The Top 25 Most Influential - Government/Non-Profits/Associations

  • Subtitle: Cover Story
Written by  Posted Date: August 5, 2013


Justice France Charbonneau

Chairwoman, Charbonneau Commission, Quebec

A decade ago, Justice France Charbonneau, then a Crown prosecutor with 23 years of trials under her belt, successfully took down the once elusive Hell’s Angels boss Maurice “Mom” Boucher, who is now serving a life sentence for the murder of two prison guards. Now her work as the head of the Charbonneau Commission, the public inquiry into allegations of widespread corruption in Quebec’s multibillion-dollar construction industry, could ultimately have an important impact on how business is conducted in the province, help prevent corruption in the awarding of public contracts, and limit undue influence of elected officials. The Charbonneau Commission has shaken up Quebec politics. Corruption allegations that surfaced at the commission led to Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay’s resignation, and to the arrest of 37 politicians, bureaucrats, and construction bosses, including former Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt and Montreal interim mayor Michael Applebaum. By taking on some of Quebec’s toughest cases, Charbonneau has developed a reputation for being an even tougher presence on the bench.

What voters had to say: “No lawyer or judge is having as significant an impact on Canadian legal culture this year.”

Jean-Pierre Blais

Chairman, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Gatineau, Que.

Jean-Pierre Blais, a career public servant who has worked at the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Department of Canadian Heritage, took over the CRTC at a time of significant change in the industry. In an ambitious set of proposals, Blais has laid out his view of a regulatory regime based on a convergence of public and private sector interests. In 2012, he released a three-year plan promising to “create, connect, and protect.” Recently Blais introduced the CRTC’s new wireless code, which includes some long-awaited regulations of cellular service providers. The code will require providers to stick to the terms of their contracts, limit the amortization period for cell phone contracts, and put caps on overcharges.

What voters had to say:  “Making waves with a consumer focus as head of the CRTC.”

Geoffrey Cowper
Partner, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, Vancouver

As chairman of the British Columbia Justice Reform Initiative, Geoffrey Cowper was tasked with crafting a proposal to modernize the criminal justice system and help carry it into the 21st century. After incorporating input from over a hundred members of the justice system and the public, Cowper produced his report, “A Criminal Justice System for the 21st Century.” The B.C. Civil Liberties Association praised the report for laying a path for system-wide improvements to timeliness and accessibility. The resulting Justice Reform and Transparency Act, which received Royal assent in March, promises to fulfill key recommendations from Cowper’s report.

What the panel had to say: “Geoff Cowper has literally written the book on much-needed justice reform in B.C.”

Wayne MacKay
Professor, Yogis & Keddy Chair in Human Rights Law,
Schulich School of Law, Halifax

Since several tragic cases in the news led the public to demand action to prevent cyberbullying, Wayne MacKay is increasingly looked to as an authoritative voice. As chairman of the Nova Scotia Task Force on Cyberbullying, MacKay produced a report in 2012, subtitled “There’s No App for That,” which has been cited by the Supreme Court and underpins recent anti-bullying legislative efforts. Since then MacKay has continued to campaign for a more robust response to the problem, calling on Nova Scotia’s newly appointed anti-bullying co-ordinator to spend less time collecting data and more time creating anti-bullying programs. He also suggested the province add a course on “digital citizenship” to school curriculums, and has advocated for making bullying a separate offence under the law.

What voters had to say: “Professor MacKay’s work on bullying could literally save young people’s lives. I can’t think of any more noble contribution from a legal scholar.”

André Marin
Ombudsman, Province of Ontario, Toronto

As the person responsible for investigating complaints about Ontario government services, you would expect André Marin to have his hands full, and he does. Last year, Marin started looking into the issue of closed-door meetings in Ontario municipalities. He also launched an investigation into the lack of services for adults suffering from autism, and criticized the Ontario Provincial Police for failing to take action on post-traumatic stress disorder. Recently he’s been pushing to have his office granted oversight powers over the embattled air ambulance service ORNGE, and he has begun to address allegations of excessive use of force by correctional officers. In his annual report, he called the province to the mat for not following up on promised changes in a variety of sectors. Many Ontarians have come to see Marin as an honest and tenacious advocate who has been effective in pushing the boundaries to ensure they are treated fairly and their tax dollars are not wasted.

What voters had to say: “Holding those in power responsible and accountable, Marin is the voice of reason, logic, justice and of our society’s most marginalized citizens. Courageous, tenacious, principled, innovative.”

Page 1:     Introduction
Page 2:    Top 5 in Corporate-Commercial Law
Page 3:    Top 5 Changemakers
Page 4:    Top 5 in Criminal Law/Human Rights
Page 6:    Top 5 In-House Counsel
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0 # Court ClerkEileen Cummins 2016-06-05 20:38
Ms. Cheryl Goodier is a hard working, tenacious, passionate crown attorney who advocates for those who have been victims of child abuse and/or sexual abuse. She makes a difference in this world.
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0 # missthabsile 2014-01-17 14:46
this is the best criminal laywer
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+1 # Be proactive not reactiveAnon 2013-08-07 17:38
If you want to see a variety of different names and faces in the list, you should nominate lawyers whom you feel are deserving of the honour. All the people listed here were nominated by someone else. They didn't pick the names out of a hat.
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-5 # Response to Harry BlaierMartha Abbott 2013-08-07 13:58
Mr Blaier, I don't have to meet you to know that you are white. I did my homework before responding to you. If you are not Harry Blaier from a law firm in Toronto and from U of Toronto, then I must be mistaken - however, I am pretty sure that I am not. Please do not purport to lecture to me about logic and fairness. You have already shown your prejudice by the implications in your comments that recognising minority lawyers` achievements in this context would be tantamount to tokenism. It is people like you, who pretend to be impartial, who are the real obstacles to fairness and justice for minorities in the legal profession in Canada. Please show me in which years a minority, who was not Native & Canadian, was selected for this esteemed list. Yet, you would have us believe that this selection process is fair and unbiased. Trying to convince a white man of the existence of racism and prejudice - there`s a first.
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-5 # Response to Harry BlaierMartha Abbott 2013-08-07 10:51
Naturally, the minute that someone stands up for the blatant prejudice shown to minorities in the legal profession, we get the racists like you, Harry, who also suggest that selecting a minority would be based only on tokenism. My point, which you chose to miss, is that out of the significant number of minority lawyers in Canada, who are all high achievers - based on their merit and despite the prejudice they encounter daily - not one managed to be selected. Perhaps you never read the statistics and reports about prejudice at the Bar. But then, we are asking those who perpetrate the prejudice, to try to understand the insidious effects of it - not really in their interests, is it? The irony is that some of those selected are called champions of "diversity" but even a casual glance at their employees will reveal a lily-white brigade. Of course, no one expects people like you to understand, from your Ivory Tower- pun intended.
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0 # LawyerHarry Blaier 2013-08-07 11:54
Oh my. First, I just don't "get it" and then I'm an out and out racist. I certainly hope, Ms. Abbott, that in the course of your practice you bring a bit more logic to bear. You call me a racist simply for disagreeing with you. This old fallacy of logic is called "poisoning the well"--i.e. if you can't assail the argument, attack the proponent. Must the conclusion be that the selection committee is comprised of racists or that they only "see" white and are insensitive to the visible (or other) minority communities? As for your so-called pun, I am not aware of having ever met you, Ms. Abbott, so I wonder why you jump to the conclusion that "from [my] Ivory Tower", I am white. Can it be that you believe people of colour are incapable of bringing logic to bear? I happen not to share that view.
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-4 # Response to Harry BlaierMartha Abbott 2013-08-07 10:44
Naturally, the minute that anyone attempts to highlight the prejudice against minority lawyers in Canada, we get people like Harry Blaier who are quick to jump on the bandwagon that minorities may just not have been very good that year. Apparently, the world that you live in is fair and everything happens on merit - the delusion that Canadians love to peddle for the rest of the world. In which other year have those minorities been good enough for you? Perhaps you never read the news about the discrimination suffered by minority lawyers in Canada. My point, which you so obviously missed, is not that people should be recognised on the basis of tokenism. Rather, out of the significant number of black and other visible minority lawyers in Canada, not one managed to be good enough to be selected. People were selected who claim the champion diversity - the irony is that when you look at their work colleagues you will see only the lily white. Maybe you didn't notice from your ivory tower.
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+1 # LawyerHarry Blaier 2013-08-07 08:50
I respond to the comment of Ms. Abbott, in which her opening 4 words belie her sarcasm and then spirals downward from there. I would think that selections of this kind should be based on merit, not "minority visibility". Is it not possible that in any given year, a visible minority simply does not make it to the top of the the selection process? Ms. Abbott seems to prefer the belief that discrimination is the only explanation for the result. Apparently the demand for tokenism is alive and well in some quarters.
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+12 # NoneJoanne Shiers 2013-08-07 06:57
As my late grandmother used to say, there are a lot of high falutin people on this list. I mean, a SCC judge. The head of a big firm. The head of a faculty... I've worked in big firms and in-house. In my experience, the more expensive the car, the less interesting and influential the lawyer. How about highlighting the REAL lawyers in this country? The ones who work in the trenches and out on the streets where law matters. I don't want to see yet more Benz lawyers who spend their days lunching in fancy suits and even fancier restaurants. I want to see lawyers whose work is not televised.
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-7 # Not one Visible MinorityMartha Abbott 2013-08-06 18:04
Always great to see that not one visible minority made it to your hallowed list out of such a significant proportion in the legal profession. just not good enough for you, right?
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0 # Your facts are skewedGertrude Shnibbery 2013-08-07 16:08
Pam Palmater is Mi'kmaq, a visible minority. Aboriginal people represent about 4% of Canada, and 4% of this list. This may not be enough for you, but I think it is important to acknowledge that this list reflects some diversity, and more importantly, recognizes and affirms the importance of Palmater's work in Aboriginal governance. Furthermore, this list honours the work of lawyers working for minority rights, showing that this is a concern in the profession. Your comments are extreme, imprudent, and demonstrate a knee jerk reaction to this list.
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0 # Dear Gertrude...Martha Abbott 2013-08-07 17:36
So, Gertrude, to use your logic, since 9.2% of the lawyers in Canada are visible minorities, shouldn't there be a 9.2% representation of them on this list? Oh, shock, horror, there isn't?! You are right about one thing, though, no; it is not enough for me nor for the significant proportion of minority lawyers who have to contend with prejudice and racism at the Bar and with colleagues like you, who love to try to invalidate the experiences that they have on an almost daily basis. By refusing to even countenance the fact that there may be bias, people like you help to maintain the status quo, by not asking the right questions. I really am very tired of having to explain myself on this forum to people who have no interest in learning. This is the last from me. Goodbye.
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+3 # RE: Dear Gertrude...Gertrude Shnibbery 2013-08-07 17:56
If 9% of the lawyers on the list had been visible minorities, that would mean that there would be 2 visible minorities on the list. There is 1 visible minority on the list. Over this statistically insignificant difference, you label the profession and anyone who disagrees with you as racist, biassed, and opposed to equal rights. The evidence - namely the recognition of Ms. Palmater and others advocating for minority rights - indicates the opposite of what you believe. Good day, madam.
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Gail J. Cohen

One of Canada’s most experienced and respected legal journalists, Gail J. Cohen is the former editor in chief of Canadian Lawyer and Law Times, who was responsible for the editorial direction of all the publications in the group, which also includes Candian Lawyer InHouse, Canadian Lawyer 4Students, and the daily Legal Feeds blog. Gail has covered the legal profession in Canada as a reporter and editor since 1997, which had put her in a prime position to access and engage thought leaders in the regulatory, legal, and business realms. Canadian Lawyer and its editorial team have been the recipients of many journalism awards and their publications are highly respected throughout the legal profession in Canada and abroad.

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