2019 Zenith Award Winners

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Orlando Da Silva, Serious Fraud Office - Prosecution Division, Ont. Ministry of the Attorney General

Lawyers face serious mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and substance abuse yet even recently, most were extremely reluctant to speak about their challenges, let alone seek ways to address the epidemic for other lawyers. There was too much at perceived risk for them. Who would hire them if they admitted they had been hospitalized, for instance? Former Ontario Bar Association president, Orlando Da Silva has taken a strong leadership role in facing down these challenges facing many, many lawyers and their loved ones. He bravely shared his own mental health story, at podiums where he was the first to do so. And he mentored others who were facing similar challenges. This has had profound beneficial impact on our level of awareness. Most recently, he was elected as an LSO Bencher on a platform of Wellness for Lawyers.

Lisa DeMarco, DeMarco Allan LLP

More than 40 northern First Nations in Ontario sit within 60 kilometres of the very large TransCanada Mainline natural gas pipeline, but have no access to this low-carbon, low-cost heating fuel. First Nations across Ontario experience significant ‘energy poverty’, and regulatory improvements have the opportunity to provide important relief. Lisa DeMarco provided legal counsel services at the Ontario Energy Board for a collective of First Nation communities in northern Ontario around Lake Nipigon, in the Geraldton area, and at the island of Moose Factory on James Bay, which have experienced energy reliability issues at least 200 times greater than other communities in Ontario. She was especially effective at negotiating an Ontario Energy Board approved ‘Settlement Agreement’ with Hydro One Networks that will have important implications for all First Nations in Ontario dealing with energy reliability issues.

Erin Durant, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

In 2018 the Pro Bono Ontario (PBO) Board of Directors made the difficult decision to close its Law Help Centres in Ottawa and Toronto due to a funding shortfall. These centres are PBO’s most significant program for self-represented litigants in terms of visibility and the volume of clients served – having served 147,770 clients since 2007, embedded in three Ontario courthouses in Toronto and Ottawa. Erin Durant, a volunteer with Pro Bono Ontario, worked closely with former PBO Chair David Scott, QC, to develop solutions to save the Law Help Centres. Durant took a leading role in the campaign to save the Law Help Centres, giving numerous media interviews and helping to organize a number of videos by prominent members of the legal community.