2016 Zenith Award Winners


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Legal Leaders for Diversity

Legal Leaders for Diversity (LLD) was launched in May 2011, with more than 30 general counsel as founding members, to promote a more inclusive legal profession in Canada. By early 2016, it had grown to more than 100 Canadian general counsel at leading Canadian corporations. LLD’s mission statement declares its resolve to value the range of perspectives, ideas and experiences inherent in diversity of gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, cultural background, religion and age. Recent initiatives include: annual LLD Trust Fund scholarships to support disabled youth studying law across Canada; inviting senior gay and lesbian law partners to discuss barriers and identify solutions, followed by circulation of findings to member firms; and a mentorship program matching 22 minority-group associate lawyers from the Law Firm Diversity and Inclusion Network with senior LLD members.

Osgoode Black Law Students Association, Osgoode Hall Law School

The Osgoode Black Law Students Association (BLSA) has celebrated Black History Month with the creation of The Honourable Lincoln Alexander Award, an Osgoode-focused video and unique displays on black lawyers. This year, the BLSA created a composite photo of all of the black law students who have graduated from Osgoode and officially unveiled it at the Lincoln Alexander Award Ceremony. BLSA President Kyle Elliott said the BLSA wanted to briefly change the conversation from broader issues of racial profiling, police brutality and racial inequality to focus on a celebration of black excellence and “how we might properly acknowledge, celebrate and pay tribute to those Black students at Osgoode who have gone before us.” They discovered, incidentally, that Osgoode’s first black law graduate was in the Class of 1900.

Renatta Austin

Renatta Austin is a University of Toronto Law School graduate who operates a one-woman law firm, specializing in administrative law, child and youth law, and criminal and quasi-criminal law. While at U of T, she was a leader in the launch of See Yourself Here, a program that encourages young people from minority backgrounds to pursue legal education. Today she is an advocate for access to justice who represents mostly low-income clients. In order to keep fees low, she started her firm operating out of her home and the Great Library at the Law Society of Upper Canada. A large part of her work is in education, where there is no legal-aid structure, representing students suspended or expelled for offences such as fighting.

James Bunting, Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP

Jim Bunting has led a number of pro bono cases that have advanced the cause of diversity and inclusion within amateur sport. As a result of his efforts, many athletes who would have otherwise been prevented or impeded from competing due to systemic discrimination can now pursue their goals. In 2015, he successfully represented Dutee Chand at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) when sports officials deemed her natural testosterone levels too high. He is currently representing Chris Mosier, the first transgender man to qualify for a US Men’s National Team, securing approval to compete internationally. In another pro bono case, Jim fought for the equitable compensation of the Canadian women’s soccer team by the Canadian Soccer Association, securing a twoyear agreement.

John Clifford, McMillan LLP

John Clifford is a founding member of McMillan’s Inclusion and Diversity Committee. He was also instrumental in founding the firm’s affinity group for LGBT lawyers. In 2012, John was invited to attend the Law Firm Diversity Caucus to discuss what Canada’s leading law firms could do to promote diversity and inclusion, leading to the creation of the Law Firm Diversity and Inclusion Network. John has been an active member of the LFDIN since its inception. In 2007, John founded exeQutive, which is devoted to supporting and strengthening the careers of Toronto-based LGBT executives, professionals, and business and community leaders. John played a leadership role in the 2014 proudTOvote campaign. ProudTOvote worked to ensure Toronto had a mayor the LGBT community could be proud of and who would be proud of the community.