Paying it Forward: OBA Distinguished Service Award Winner Frank Walwyn

  • 26 avril 2016

Frank WalwynThose who know Frank Walwyn may wonder how he finds the time to practise law, with all the hours he devotes to doing good work in the community.

A leading litigator with WeirFoulds LLP in Toronto, where he specializes in multijurisdictional business disputes, including anti-corruption, anti-money laundering and regulatory compliance in Canada and in the Caribbean, Frank manages his practice alongside his dedication to improving the legal system in Ontario. He is an active speaker, panelist and member of many legal and community boards and initiatives. He is a long-time member of the Ontario Bar Association, a past president of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL) and a current member of its advisory board; a member of the International Training Committee of The Advocates' Society, a member of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee for appointments to the Ontario Provincial Court and an immediate past member of the federal Judicial Appointments Committee of the Superior Court of Justice - Greater Toronto Area. Frank is also a member of the Dean's Advisory Council for Queen's University Faculty of Law and a former member of the Dean’s Advisory Council for Ryerson University's The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education.

He has been recognized for his contributions at many levels, including the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 and the Law Society of Upper Canada's Lincoln Alexander Award in 2013.

The Ontario Bar Association has awarded Frank Walwyn with its 2016 Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his many contributions and career achievements within the legal profession in Ontario and for the benefit of the residents of Ontario. The award was presented by OBA Awards Committee Member Robert Shawyer at a special gala event on April 20th.

Says R. Lee Akazaki, Past President of the Association, “Throughout the time I have known Frank, he is a singularly unique diplomat of the Bar, an exemplar of civility and a tremendous lawyer.”

Born in St. Kitts to a rather comfortable middle-class lifestyle, Frank and his family – including all six of his siblings - immigrated to Canada in 1974. Mr. and Mrs. Walwyn, who ran a local school, greatly valued education and wanted their children to have a chance to attend university. As there were no universities in St. Kitts, they uprooted the family and made the move to Ontario.

Once in Canada, the Walwyn family experienced a drastic and abrupt change. Despite their education and experience, Frank’s parents struggled to find employment in teaching and instead held multiple jobs, including factory work. At school, Frank did not fit in and was often teased for being different.

Despite these challenges, Frank did well in school and graduated as valedictorian. Upon graduation, he hesitated to apply to university for fear that his family would not be able to afford it. Outraged, his parents and teachers encouraged him to enroll at the University of Toronto. From there he went on to Queen’s Law, working as an auto mechanic to finance his education.

Frank is now licensed to practise law in Canada, and is also a member of the bars of Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Dominica, Grenada and St. Kitts and Nevis. The cases Frank has litigated range from multi-jurisdictional corporate disputes involving shareholder rights and director's duties, to commercial disputes, to complex trusts and estates litigation, frequently involving assets in foreign jurisdictions.

Many of the cases in which Frank is involved have led to important or precedent-setting judgments, including judgments in the areas of venue selection, constitutional rights and freedoms, the court's jurisdiction to grant relief involving foreign elements, and electronic discovery.

Recently, Frank represented a minority shareholder of a Nevis LLC worth over US$500 million with respect to a claim for relief from unfair prejudice in hard-fought litigation in Nevis and the Commercial Division of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in BVI, and in contemporaneous related actions in Belize and the US.

As a Bay Street litigator, Frank isn’t one to shy away from a good challenge, a trait that was perhaps instilled by his parents’ extraordinary sacrifices. Through his volunteer work, he has dedicated much of his time to paying it forward, effecting change within the legal system in order to ensure all Canadians, new and native-born, have equal opportunity.

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