2019 Zenith Award Winners

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Drs. John Borrows, University of Victoria - Faculty of Law

Drs. John Borrows and Val Napoleon were instrumental in the launch of the world’s first law degree to combine the study of Indigenous and non-Indigenous law. Following years of planning and fundraising by Borrows and Napoleon, in September 2018, the University of Victoria (UVic) welcomed the first cohort of students to the joint degree in Canadian Common Law and Indigenous Legal Orders (JID/JD program).“The nominees, Val Napoleon and John Borrows, are the preeminent Indigenous legal scholars that have co-founded the first joint degree program in Canadian Common Law (JD) and Indigenous Legal Orders (JID). It is the first program of its kind in the world. Combining intensive study of Canadian Common Law with intensive engagement with Indigenous laws, the JD/JID will develop the skills needed to practice within Canadian Common Law, with Indigenous legal orders, and at the interface between them.

David Budd, Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP

Published statistics on mental health indicate that one in five Canadians will experience some problem with their mental health over the course of a year (Source: Government of Canada, 2006) - and while awareness surrounding mental health has increased dramatically in recent years, the stigma surrounding it still remains – particularly in the legal industry. “A 2017 study out of the UK on ‘work-related stress, depression and anxiety’ ranked the legal profession fourth on the list of the most stressful jobs. That is likely not surprising to anyone who works in – or near – the industry. The profession is demanding - with clients expecting a trusted advisor who is impervious to personal issues and able to exceed expectations in terms of work product, strategic analysis and responsiveness. In addition, competition for work at both a personal and firm level can be incredibly intense. “Beyond wellness, there is a business case to be made for prioritizing a healthy firm. According to the World Health Organization, every $1 invested in scaling up treatment for depression and anxiety leads to a return of $4 or better in health and ability to work - and the University of Warwick found that happiness makes people about 12% more productive. The corporate world seems to have taken notice, understanding that combating stress can only serve to enhance performance.” “The leadership roles assumed by Cohen and Budd are essential to the success of this initiative - one where a message that your well-being is important flows through the entire firm and chips away at the stigma that still surrounds mental health.

Yuvraj Singh Chhina, Fortis Law Practice

Yuvraj Singh Chhina’s “clients and practice are in the heart of downtown Brampton. Brampton is ranked as the City with one of the highest immigration populations in Canada. Chhina has made accessibility to legal services for these new immigrants on multiple scales.” He provides accessible information on Immigration law, often appearing on local community tv and radio shows. He speaks four South Asian languages. “Outside his full-time practice, Chhina has had a significant impact on his community by: providing pro bono legal services in the Peel Region for members of the South Asian community who face language barriers, and for individuals otherwise in need; offering pro bono legal services through Punjabi Community Health Services, a health and social service organization serving communities in the West GTA. Yuvraj extends his passion to those from his community who face difficulties in regular day-to-day life, including assisting them with social services, and Immigration law matters.

Roger Chouinard, QuadReal Property Group Limited Partnership

When Roger Chouinard joined QuadReal in June 2017, he was the first Chief Legal Officer and only practising lawyer for this newly formed global real estate asset management company. QuadReal was formed in 2016 to integrate four companies to invest in, develop and manage the real estate portfolio owned by British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI), which now exceeds $27 billion of assets under management and includes investments across all asset classes in 17 countries including Canada. BCI invests globally on behalf of British Columbia’s public sector, with clients including 11 pension plans serving 583,000 beneficiaries. “Chouinard is responsible for delivering and overseeing the legal infrastructure for QuadReal’s platform and the legal expertise to support its dynamic and growing global business.

Esi Codjoe, Government of Ontario

Esi Codjoe has been part of 300 reported online cases, at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, as a tribunal member or counsel, commencing in 2002. She “has been instrumental in the growth of case law regarding racial discrimination, specifically as it pertains to anti-Black racism” and “contributed to the case law in Human Rights and Charter Rights pertaining to a contextual analysis on racial discrimination.” These cases include: Wickham v. Hong Shing Chinese Restaurant, 2018 HRTO 500 (CanLII), which received international attention, as an important case dealing with anti-Black racism. The central issue in the case was whether a restaurant patron was discriminated against by the restaurant on the basis of race, colour [or] ethnic origin by requiring him to pre-pay for his meal at a sit-down restaurant with table service.