Ontario Bar Association Tom Marshall Award of Excellence 2021 - Acceptance Remarks

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Ontario Bar Association Tom Marshall Award of Excellence 2021 - Acceptance Remarks

June 3, 2021

3 June, 2021

Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé has been named this year’s recipient of the Ontario Bar Association’s Tom Marshall Award of Excellence for Public Sector Lawyers, honouring his contributions to public sector law in Ontario.

Ms. Charlene Theodore, OBA President
Mr. John Park, Chair of the Public Law Section
Mr. Tom Marshall Q.C.
Members of the Selection Committee
Fellow members of the Ontario Bar Association
Members of my Executive Management Team
Friends and Family,
Ladies and Gentlemen;


Thank you so much Charlene, Wendy, and Barb for your kind and generous words. Coming from anyone, those would be blush-inducing career highlights. Coming from my dear colleagues, they are all the more poignant and significant.

Can I begin my remarks by saying what a singular privilege it is to be honoured with this award?

My legal career began 29 years ago and I have to say that despite challenges, periods of uncertainty, and a few monumental disruptions, it has been all I could have hoped for in terms of fulfilment and gratification.

Of course, much of the credit goes to those who taught, encouraged, supported, and inspired me along the way…and continue to do so. The fact that I am being recognized so touchingly for work done in the public interest is a testament to those who instilled in me the desire to orient my career in that direction, and who helped calibrate my moral and ethical compasses.

Unfortunately, I do not have time to mention all the people to whom I owe a debt of gratitude, but I must at least skim the surface while acknowledging that, to borrow a phrase, it takes a village to produce a lawyer.

I obviously have to start with my parents and the sacrifices they made to enable my education. Of course, my first and most significant role model has been my father whose passion for the law was contagious and whose dedication to serving his clients was exemplary. The fact he still practices law at 88 years of age underscores that point.

As the t-shirt says, Lawyers don’t get old. They just lose their appeal.

Observing my dad in my youth, and later on in private practice together, provided me with a unique opportunity to learn crucial values and skills that I use every day. He taught me that it is a privilege to be a lawyer, and with privilege comes a responsibility to contribute to the public good, uphold the administration of justice, treat all people with respect, and be a champion for the disadvantaged in our society.

The other thing my dad taught me was that to be an effective lawyer, you must have credibility with those you deal with, and that the efforts to establish and maintain it never end.

Institutions can also have a positive influence and I want to acknowledge my alma mater, the University of Windsor, where access to justice was the formative theme and where I learned such great practical skills in the clinical law programme, that I was able to hit the ground running upon my call to the Bar.

I must say a special thanks to Claudia Jennings, our loyal and trusted secretary (she hates the term administrative assistant), whose patience and support helped me get my legal career off the ground. Claudia was always much more than an employee. She has been part of the family.

I don’t think it’s uncommon for young lawyers to struggle as they search for their path and wonder if they made the right career choice. Having a great mentor and role model can be so helpful at those times, and when I felt like I was floundering in the early years, I was extremely grateful for the advice of my uncle, Fred Ferguson. Fred was a Crown Prosecutor at the time and he said to me, “just keep doing what you’re doing. You are on the right path, doing great work, and the cream will eventually rise to the top”.

Fred is now a Justice of the Court of Queens Bench and I guess the passage of time has proved him right, and I recently found myself making similar observations - and giving the same advice - to a couple of new lawyers I am mentoring.

Et merci infiniment à tous et toutes ces procureur(e)s et juges qui ont fait preuve de beaucoup de patience et de compréhension à mon égard lorsque j’apprenais le français en même temps que ma carrière d’avocat plaidant.

Of course, the highlight of my career has been to serve as Ontario’s provincial Ombudsman, surrounded by a stellar team of the smartest and most dedicated people I have ever had the honour to work with. The award you are bestowing upon me today is in large part recognition of the work my team and I have done - and what we have accomplished over the past five years - together.   

I am truly inspired and energized every day by the people I am blessed to work with, from my exceptional executive management team, to the stellar managers and incredible staff. We have a truly world-class organization, and I want to say a huge thanks to all of them for their tremendous support.

Therefore, I humbly accept this award on behalf of the entire team at Ombudsman Ontario.

In closing, I want to heartily thank and applaud the Ontario Bar Association, not just for this award, but also for the vital work it does day in and day out. Its contributions to improving the administration of justice, and promoting access to justice, align very much with my values and priorities, as well as those of my organization. So, as my Australian friends would say, “Good on ya!”

I am humbled by this honour and especially grateful that my parents and my daughter could participate virtually.

Thank you so much!

Merci beaucoup!

Paul Dubé