The Top 25 Most Influential - Government/Non-Profits/Associations
- Subtitle: Cover Story
Justice Beverley McLachlin
Chief justice, Supreme Court of Canada, Ottawa, Ont.
A frequent member of the Top 25 list and the top vote-getter in years past, McLachlin continues to make waves, handing down two very significant decisions on aboriginal law. The 2014 Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia decision led by McLachlin is the first of its kind in the history of British Columbia. Last year the Supreme Court of Canada granted declaration of aboriginal title to over 1,700 square kilometres of land. She is also responsible for upholding the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Keewatin v. Ontario (Natural Resources) released in July 2014, “she has overhauled what the Lamer court started and has left her mark in this area for decades to come. The chief justice continues to be a powerful proponent of greater justice for all Canadians. As her incredible number of votes once again this year show, McLachlin is greatly admired not only for her rulings but also her public support in favour of free speech, diversity, and inclusive leadership.”
Chairman, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Ottawa-Gatineau
Blais is not afraid of criticism and is willing to go above and beyond in the name of consumer rights. A recent CRTC decision will give consumers more freedom to choose TV channels of their liking as part of their satellite and cable subscriptions despite bitter opposition from Canada’s cable companies. Blais called out former Bell Media president Kevin Crull, without naming names, over reports Crull told CTV news staff not to interview him after that decision. Crull ended up apologizing for interfering in the news gathering process and later stepped down. From telemarketers to telcos, Blais consistently aims to support the rights and needs of consumers.
Orlando Da Silva
President, Ontario Bar Association, Toronto, Ont.
Da Silva’s heartfelt public confession of a long and deep depression and attempted suicide has opened up discussion on mental health within the legal community like never before. While there is a deep-rooted stigma against mental illness facilitated by a dominance of type A personalities, Da Silva’s courageous leadership has helped create specialized support programs for lawyers who struggle in silence. As if that was not enough, Da Silva has gone one step further and asked lawyers to call him personally if they need support. His supporters underline that Da Silva’s efforts are crucial in an industry that encourages bravado and often mistakes mental illness for a personal weakness.
Executive director, Pivot Legal Society, Vancouver, B.C.
Pacey was recently appointed executive director of Pivot Legal and continues the good work of her predecessors. Pivot focuses on issues related to health, police accountability, drug policy, and homelessness, poverty, and sex workers’ rights. She may be best known for her role in the Bedford case, but Pivot is about more than that and frequently has intervener status in major Supreme Court of Canada cases, including the recent one on mandatory minimums. She is also gifted at bringing on board highly respected counsel to work pro bono on many of these cases that can really affect the lives of some of the city, and country’s, most vulnerable citizens.
Justice Murray Sinclair
Chairman, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Winnipeg, Man.
A rare write-in candidate winner for this year’s Top 25, Sinclair was on the list last year, making headlines again in June with the release of the summary of the report of the TRC along with 94 recommendations to redress the “cultural genocide” of Canada’s residential school system. Over six years, Sinclair led the TRC hearing the stories of more than 7,000 survivors of sexual, physical, and mental abuse. Sinclair, who was the first aboriginal judge in Manitoba, was first appointed to the provincial court where he became associate chief in 1988 and then elevated to the Court of Queen’s Bench in 2001. He was co-commissioner of Manitoba’s Aboriginal Justice Inquiry in 1988 and presided over a 2000 inquest into the deaths of 12 infants at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre. Sinclair hopes to complete the commission’s full report in the near future, following which he will decide whether to go back to court or retire and advocate for native rights full-time.
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.