mentor system to keep members informed.

Percival’s other campaign points include creating an OBA app to combat “email fatigue” and improved webinar technology. He also said “resilience” is the cornerstone of his campaign.

“I have had to maintain my busy practice through the challenge of providing care and support for my mother, who was diagnosed and ultimately passed from pancreatic cancer, and through the extreme stress of separation and divorce while trying to be the best father possible,” he said.  “Without the assistance of mental health supports and caring colleagues, the intense pressure would have been insurmountable.” 

The OBA’s election comes after a competitive election for the Law Society of Ontario’s board of directors. Although the mandates of the two organizations are different, many benchers have histories of volunteering with the OBA, including LSO Treasurer Malcolm Mercer. Similarly, former OBA president Orlando Da Silva was recently elected as a bencher.

Percival said the OBA has an opportunity to distinguish itself from its regulatory counterpart.

“As the non-regulator, the OBA has a prime opportunity to increase member attraction through enhanced mental health awareness resources,” he said in a campaign statement.

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