I was born in Collingwood, Ontario in 1957 (making me 54 at the date of writing). My parents moved up north about a year after that to a small northern Ontario town called Smooth Rock Falls, where my father taught school and my mother worked as a shipping clerk in the local pulp mill. Smooth Rock was and is a mostly francophone town where I grew up until the age of 18, playing hockey, hunting (I no longer do either) and doing all the things that kids in small towns do.
I went to high school in nearby Kapuskasing, riding a bus 80 miles a day for five years. After that I went to Military College out in Victoria, BC but that didn't agree with me - nor I with it - so I left at the end of the first year. For the next five or so years I basically just bummed around the country on my motorcycle doing odd jobs (a longish stint in Harmac pulp mill in Nanaimo) from coast to coast until I landed in Peterborough.
In Peterborough I went to Trent University while working overnights delivering newspaper in my van to stores and carriers across the city. I really liked working in the middle of the night when the city streets were deserted. I never did finish my undergrad (BA level) to this day but I got caught up in the university culture and got politicized in anti-militarist, poverty and environmental activism. I have always preferred street-level and direct activism to committees and such, so if you are looking for boards that I sat on there are only enough to teach me that I hated sitting on boards. Still do.
I was involved in the founding of the Canadian and Ontario Green Parties and ran as a candidate twice with embarrassingly low vote counts. I left when it became too corporate in its organizational structure, though I still usually vote Green for lack of any better alternative.
Eventually I saw law as a concrete way of helping people and the planet directly, and I opened up my own paralegal practice back in the bad 'ole days when paralegals were unregulated by the Law Society (that changed a few years back). For about five years I did welfare, L&T, UI (as EI was then called), FBA (the predecessor to today's ODSP), small claims (back then the court jurisdictional limit was $1,000!), employment and environmental cases - learning from scratch and whatever I could find in the public library (the Law Association's library was out-of-bounds but I snuck in a few times anyway). Back then L&T cases were in front of real (then District Court) judges and I got my first taste of judicial sensibilities there.
I got enough press coverage with my cases that I was able to leverage my incomplete undergrad and paralegal experience into admission to U of T Law School, which is supposed to be the best one around by conventional standards but I found it way too focussed on academics rather than practice. That was in 1990 and I was 33, a 'mature student'.
After graduation in 1993 I articled in Toronto and in 1995 opened my own law practice in civil and administrative litigation. That practice moved more towards administrative litigation (lots of ODSP) after a few years. If there is any one area of law that I can be said to be most expert in it is ODSP, but I am well-experienced in all of the areas listed in the 'Areas of Practice' link at the sidebar. Over the last ten years I also developed an interest in animal rights law, some of which is reflected in the "My Reported Case Law" link also at the sidebar, and the two animal law Legal Guides
Around 2005 - while I still liked the work I was doing - I got the itch for a change and started writing the Legal Guides that make-up this Isthatlegal.ca website. The initial goal was just to make important areas of law accessible to unrepresented parties (aka citizens!), but once traffic peaked high I decided to see if I could turn it into an online-only practice that would let me travel and continue to practice law and write at the same time.
It wasn't until August 2009 that I finally took the full plunge and sold off my stuff, boarded out my beloved cats (to better homes than I gave then) and packed my little remaining gear (including my trusty netbook computer and wireless internet modem) onto my bicycle and pedalled out into the big bad world.
So far I've been to the South Pacific (Tonga, Western Samoa and Rarotonga), New Zealand, Tasmania, Malaysia and Greece - yes, practicing law throughout. Thank you netbook computers, widespread broadband access - and (last, but not least) clients willing to experiment with a new delivery model for legal services!
05 March 2012
Fax: (416) 850-3282
Address: Nothing permanent, I travel around the world most of the time, and I have no office or residence in Canada. As I write this I'm in Greece.
Phone: None. I know about Skype but I prefer email for legal work as it leaves a convenient and precise record of communications that we can both go back and check when we need to.
You can confirm my status as an Ontario lawyer through the Law Society website, linked at the footer (below). The address and phone listed there are for administrative matters only. If you try to contact me there for client matters you will only be referred to my e-mail.