2016 Zenith Award Winners

Marc-André Blanchard is an esteemed lawyer from Québec who in April became Canada’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations. In this role, Ambassador Blanchard works to advance Canada’s interests, promote international development, security and human rights, and to keep our government informed on multilateral issues. Prior to his appointment, Ambassador Blanchard had been the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of McCarthy Tétrault LLP, one of the country’s most prominent law firms. He also has a long history of political involvement, as the former president of the Québec Liberal Party and, more recently, as a member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s transition team. Ambassador Blanchard holds several degrees including a Master's in Public Administration and a Master’s in International Affairs from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. He is a Lexpert Rising Stars alumnus, and in 2013 was named one of the 25 most influential lawyers in Canada by Canadian Lawyer.



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.

Cassels Brock Diversity Committee, Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP

Cassels Brock established its Diversity Committee in 2013. In its inaugural year, the committee joined the Law Firm Diversity and Inclusion Network (LFDIN), supporting diversity and inclusion within signatory firms and the legal profession, and also joined Pride At Work Canada to learn about creating an inclusive LGBT+ culture; it analyzed LFDIN survey results to determine immediate priorities for the committee, including leadership training; it participated in the joint LFDIN and Legal Leaders for Diversity (LLD) mentoring program; and participated in a diversity census and engagement survey by the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion. In 2015, Cassels Brock required all its leaders to participate in threehour diversity/unconscious-bias boot camps. In addition, the Diversity Committee consulted with student and associate recruitment and retention groups to help ensure equal opportunity.

Women’s Practice Development Committee, Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP

The Women’s Practice Development Committee (WPDC) was the first firm-sanctioned, organized group on Bay Street for women lawyers. The WPDC is distinguishable from other women’s groups in that the firm believes men must also support the advancement of female colleagues and it actively educates male lawyers on the responsibility they bear in correcting inequities. The WPDC takes a holistic approach to improving the lives of women lawyers, both professionally and personally. WPDC offers programs for working mothers, women and wellness, and in presentation skills, leadership training, gender differences in communication and business development events for women lawyers and clients. For expectant mothers, WPDC provides file-transition strategies and reintegration advice for returning to the office. On the advice of WPDC, the firm also provides maternity top-up, emergency childcare, alternative work arrangements and a buddy system.

Jamil Jivani, Osgoode Law Teaching Community

Jamil Jivani grew up in Greater Toronto, earned a law degree from Yale Law School and served as President of Yale’s Black Law Students Association. Jamil now teaches Community Organizing and the Law as a visiting professor at Osgoode Hall Law School. In 2013, he founded the Policing Literacy Initiative, which highlights progressive voices in community policing. He has written on police-community relations and the hot-button issue of carding. In 2014 he co-produced a documentary entitled Crisis of Distrust: Police and Community in Toronto. He has also advocated publicly for mediated solutions to police-community issues through the Office of the Independent Police Review Director. He is a co-founder of Teachers Beyond Classrooms, which helps unemployed teachers apply their skills to non-school employment opportunities in Greater Toronto, and a DiverseCity Fellow of the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance.

Brenda Cossman, University of Toronto

Brenda Cossman holds degrees in law from Harvard and the University of Toronto and is a professor of law and director of the Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto. She has been a visiting professor of law at Harvard Law School and is a 2015 winner of the Ontario Bar Association Award of Excellence in the Promotion of Women’s Equality. In 2007 she published Sexual Citizens: The Legal and Cultural Regulation of Sex and Belonging and she is a co-author of Bad Attitudes on Trial: Pornography, Feminism, and the Butler Decision. She is actively involved in law reform in the areas of same-sex couples and definitions of family and has written extensively on the legal regulation of adult relationships.