After many meetings, phone calls, and emails; after drafting numerous articles and reports; after many miles on the road and in the air; many speaking engagements and many meals away from home, my term as your president comes to an end.
Many have asked me what I will do with my time when my term has finished: I will once again buy groceries and eat at home, I will resume my piano lessons and I will finally learn to speak French. And I will dive into some other organization or some other cause. Because as someone much smarter than me asked many years ago: "What is the use of living if be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?"
So although I will soon no longer be your president, EcoJustice will still be striving for justice for a clean safe environment; Maystar will still be be striving for justice for immigrants and minorities and for diversity in government and corporate board appointments; the Canadian Civil Liberties Association will still be striving for the advancement of fundamental human rights and civil liberties; Lawyers Rights Watch Canada will continue its efforts to support the rule of law and the rights of lawyers and judges to act independently; and Samara will continue to work for all Canadians in advocating for an improved, fairer and more effective and respected democracy. And our association, the OBA, will continue to advocate for our profession, for the rule of law, for the public we serve, and for the advancement and improvement of the justice system.
I am grateful for the many lawyers I have met and worked with through my connection with the OBA: initially within my own practice area (insurance litigation) and thereafter extended to lawyers in large firms, small firms, and sole practitioners practising in all areas of the law in Toronto, all over Ontario, and across the country. I am grateful for the discussions I have had with colleagues about the sacrifices and stress associated with the work we do for our clients, our communities and for the public. It has all been so incredibly gratifying. I have met many lawyers I would not otherwise have met and many who will now be lifelong friends.
Thank you to Immediate Past President Paul Sweeny for speaking out against bad lawyer jokes, initiating our "Why I" campaign and then continuing it over this past year. Paul deserves our gratitude for an incredible effort in helping us to appreciate ourselves for what we do.
Thank you to our executive director Steve Pengelly and all of his staff. Steve is always there! His advice is invaluable. Thank you to Valerie Dallas, our executive lead. She got me where I had to be without fail and she wouldn't let Steve or I drop the ball on anything. Thank you to Elizabeth Hall, our director of government and stakeholder relations - what incredible advice, both directly to me and behind the scenes. And thanks to Ed, Filippo, Cathy, Gita, Jon, Tracy, Lynn, Jill and everyone else on staff who do such a great job of supporting our volunteers and members. Thank you. Thank you.
To Vice Presidents Pascale Daignault and Orlando Dasilva and Treasurer Doug Downey, Secretary Ed Upienicks and all of our board members, thank you for your guidance and marshalling of the many issues we faced over the past year. Thank you also for your attendance at meetings and events on behalf of our great association.
Pascale Daigneault, our first vice president, took on each and every task with enthusiasm, intensity and intelligence. She was always prepared to stand in for me when I was double booked or simply needed a day off. My thanks to Pascale. She will be a terrific president next year with Orlando standing behind her ready to fill in when necessary.
The OBA Executive and Board members, and entire Council worked to improve relationships with sister organizations by visiting and speaking with many County and District Law Associations and with many equity seeking organizations. We always complimented them on their successes and reminded them of ours. I believe close relationships between lawyer associations benefits all lawyers.
Our relationship with the Law Society is strong. We have worked co-operativly on a number of issues. Elizabeth Hall has close ties with Law Society staff members. Steve Pengelly has a good relationship with CEO Robert Lapper and I with Treasurer Tom Conway. I believe the Law Society appreciates that we are truly the "voice of the profession in Ontario" as do the offices of the attorney general and the offices of all three of our chief justices.
When I assumed office it was in the shadow of headlines such as “Governor General takes profession to task for being unprofessional” and “top lawyers say profession is broken.” I hope that together, over the past year, through our advocacy, community of lawyers, and communications campaign, we have done our small part in moving perceptions of lawyers from being “unprofessional” and “broken” to being what we truly are, which is dedicated and committed contributors to the betterment of our society.
You have no idea how honoured I am, and how privileged I feel, for having had the opportunity to represent our association over this past year. I will never forget this year. It is the highlight of my legal career - and one of the highlights of my life. Thank you all so very much.