Osler cancels Stampede party, donates funds to charity

In the aftermath of the flooding and power outages in Calgary, Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP has decided to cancel its annual Stampede party and direct the money it would have spent to assist those affected.

Osler has for 10 years held a Stampede Eve Party but given the devastation of the last week it decided to cancel the event scheduled to take place at the Calgary Zoo. Instead the firm will make a donation $30,000 to the zoo’s recovery effort and $70,000 to the Red Cross Alberta Floods Fund.

Also chiming in with its support via Twitter on Tuesday was Stikeman Elliott LLP indicating it will match firm member contributions up to $500 per person to the Canadian Red Cross.

Osler’s decision was made Friday morning says Maureen Killoran, managing partner for Osler’s Calgary office who told Legal Feeds the waters crested in her neighbourhood early that morning.

“It was evident it was going to be beyond anything we had ever seen before. It travelled five or six blocks in a matter of minutes. We realized it wasn’t going to be what we experienced in 2005,” she says. “When we started doing the math about it potentially being in the billions of dollars in property damage alone, it didn’t feel quite right to be throwing a party in seven days.”

Killoran called Dale Ponder, the firm’s managing partner in Toronto, and proposed the party be cancelled and the money be directed to the zoo and Red Cross.

“We got authority from more than 400 lawyers in about 20 seconds. The decision was a no-brainer,” she says.

As the water has started receded in different areas, Killoran and her family have been helping their neighbours in the recovery effort.

“Generally we are seeing 20 to 40 people working on a house. You start off and you wonder how we’re going to do this but you get an assembly line going and by the time the day is done the insulation is out of the wall and drywall has been hauled away and the place is ready for contractors,” she says.

Killoran said the response from the community has been amazing and the firm has encouraged its staff to help others in need.

“We are seeing absolute strangers driving around in trucks with generators and dropping them off and others are coming around with food,” she says. “You get choked up seeing how kind people are.”

It is expected Osler and other law firms may have access to their offices by tomorrow.

Calgary’s courthouses are open but not much business, other than emergencies, is being conducted until at least Thursday.

A statement from the Ministry of Justice also notes “The Calgary Police Service (CPS) Arrest Processing Unit can no longer be used due to flood damage. The CPS has approached the Alberta government to request assistance with identifying alternate arrangements. The two temporary options under consideration are the Calgary Remand Centre and the holding cells in the basement of the Calgary Court Centre. As the remand centre is not suitable for more than a few days due to its daily operations and capacity, the court centre is an interim option that reflects the extraordinary circumstances of the flood.”

Several law firm offices in Calgary remain closed today due to the flood and power outages including Field Law LLP and Norton Rose Fulbright’s Calgary office, which is located in the area under mandatory evacuation orders and inaccessible. The Norton Rose Calgary web site indicates “. . . we have set up operations at an alternative Calgary location where our lawyers can access the resources they require to deliver those legal services and ensure our clients are minimally affected under the circumstances.”

Dentons LLP Calgary lawyers and staff are working remotely until further notice. It’s web site indicates: “We will continue to serve our clients’ needs to the full extent that the situation permits and have significant capacity and support through our other Dentons offices in Canada and globally.”

Brock Gibson, chairman of Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP said Tuesday in a statement: “We are extremely fortunate that our premises were not damaged by the flood and that we have been given complete access to our office starting today. While some of our lawyers and staff continue to work remotely, respecting the City’s request to be mindful of continued limited access to downtown Calgary, we have now been able to reopen our office and are fully functional.”

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