Sander Grieve used to joke with his wife that M&A lawyers are the jet fighters of Bay Street. Now he has the flight suit to go with it.
But in this suit, the Bennett Jones LLP partner and head of the firm’s mining group is acting as pro bono counsel in one of Canada’s most beloved aviation projects — Raising the Avro Arrow — taking place this summer on Lake Ontario.
As pro bono counsel, Bennett Jones has organized a group of entities to conduct the search and recovery of nine Avro Arrow flight models launched over the lake in a series of tests from 1954 to 1957. The models are the only known artifacts from the Avro Arrow program remaining to be found. They have rested somewhere on the bottom of Lake Ontario for more than 60 years.
Kraken Sonar Inc. of St. John’s, N.L. will deploy its ThunderFish Autonomous Underwater Vehicle and AquaPix Synthetic Aperture Sonar system in Lake Ontario to search for the scale models of the Avro Arrow. Kraken engineers participated in the September 2014 discovery of the HMS Erebus in the hunt for Sir John Franklin’s lost ships.
Bennett Jones has participated in the negotiation of and the legal drafting of documents in relation to consulting agreements, licensing and other arrangements to structure the search and its relationships with government and service providers.
Not initially an aviation enthusiast, Grieve says he’s fast becoming a fan and better understands the attraction to the history of the Avro Arrow, designed and built in Canada and considered to be a huge achievement for the Canadian aviation industry. But in 1959, the development of the plane was halted and the assembly line and all other elements ordered destroyed.
The firm became involved in the project as it acts for some of the principals involved with OEX Recovery Group Incorporated, which is sponsored by mining companies Osisko Mining and Osisko Gold Royalties Ltd.
“They said they wanted to do this as a project and asked if we’d help out,” says Grieve. “Osisko has been a state-of-the-art finder of concealed objects. In their case, it's been gold deposits that are located underground. Now they're going to turn what they've learned from how to run a systematic search for gold into a search for iconic, historic artifacts.”
Grieve took the idea to other lawyers in the firm and decided to adopt it as a pro bono project.
“We’ve helped to set up the corporation of OEX to house the various contracts that are related to the search, and helped to write the consulting agreements working on the search and between the various branches of government involved,” he says. “The most interesting piece has been that you can’t do archeology work just because you want to — you have to get a licence from the Ministry of Culture and they have two different processes — for finding things and for the process of recovering things.”
The pro bono project has included lawyers from other areas in the firm including labour and employment and those with transaction skills.
The search began July 28 and participants have reserved up to four weeks to cover the grid outlined for the search.
“They will run it on a 12-hour day and bring it up at night and review the data,” says Grieve. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun once they start to reveal what’s been found there.”
Finding the planes has been tried multiple times by other groups before, but no one has found them.
At the firm, the interest level has risen as the project has evolved.
“People here are quite curious about it now. You get the guys who are aviation buffs coming out of the woodwork or they knew someone who was involved with it. A couple of us involved were given flight suits so we have those hanging up in our offices now,” he says.
“It’s amazing how this thing has continued to capture people’s imagination, I took my son out to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton to see the old planes and we were in the gift shop and they had die-cast models of the Avro Arrow. They are $198 and the clerk said it is one of the hottest-selling things they have.”
Next year will be the 60th anniversary of Avro Arrow’s first test flight.