LSO issues awards recognizing excellence

LSO issues awards recognizing excellence

Members of Ontario's legal professions will be recognized for their outstanding career achievements and contributions to their communities at the annual Law Society Awards ceremony on May 22, 2024.

Below are the 2024 recipients of these prestigious awards:

William J. Simpson Distinguished Paralegal Award: Charlene Nero

Charlene became licensed as a paralegal in 2014.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Charlene led the legal department of LIUNA (Labourers’ International Union of North America) Local 3000 in its representation of thousands of healthcare and frontline workers, defending their rights and ensuring their protection on the job. Her professionalism and tireless devotion in her representation of these frontline healthcare heroes is remarkable and she consistently achieves positive results for members.

In 2021, Charlene became national president of LIUNA Local 3000 and was also promoted from legal director to senior director. As president, she leads nearly 10,000 union members, most of whom are women working in the healthcare field. As senior director, she oversees the operations of the legal and organizing departments, while playing an integral role in collective bargaining in the hospital and long-term care sectors.

In 2022, Charlene was appointed to the Canadian Council of the Canadian Labour Congress. She is also a vice president of the Ontario Federation of Labour.

Whether through her legal seminars, mentoring of colleagues or in the daily course of her work, Charlene demonstrates an unwavering commitment to making the law and the practice of law more accessible for all.

Lincoln Alexander Award: Juliet Chang Knapton

Called to the Bar in 2005, Juliet Chang Knapton exemplifies commitment to the service of the profession, public and community-at-large.

This award is presented annually in recognition of an Ontario lawyer or paralegal who has demonstrated long-standing interest and commitment to the public and to the pursuit of community service on behalf of residents of Ontario.

Throughout Juliet's career as a legal educator, civil litigator and tribunal member, she has been a capacity-builder. She is a perpetual mentor and develops long-term relationships. She gives tirelessly to support and empower those from within and outside of the legal profession, particularly those from equity-seeking backgrounds.

Juliet is the Chair of the Roundtable of Legal Diversity Associations (RODA) - a coalition of equity-seeking Canadian legal associations - and has held a number of leadership positions at the Ontario Bar Association. She has served as a member of the federal Judicial Advisory Committee and has been an active volunteer with a variety of community and advocacy groups including the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers, LSO Equity Advisory Group, the County of Carleton Law Association, public and Chinese language school councils, the Ottawa Lawyers Feed the Hungry program and the Emily Murphy Non-Profit Housing Corporation.

Juliet’s commitment to inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility principles and practices are rooted in her desire to serve with compassion. Her unceasing efforts on behalf of marginalized groups make Juliet an inspiration to her colleagues and the legal profession.

Laura Legge Award: Julie Lassonde

Called to the Bar in 2005, Julie (she/they) exemplifies leadership through her advancement of social justice issues and her commitment to inclusivity and diversity.

Julie’s raison d'être is quite simply to advance social justice, but there is nothing simple about how they go about this important work. Their passion for social justice has led to a creative and holistic approach, working with a variety of stakeholders — from political and legal contacts — to community organizations, to find the best outcomes for clients from vulnerable populations.

Julie co-founded the first Francophone women shelter in Toronto. She has worked with the Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes and the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic for women survivors of intimate-partner violence and sexual assault. She previously served as equity and inclusion advisor and has been working as a mediator on harassment and discrimination issues for McGill University. Deeply committed to equity for 2SLGBTQIA+ people, Julie also collaborates with Francoqueer. She has been a member of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, acted as designated representative for the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada and currently is a commissioner at the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Julie is also a performance artist in the visual arts and was previously an artist-in-residence at Osgoode Hall Law School. Julie is a shining example in her community and in the legal professions for tirelessly upholding their values and ideals while advancing social justice causes.

Shirley Denison Award: Trudy McCormick

This award is bestowed upon an Ontario lawyer or paralegal in recognition of significant contributions to access to justice and/or poverty issues.

Called to the Bar in 1987, Trudy McCormick has served as the Northwest Community Legal Clinic's (NCLC) executive director since its founding in 2009.

The clinic’s journey and the lives it has touched have been inextricably shaped by Trudy’s tireless efforts to provide high-quality services to her community and her commitment to addressing the unique legal needs of low-income people in rural Northwestern Ontario.

Trudy’s leadership has left an indelible mark on the Ontario community legal clinic system. Trudy was instrumental in establishing the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario as a force for advocacy on behalf of clinics and the low-income clients they serve. She has routinely led engagement and negotiation efforts with provincial officials and Legal Aid Ontario to ensure that the needs of clinics are understood and reflected in funding and policy decisions.

Under Trudy’s direction, the NCLC mobilizes its resources towards positive social change and advocacy that supports the basic needs of marginalized people, including housing, food security, mental health and social inclusion. These efforts are rooted in a holistic vision – championed by Trudy – that access to justice is reflected in, and codependent on, our capacity for community health, safety and wellness.

Law Society Medal: Dianne G. Corbiere, Rob Cunningham, Carole M. Dagher, Milton A. Davis, Raj Dhir, Professor Mayo Moran

The Law Society Medal is awarded to lawyers for outstanding service within the profession, whether in the area of practice, in the academic sphere, or in some other professional capacity where the service is in accordance with the highest ideals of the legal profession.

Dianne G. Corbiere

Dianne G. Corbiere

Called to the Bar in 1998, Dianne Corbiere is a managing partner of one the first Anishinaabe-owned and operated law firms in Ontario. She is the former president and board member of the Indigenous Bar Association.

In her 29 years at Nahwegahbow Corbiere, Dianne has continually championed the advancement of legal and social justice for First Nations Peoples in Canada. She was instrumental in the evolution of case law.  Most recently, she has been involved in, Restoule v Canada at the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada. She is also part of the class counsel team representing the Assembly of First Nations in Assembly of First Nations et al. v Canada. Both cases have achieved historic Canadian compensation awards for the First Nation clients.

Dianne served as an elected bencher of the Law Society of Ontario from 2015 to 2023, at a time when the legal professions were called upon to substantively respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. She has been instrumental in educating, informing and shaping policy to ensure the Law Society and the legal community at large is responsive and accountable to the country’s Indigenous reconciliation work.

Rob Cunningham

Called to the Bar in 1994, Rob Cunningham has devoted his remarkable legal career to tobacco control.

As a full-time lawyer and senior policy analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society, Rob has made exceptional contributions in law reform and is recognized nationally and internationally as an expert and leader in tobacco control. Rob’s ground-breaking reforms include playing a central role in using photos of health effects in tobacco warning labels – a practice recognized and now used by more than 135 countries/jurisdictions around the world. These reforms have significantly reduced smoking prevalence in Canada among adults and youth.

Rob has acted as an advisor to the World Health Organization and to national governments and health organizations worldwide, testified on 54 occasions before House of Commons/Senate committees and testified on 32 occasions before provincial/territorial legislative committees. He has been awarded a medal from the World Health Organization, been named a “National Public Health Hero” by the Canadian Public Health Association and selected by Maclean’s magazine as one of 100 Canadians to watch.

Rob’s dedication has saved thousands of lives, prevented vast numbers of youth from using tobacco and will continue to benefit generations to come.

Carole M. Dagher

Called to the Bar in New York in 2002 and Ontario in 2006, Carole M. Dagher’s professional journey has spanned diverse sectors. Carole started her career practicing in the capital markets group at Shearman & Sterling LLP.

She then spent 14 years in progressively senior roles in the banking industry and is currently vice president, legal, at Loblaw.

Carole demonstrates a deep commitment to mental health advocacy which is rooted in her lived experience with mental illness. She has channeled her mental health journey into an impactful mission to raise awareness and destigmatize mental illness in the legal profession; regularly speaking about mental health across a variety of industries and media platforms, including on behalf of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the CAMH Foundation.

She is the co-editor of “The Right Not to Remain Silent: The Truth About Mental Health in the Legal Profession,” a book scheduled for release in 2024, that features her story as well as that of other legal professionals about working in the legal sector while dealing with various mental illnesses.

Carole consistently demonstrates a commitment to coaching, mentoring and mental health guidance — a true trailblazer in the legal community, acting as a strategic counsel and promoting legal excellence, well-being and inclusivity.

Milton A. Davis

Milton A. Davis

Called to the Bar in 1978, Milton A. Davis has made integral contributions to the development of law in the areas of professional negligence, real estate, mortgages and debtor-creditor relations. He has been involved as counsel in over 200 reported decisions, at all levels, including the Supreme Court of Canada.

Milton has lectured and written extensively in the areas of real estate, mortgage remedies, injunctions, civil procedure, evidence and trial advocacy. He is a generous mentor to junior lawyers and a leader within his firm and the professions.

He has worked as a champion of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies and is a member of Lawyers4Wiesenthal, a group of legal professionals dedicated to countering racism and antisemitism. As a lawyer, Milton has upheld the ideals of the profession, being a strong and consistent voice against intolerance, hate, bigotry and prejudice of every kind.

Milton has been central to the development of countless young lawyers’ careers, nurturing a culture of excellence in their advocacy and in their service to the profession. He has demonstrated an unfailing commitment to the profession as an advocate, mentor, educator and lawyer.

Raj Dhir

Called to the Bar in 1998, Raj Dhir is a highly respected human rights lawyer and social justice advocate.

He has dedicated his career to protecting and advancing human rights, serving vulnerable populations and leading transformational change to address systemic discrimination.

As counsel at the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), Raj began his career litigating ground-breaking cases that continue to be referenced today. As executive director, he led the OHRC’s inquiry into anti-Black racism by the Toronto Police Service, which was cited with approval by the Supreme Court of Canada and influenced important policy changes for addressing systemic racism in policing, such as race-based data collection. He also led the Right to Read inquiry, resulting in, among other things, provincial changes to the English and French language curricula. In his current role as the executive director of Indigenous justice policy at the Ministry of the Attorney General, Raj is providing leadership to Ontario on the enforcement and prosecution of First Nations laws.

Throughout his trailblazing career, Raj has championed diversity, inclusion and anti-racism, and has also been a mentor in helping lawyers navigate their careers. He has achieved excellence through his unwavering dedication, expertise and exemplary commitment to public service.

Professor Mayo Moran

Called to the Bar in 2012, Professor Moran is currently the provost and vice-chancellor of Trinity College at the University of Toronto. She was appointed dean in 2006, becoming the first woman to hold this position.

Professor Moran is the author of Rethinking the Reasonable Person.  Her current work on historic injustice includes The Restitution Dialogues and a forthcoming book, The Problem of the Past and How to Fix It.

In her role as Dean, Professor Moran spearheaded law school engagement on gender and diversity in the legal profession, foreign trained professionals and access to justice for middle income earners.  She also developed a ground-breaking mental health program for students.

Professor Moran served for 14 years as chair of the Residential Schools Oversight Committee, which oversaw the Independent Assessment Process under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Under her leadership, the committee oversaw the settlement of more than 38,000 claims by residential school survivors. She also chaired the panel that recommended the creation of Ontario’s legislation addressing strategic lawsuits against public participation, was invited to conduct the second review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and was deeply engaged in the development of the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act.

Human Rights Award

The Human Rights Award recognizes outstanding contributions to the advancement of human rights and/or the promotion of the rule of law provincially, nationally or internationally.

Prakash Diar began his career in his Native South Africa, exposing the unjust apartheid system, where he defended many political prisoners.

While fighting for justice and exposing the perversion of the rule of law, he was arrested at court and detained in solitary confinement for a month without charge. As a result of his work, Prakash’s life was threatened by the state. Canada facilitated his safe passage to Ottawa in 1989.

After being called to the Ontario Bar in 1993, Prakash joined the Canadian Human Rights Commission where he litigated precedent-setting cases involving systemic racial discrimination.

Prakash joined the Department of Justice in 2000, focusing on reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, one of the most pressing issues facing Canada. Between 2018 and 2021, Prakash trained more than 2,000 Ministry of Justice employees on reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. He also worked on developing Canada’s Indigenous Justice Strategy to address systemic discrimination and the over-representation of Indigenous and Black Peoples in the criminal legal system.

In 2022 Prakash received the Diversity Award from South Asian Bar Association of Toronto and the Pioneer Award from the South Asian Bar Association of North America.

Prakash’s human rights work and the obstacles he has faced have led to an inspiring career that reflects the highest ideals of the legal profession.