Home
Site Search
Use small fonts Use medium fonts Use large fonts Email link to page PDF this page

Firm


Recognized by Pro Bono Ontario

Cassels Brock is proud to have been honoured at Pro Bono Ontario’s 2016 Awards Gala.


 

Community & Pro Bono

Cassels Brock in the Community & Pro Bono Initiatives

At Cassels Brock, we believe in giving back to the communities in which we work and live.

Through our established pro bono committee, Cassels Brock encourages our associates and partners to pursue worthwhile causes and donate their time and expertise to pro bono activities. We believe that we have a responsibility to help promote the public interest and to assist disadvantaged or marginalized people, as well as the charitable organizations working on their behalf, in seeking legal solutions that could otherwise remain out of reach.

We've also introduced Dare to CareTM, an innovative program that encourages our lawyers and staff members to address broader social needs through volunteer work, donations and sponsorships. Through Dare to Care, the firm supports everyone who wishes to become involved with volunteer initiatives that interest them - and provides paid time off to do so. From sponsoring the University of Toronto Lift Project, to helping to raise funds for the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, to volunteering legal services to buyers of Habitat for Humanity homes, our firm consistently seeks ways to reach out to those in need. We also contribute regularly to causes such as the Canadian Foundation for AIDS research, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Canadian Paraplegic Association and the United Way.

We asked some of our lawyers to tell us a bit about the community and pro bono activities that they are involved with so that you can get an idea of who we are and what's important to us.

Suhuhyini Abudulai - YWCA Toronto
Photo credit: YWCA Toronto

SUHUYINI ABUDULAI - ywca toronto

I am secretary of the board of directors of the YWCA Toronto. The YWCA Toronto provides women with access to employment and training programs, housing options and shelters, leadership development programs for girls and other key supports for women and children who have experienced violence. The strategic priorities of the YWCA Toronto align with matters that are of importance to me, particularly the commitment to improving the lives of women by addressing systemic issues, such as violence against women and urban poverty. As a member of the Advocacy Advisory Committee, I am afforded the opportunity to discuss and promote issues that I am passionate about. I have authored a couple of posts on the YWCA Toronto blog on topics on sexual violence and issues affecting women’s rights during the 2015 federal election. My role on the board gives me a better understanding of the community I live in and of those in the community that need representation of their issues and require assistance and resources to deal with everyday life matters.

  Chad Accursi - Right to Play image

Chad Accursi - Right to play

I became involved in Right to Play (RTP) because I have an extensive background in sports and wanted to get involved in my community. The fact that RTP is a Canadian organization also appealed to me. I am a securities lawyer with a specialization in mining. Most mines are located outside of Canada in many of the places that RTP works, particularly in Africa.  RTP uses sport and play as a teaching tool for life lessons (tolerance, leadership, sportsmanship, co-operation, teamwork as well as basic health matters).  Play and sport also brings moments of fun, joy and laughter to difficult young lives that have been affected by terrible adversities, including poverty, hunger, death and AIDS.

I’ve seen firsthand how the money is spent and the positive effect that RTP has on kids in many disadvantaged areas of the world.  It helps me appreciate what we have here in Canada. I use it as a teaching tool with my own kids to gain an appreciation for what we have and also the importance of giving back.

 

L-R: Kate Byers, Chris Selby & Stephanie Voudouris (Not Pictured: Chris Horkins)

kate byers, chris horkins, chris Selby & Stephanie voudouris - pro bono law Ontario

One of our Pro Bono Committee’s current initiatives is representing educators before the College of Early Childhood Educators’ discipline tribunal. Clients are pre-screened on an income and means basis by Pro Bono Law Ontario. Four of our Advocacy associates lend considerable time and expertise to this initiative: Kate Byers, Chris Horkins, Chris Selby and Stephanie Voudouris. They report that the College’s discipline process is complicated, even for a lawyer to understand, and that their clients are very grateful to have someone guiding them through it. The stakes are high – if their clients lose their license, they lose not only livelihood, but are precluded from following what is often a lifelong passion for working with children. Their work differs from most corporate disputes: Stephanie had a 22-year-old client attend a meeting with her mother in tow. Our lawyers report that the claims against the educators are often highly personal and devastating to their clients and that as well as providing legal advice they also provide emotional support.

These Advocacy lawyers are clearly energized by their volunteer work. Kate appeared before the tribunal in her first few months of practice and was successful in clearing her client’s name. Kate noted, “It was an opportunity to work on my written advocacy and see how it played out before the tribunal. Being successful on my own was a big confidence boost.”  For Stephanie, it’s an opportunity for her work on the strategic side of her skill set, normally something that a partner would take the reins on.  It was a learning experience for Chris Selby to see the difference between the rules of evidence in a civil matter compared to an administrative tribunal. Chris Horkins views the program as mutually beneficial for all involved. “For the lawyers, it’s an opportunity to do well and do good at the same time. We’re able to hone our administrative and trial advocacy skills while providing assistance to worthy individuals. The response from clients so far is immensely gratifying."

 Frank Deluca image

Frank DeLuca - Villa Charities

I am on the board of trustees of Villa Charities Inc. The mission statement of Villa Charities is “to develop, administer, and co-ordinate projects in the health, social, cultural and educational fields which enrich and enhance the quality of life and honour the Italian heritage."  Villa Charities began as an idea to create a home for seniors in 1971 and has evolved into a vibrant organization designed to meet the needs of an ever-growing multicultural community. In addition to providing culturally sensitive care for the elderly, the Villa Charities family of organizations is also committed to assisting individuals with intellectual disabilities and has a mandate of encouraging community participation through fitness, culture and the arts.

 Deepak Gill image

Deepak Gill - North American South Asian Bar Association and Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce

I chose to become involved with the North American South Asian Bar Association (NASABA) because I was inspired by its mission, which, among other things, is to act as a link between South Asian lawyers and the South Asian community across North America. As a member of NASABA, I’m supporting the betterment of the South Asian community in North America, while getting to know and develop friendships with some of the finest legal minds from across North America.

I became involved with the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (B.C.) (ICCC) at the behest of Ab Berar, an elder in the Indo-Canadian community, and one of its first finance professionals. Mr. Berar and I met through a common ancestral connection (we hail, on different sides of our families, from the same village in India). Mr. Berar started the ICCC with a view to fostering the development of professionals and businesspersons in the Indo-Canadian community, as well as a means of increasing trade between Canada and India. Today, the organization boasts some of the Indo-Canadian community’s leading businesspersons and philanthropists as its directors, and it works actively with Canadian and Indian governments at all levels to support and promote increased Canada-India trade. As a Director of ICCC, I’m helping to facilitate and promote trade between Canada and India.

 Lara Jackson image

Lara Jackson - Pro Bono Duty Counsel

I act as pro-bono duty counsel to lawyers facing disciplinary hearings at the Law Society who can't afford counsel. I chose this pro bono activity because it allows me to use my advocacy skills to help other lawyers who can’t afford to hire their own legal representation. The majority of lawyers who end up before the discipline committee are sole practitioners who are struggling to make a living from the practice of law and don’t have the same access to mentors and other resources that we have at our firm.

 Rob Kligman image

Rob Kligman - Big Brothers

I’ve been a big brother for over 20 years. My wife and I don’t have kids of our own and I wanted to keep in touch with what interests young people. It also presented an opportunity to help potentially at-risk boys at a grass roots level. Little brothers and their families that I have met over the years have been varied in backgrounds and interests and the dynamic is something I would not otherwise have been exposed to. I think I get more out of it than the kids do!

 Steven Kennedy - Lawyers Zambia School Project image

Steven Kennedy - Lawyers' Zambia School Project

I recently participated in the Lawyers’ Zambia School Project which took place in Munenga, Zambia. The project was spearheaded by Justice Robert Beaudoin in memory of his late son, Iain Beaudoin. It culminated in the construction of a brand new school house in a developing part of rural Zambia. Many of the children in this region had never attended school as the nearest existing school was many kilometres away.

Choosing this project was a very easy decision for me. Iain Beaudoin was a colleague of mine when I lived and worked in Ottawa. During my time as a summer and articling student, he became a mentor and friend as he helped me navigate those tough years at the beginning of a legal career. His passing devastated all who knew him, and the chance to create something in his memory was something I couldn’t pass up.

I’ve always had a passion for travel and exploring new corners of the world. In the past, my travel had always been recreational, and while I will always treasure the memories I’ve taken home from my destinations, I felt that it was time for me to leave something meaningful behind for a change. As it turned out, I ended up taking home more memories and experiences from this trip than any other. Immediately on arriving with our build team in the remote Munenga region, the local villagers and children surrounded our bus and greeted us with Tonga welcome songs and warm embraces. The pasty, digital-age lawyers got straight to work with the locals, and despite having no power tools, no running water, or any modern conveniences to help with our build, we quickly formed bonds and learned how to work despite language barriers. While we left behind a schoolhouse, I got to take home a new understanding of what one can accomplish by stepping out of the “comfort zone” and into the shoes of someone who lives and works in a completely different world. I look forward to the next project and its associated adventures. Besides, now I know how to make mortar by hand!

 Emily Larose image

 

 

 

Emily Larose - Law Help Ontario

I am the co-chair of Cassels Brock’s Pro Bono Committee and a volunteer with Law Help Ontario. 

The Pro Bono Committee looks for rewarding and meaningful opportunities for members of the firm to volunteer their legal skills in the community. One of the first projects we identified in this regard was the duty counsel program at Law Help Ontario, which provides free legal advice and guidance to low-income unrepresented litigants in Toronto courts. 

Currently, 15 members of our advocacy department (from associates to senior partners) volunteer with the Law Help Ontario program.  I am one of those volunteers.

As a duty counsel advisor at Law Help Ontario I never know who is going to come in the door or what questions they might ask.  Often, clients are simply looking for help navigating court procedures and documents. Sometimes they are facing looming deadlines and are at risk of crippling financial consequences. We aren’t able to spend a lot of time with each client, but I do my best to understand the basic facts of their cases, identify their most pressing issues and provide practical guidance in a clear and understandable way.

Although I also work with many lovely and appreciative clients in my regular practice, I look forward to my duty counsel shifts and the genuine gratitude of the Law Help Ontario clients I am able to help there.

 Rob Lysy image

Rob Lysy - AIESC Ryerson

I’m on the board of advisors of AIESEC Ryerson, a local chapter of the international student organization dedicated to fostering cross-cultural cooperation and experience for students.

AIESEC is a global organization dedicated to developing its members through cross-cultural exchange programs. It has committees in universities in over 100 countries around the world. I was a member of this organization when I was a student and was able to participate in exchanges and other AIESEC activities in dozens of countries on 6 continents. I strongly believe in the power of cross-cultural interactions and experiences to educate and empower our youth to build better societies. When I was asked to become an advisor to the AIESEC committee at Ryerson University, I was happy to have the chance to reacquaint myself with the organization and to help contribute to its mission.

AIESEC exchanges are life-changing experiences and having a role in helping more students participate is very satisfying and I’ll continue to do whatever I can to help this organization.

Peter Sullivan Community Work

PETER SULLIVAN - PRIDE AT WORK CANADA

I am "proud" to be the secretary of the board of directors of Pride at Work Canada (PAW). PAW is a national non-profit organization with a mission of empowering employers to foster a workplace culture that recognizes LGBT employees as an important part of a diverse workforce through dialogue, education and leadership. PAW's ultimate goal is to facilitate Canada becoming a nation where LGBT individuals can achieve their full potential at work. I joined this organization because I know first-hand what it is like to be uncomfortable bringing my "full self" to work and I am dedicated to working towards a society where others do not experience the same limitations. My belief is that if all employers foster an environment where all their members can feel comfortable being open about all of their personal characteristics without fear of discrimination in any form, the world will be a better place. PAW strives to achieve this goal from an LGBT perspective but the work being done is transferable to eliminating discrimination in regards to all other personal characteristics of employees as well. The education I receive by being on this board assists me with my role on the Firm's Diversity Committee so I can help CBB be the most welcoming work place possible.

I have also acted as co-sponsorship director (responsible for seeking corporate sponsorship and donors) on the board of directors of the annual Pride and Remembrance Run in Toronto. The Pride and Remembrance Run is organized each summer by the board formed by the Pride and Remembrance Association. It's goal is to promote and foster diversity, community spirit and sportsmanship (all causes I am happy to support). I have been excited about contributing to this cause because it echoes my commitment to diversity in the community while also encouraging an active lifestyle. I hope CBB will join me on a team again this summer!

 Raivo Uukivvi image

Raivo Uukkivi - Estonian House

I am a director on the board for the Estonian House in Toronto, which is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to provide educational and cultural opportunities and programming for the Estonian community in Toronto and the surrounding area.

I picked this activity because the Estonian community currently faces complex business, legal and community issues that must be addressed in order to have a facility where Estonians can gather and learn about their heritage. There are few financial resources to accomplish these goals and I saw this as an excellent opportunity to use the skills that I have acquired and give back to the organization that, through its programming and resources, has given me many friends over the years and is partially responsible for who I am today.

I get a tremendous amount back from my role, both on a professional and personal level. It requires me to focus on business and operational issues that I might not otherwise have the opportunity to consider in my law practice. Most importantly, I have developed great friendships that will last a lifetime.

Associates at Ronald McDonald House Vancouver image 

 

various associates & Students - Ronald McDonald House Vancouver

In August, we prepared a BBQ dinner for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver. Our Toronto office had done the same in May. The Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver provides out-of-town families with a “home away from home” while their seriously ill children receive life-saving medical treatment at local hospitals. Visiting the Ronald McDonald House, participating in the Family Dinner Program and interacting with the families provided all of us with a real and tangible opportunity to connect and give back to our community. We were inspired by the warmth and positivity of everyone we met, and we look forward to cooking up a storm with the Ronald McDonald House again soon.