S. RONALD ELLIS, LAW SOCIETY MEDAL, 2020
Congratulations to our colleague, mentor and founding father, Ron Ellis, on winning the 2020 Law Society Medal for his outstanding career and continuing contributions to administrative justice in Ontario.
Ron’s commitment and concern for access to justice led him from Bay Street to legal aid clinics and—lucky for us-- ultimately to the tribunal world. Through passion and persistence, he implemented reforms that would improve the delivery of legal assistance to the most vulnerable. At Parkdale Legal and Community Services, he fashioned what a poverty law clinic should be: caring, conscientious, dedicated to supporting and assisting clients at their most defenceless. There Ron mentored hundreds of students, teaching poise and protocol, creating a legacy for the institution and generations of lawyers to continue his traditions.
In 1985, Ron became the inaugural Chair of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal (today the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal). He built the adjudicative agency from the ground up, writing rules of procedure, identifying candidates to fill decision-maker positions (championing a tri-partite model of adjudication), penning precedent decisions that the tribunal continues to rely on for their clarity, wisdom, compassion and—needless to say--the right result.
At WSIAT, Ron was a leader by doing. Under his guidance, his institution was collegial, respectful, an example for governments in Ontario and elsewhere to use for the creation of other decision-making agencies. Independent, impartial, sensitive to the needs of the workers appearing before it, mindful of evolving legislative direction. Ron was keenly aware that the Tribunal’s role was to interpret the law, not influence governing regimes.
Ron stepped outside the parameters of WSIAT to convene a network of tribunal colleagues and establish the Society of Ontario Adjudicators and Regulators. True to the mantra of WSIAT, SOAR became an independent, impartial organization with a mandate to train adjudicators and regulators, advocate on their behalf and act as a principled and exemplary beacon to establish compassionate decision-making, empathetic hearing processes, on-the-ground access to justice. Ron led the organization as President for its first decade. Moreover, trailblazer that he was, he then was instrumental in forming a nation-wide independent body for appointed decision-makers, the Council of Canadian Administrative Tribunals.
Later in life, when many are content to rest on their laurels, Ron found new ways to flourish, to influence, to guide the ship of administrative law. He enrolled in a PhD programme at Osgoode Hall Law School, where he channelled his experience with and insight into the workings of government and tribunals into a dissertation whose subsequent publication, Unjust By Design, is a call-out to governments, tribunals, all decision-makers, to do better and fashion a truly independent, impartial administrative justice system. Not a pipe dream, not tilting at windmills, but Ron’s passionate aspiration.
Never shy, with no meaning of “retiring” in his vocabulary, Ron has now helped found Tribunals Watch Ontario. And he writes a timely and topical blog where he shares his views and opinions as he surveys the zigs and zags of administrative justice across our country.
An outstanding career! A well-deserved acclaim. Congratulations, Ron!
Please RSVP here to join the virtual celebration with the LSO on December 8, 2020 at 5:00pm.