A Thank You to Lawyers for Protecting Rights and Freedoms

  • April 18, 2018


A Thank You to Lawyers for Protecting Rights and Freedoms
Ontario lawyers celebrate the profession’s response to the 2017 U.S. travel bans

Toronto, ON – When the U.S. government spontaneously issued Executive Orders last year to prevent travellers from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, a group of fast-acting, compassionate lawyers moved quickly to help protect the rights of those affected travellers. 

On April 25th, the province’s largest voluntary legal association will recognize those lawyers for their outstanding demonstration of passion and commitment to upholding the law and defending civil liberties. 

The Ontario Bar Association, the voice of Ontario’s Legal Profession, will host its 2018 Awards Gala on April 25, 2018 at the Omni King Edward Hotel (37 King Street E., Toronto, ON) from 6:00 - 9:00 pm. The gala is an annual event celebrating exceptional contributions to the practice of law.

The winner of this year’s prestigious OBA President’s Award is the Canadian Cross-Border Legal Coalition (CCBLC). The CCBLC is a grassroots group of volunteer lawyers who mobilized to support individuals affected by the U.S. government’s “travel ban” Executive Orders in late January 2017 and who continue to reach out to affected individuals and communities connecting those in need with lawyers and organizations who can help advise on the Orders’ impact. 

Motivated purely by their passion to see no person deprived of the protection of the law, hundreds of lawyers arrived at Canadian airports at key moments this past year to assist travellers affected by the travel ban. Before long, it was these lawyers who established themselves – and the profession – as the trusted experts who could make sense of an otherwise chaotic situation. 

“To me, there is no more perfect embodiment of lawyering at its best than what the hundreds of CCBLC volunteers did this year for travellers affected by the US government’s Executive Orders last year,” said OBA President Quinn Ross. 

Each year, the OBA President selects a Canadian individual or organization that has made a significant contribution to the advancement of justice. 

“What’s outstanding about the CCBLC is that there were literally people in the air at the time the Orders came into force, and by the time those travellers had landed, there were already lawyers at the airport ready to assist,” said Ross. 

“Nobody knew what was happening or who would be affected, but these lawyers mobilized to form a coalition, organize themselves at airports and rolled up their sleeves to ensure people’s rights and freedoms were duly protected. They were the ones monitoring the situation on a minute-to-minute basis. They were liaising with airline officials, connecting with travellers, providing assistance wherever it was need. To me, there is no greater example of delivering access to justice than that.”

“I am really proud to be a part of the Coalition,” said Erin Simpson, a Toronto-based refugee lawyer, a member of the National Executive of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers and one of the original coordinators of the CCBLC. 

“I’m even prouder of our profession for the reaction that the Coalition has received. Not only did the Coalition move hundreds of volunteers lawyers to share their time and expertise, but we also have lawyers from across the country who see what we’ve done and are quick to congratulate us, rally behind us, and continue spreading the word of our work, which only fuels our drive to keep pressing forward. We’re grateful to the OBA for recognizing the significance of what we’re doing.”

The Canadian Cross Border Legal Coalition was formed in the immediate aftermath of the U.S.’s “travel ban” Executive Orders. In very short order, the initiatives developed into a national network of more than 500 volunteer lawyers who have responded at airports and have provided extensive outreach to support affected individuals.

Today, the lawyers remain committed to their cause. They continue to facilitate a coordinated effort across Canada to fight the ban, provide resources to the profession, educate the public about their rights, and help those who continue to be impacted by the ban. 


For ticket information, visit: www.oba.org/awardsgala2018

For more information, contact:
Amy Clark, OBA Media Relations & Communications
416-869-1047 x364; aclark@oba.org