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2015 Law Society Bencher Election

The Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (FACL), a member of the Roundtable of Diversity Associations (RODA), encourages all its members to vote in the upcoming Law Society of Upper Canada Bencher elections to be held on April 30, 2015 and increase the diversity of Benchers at Convocation.  For complete details about the election, please visit:

The following are Bencher candidates from RODA member associations who self-identify as from racialized/equity-seeking backgrounds:

  • Lee Akazaki
  • Raj Anand
  • Renatta Austin
  • Jack Braithwaite
  • Henry Chang
  • Avvy Go
  • Jeffrey Lem
  • Harry Mann (Central West Region)
  • Isfahan Merali
  • Sandra Nishikawa
  • Douglas Sanderson
  • Raj Sharda (Central West Region)
  • Joanne St. Lewis (East Region)
  • Tanya Walker

Unless otherwise noted, the above candidates are from the Toronto Region.

Bencher Candidate Survey

To assist you in understanding the Bencher candidates’ platforms on diversity, the Roundtable of Diversity Associations prepared a survey which was distributed to all Bencher candidates. Visit this link to review their responses:

With respect to the current benchers who are seeking re-election, you may be interested to know the voting record in the accreditation of Trinity Western University (TWU) law school in British Columbia.  CLICK HERE to read a summary of the TWU issue and FACL’s position.

FACL and RODA encourages all members to review each candidate’s platform and survey responses on issues of concern to us.  Inform your vote in the upcoming election.  The survey will be closed on April 5, 2015.

FACL Candidate Endorsements

FACL thanks the candidates who requested our endorsement and wish all of them the best in the final legs of their campaigns.  For details about FACL’s Endorsement Policy regarding candidates for awards, elections or appointments to a particular position in public office, a professional organization or a self-governing body of the legal profession, please CLICK HERE.

FACL is pleased to officially endorse Avvy Go, Sandra Nishikawa and Paul Schabas as candidates in the upcoming bencher election.  We encourage all FACL members to vote for Avvy, Sandra and Paul.  They have all made significant contributions to our profession and the broader community, especially on the issues of access to justice, diversity and equity.  We strongly believe that they will continue their demonstrated commitment to these principles if elected to Convocation.  Please take the time to review their profiles and platforms at the below links:

Avvy Go

Avvy Yao-Yao Go is a founding officer of FACL who is seeking re-election for Bencher.  She was last elected to the position of bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada at the June 27th Convocation of the Law Society.  For more information about Avvy’s platform, please visit:

Avvy Go has served as the Clinic Director of the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic since 1992 and has spent her legal career working as a passionate advocate for legal aid access and for the furtherance of equity within the legal profession.  In 2007, along with Superior Court Justice Maryka Omatsu and Lawyer Julia Shin-Doi, Go organized and launched FACL.

Please read on for Avvy’s Election Statement:

Make it Count

Having had the privilege of serving as a bencher, on and off, since 2001, I have long come to realize that getting elected is only half of the battle.  The real challenge is to ensure that Convocation has the fullest benefits of and is equitably responsive to the needs of the diverse group of lawyers who make up the Ontario bar.

Diversity in the legal profession certainly emcompasses members of the various equity seeking groups reflected in its membership.  It also includes, among others, lawyers working in the legal aid system and small firms, as well as sole practitioners.  Collectively, their voices are by and large still muffled when it comes time for decision making, notwithstanding the changing faces of Convocation in recent years.

Without question, Convocation knows that too.  That’s why efforts have been made to reach out to the under-represented constituencies with such critical new initiatives as the Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Working Group process.

The journey to inclusion has not been an easy ride.  Mistakes have been made along the way.  With the input and guidance from the members at large and the various associations within the profession, Convocation finally did adopt a more comprehensive framework to
make Access to Justice a real focal point of the Law Society business.

The road ahead will no doubt be paved with pitfalls and encounter unexpected turns.  Who knows what the Alternative Business Structure (ABS), if brought to Ontario, will truly mean for the profession, particularly for small firms and sole practitioners. Time will tell if any of the plans to promote access to justice for the public, and racial equity in the profession, will pan out successfully in the end.

The only way to help ensure the best outcomes of these initiatives is by getting involved.  And we can all start by making our vote count.


Sandra Nishikawa

Sandra Nishikawa is a long-time advocate of equity and diversity issues, and current Chair of the Equity Advisory Group of the Law Society.  If elected as bencher, one of Sandra’s main priorities is equity and inclusion in the legal profession and giving voice to equity-seeking groups at Convocation.  For more information please visit:  Sandra was also recently interviewed about her campaign by Law Times.

Sandra was a founding member of FACL and was most recently the VP External (Public) and Director from 2012-14.  She has contributed significantly to FACL over the years, as Chair of the Advocacy and Policy Committee and Scholarship Committee.  Sandra has also been a FACL mentor, and has participated in the Conference Planning Committee for a number of years.

Sandra has also devoted a large part of her career to public service.  After being called to the bar in 1999, she practiced litigation at a large New York firm for four years, and then with the Department of Justice for nine years.  Since 2013, Sandra has been Counsel with the Ministry of the Attorney General, Crown Law Office Civil.

Paul Schabas

Paul Schabas is currently a partner at Blakes, Cassels & Graydon LLP.  He started in criminal defence before moving to a large firm where he litigates commercial, constitutional, criminal/regulatory and media law.  His election statement strongly supports access to justice, diversity and equity issues.  For further information about Paul’s campaign, please visit his website:

Outside the courtroom, Paul is a bencher of The Law Society of Upper Canada (elected in 2007 and 2011), the governing body of Ontario’s 42,000 lawyers where, among other things, he adjudicates professional discipline matters. He is a past president of the Canadian Media Lawyers Association and Pro Bono Law Ontario, of which he was a founding director. Paul is a Chair of the Law Foundation of Ontario as well as a director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History. He is a former director of The Advocates’ Society, Family Service Toronto, the National Youth Orchestra of Canada and Lawyers Rights Watch Canada.

Paul is an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. He also chairs panels of the University Tribunal dealing with academic offences and is a member of the advisory board of the Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights. He previously taught trial practice at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School and lectured at Trinity College, University of Toronto.

Within Blakes, Paul has chaired and/or been a member of numerous management committees, including multiple terms on the Executive, Partnership and Partner Compensation Committees. He founded and chaired the Firm’s Pro Bono Committee and chaired the Student Committee.

He was also the founding chair of Lex Mundi’s Pro Bono Committee and now past chair of its Business Crimes Practice Group.

Voting in Bencher Election

In the second week of April 2015, the Law Society of Upper Canada will be sending instructions for voting to every licensed lawyer. Online voting is open from the second week through to the end of April 2015. The formal election day is April 30, 2015.

For more information about the 2015 Bencher Election voting procedures:

Request to all members of FACL:

Please become engaged this Bencher election: VOTE!

Voter turn-out is traditionally low for Bencher elections, and the cause of increasing diversity requires engagement.

Pass on this information to others who are committed to seeing increased
diversity at Convocation, and ask those others to also pass on the information.


Lai-King Hum
President, Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (FACL)
Chair, Roundtable of Diversity Associations (RODA)