The Access to Justice Awards honours individuals whose commitment to providing access to justice for Albertans has been recognized as exceptional by their peers. Five awards were presented in 2015.

We were pleased to have Dr. Todd Foglesong as our keynote speaker, who spoke on how the justice community can use performance measures to affect important decisions. Dr. Foglesong is a professor of Global Practice at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.

Read Dr. Foglesongs speech on the impacts - social, human and judicial - of developing indicators and determining the real value of legal aid, here.

This event was presented through the generous support of sponsors.

2015 Award Recipients:

Support to a Legal Aid Alberta Program
Elizabeth Fry Society of Edmonton - Court Program, Award accepted by Sonja DeAeth

The Elizabeth Fry Society of Edmonton’s Court Program staff and volunteers are an invaluable resource to Albertans accessing busy docket courts.

Due to their efforts, Duty Counsel is able to receive clients in a timely and orderly fashion, creating the time needed to properly interview clients and make representations in court. They routinely speak with court clerks and individuals in the Case Management Office to collect information that is not available in the court room, but is needed in order for Duty Counsel to operate effectively.

They also provide triage service to unrepresented individuals making appearances at the Case Management Office, which greatly streamlines the amount of time the Justices of the Peace need to spend with each accused person.

It would not be possible for Duty Counsel, the docket courts and the Case Management Office to do the great work they do if it were not for the equally excellent work of the Elizabeth Fry Society staff and volunteers.

Practicing in the area of criminal law
Gloria Grieco, Lawyer, Dawson, Duckett, Shaigec & Garcia

Gloria Grieco has 15 years of experience as a criminal lawyer, and is a fierce advocate of access to justice in Alberta.

Gloria often accepts some of the most difficult and challenging files, representing youth and young adults who have significant mental health issues or cognitive deficits. She treats her clients with respect and dignity, and is an advocate for their rights. Drawing from a breadth of knowledge and experience, she works to ensure the voices of her clients are heard in the courts. Her clients quickly learn their trust is well placed and that they will be well served through her skill as a criminal lawyer.

Often volunteering her own time in support of Legal Aid Alberta clients and other marginalized people, Gloria volunteers with the Elizabeth Fry Society’s Legal Clinic at the Women’s prison, she is one of the advising lawyers for Student Legal Services, was a volunteer member of the Legal Aid Alberta Appeals Committee and is a supporter of the Youth Restorative Action Committee.

An on-going commitment to access to justice is at the helm of Gloria’s determination to ensure that Alberta’s most vulnerable, and often marginalized, are appropriately advised and represented.

Practicing in the area of criminal law
Leighton Grey, Q.C., Lawyer, Grey Munday Wowk LLP

Leighton Grey is considered to be one of the most senior and accomplished criminal lawyers in northeast Alberta. Throughout his 22 year career he has been a committed advocate for access to justice. As a senior criminal lawyer, Leighton is able to draw on this experience and support some of Alberta’s most vulnerable who could not otherwise afford representation. His commitment to assist those whom are only able to retain legal counsel through Legal Aid Alberta is a testament to his pledge towards access to justice.

It is common for Leighton to provide Duty Counsel while attending Court during criminal or family docket where he ensures everyone receives the assistance they require. He has often provided pro bono legal assistance for those who cannot afford private counsel.

Leighton has been Principal to three Students-at-Law and mentored five associate lawyers sharing his passion, knowledge, and concern for the rights of the individual. His philosophical approach to the profession and the need to ensure Alberta’s most vulnerable are represented has taken root with both the partners and associates at Grey Munday Wowk.

Client Services in Support of Access to Justice
Michelle Protsch, Family Resource Facilitator, Family Law Office, Legal Aid Alberta

Michelle has been a part of the Family Resource Facilitator team at Legal Aid Alberta’s Family Law Office for the past 13 years. Her arrival was integral to the office developing a specific, clear and significant role for registered social workers in the law office environment. Michelle is empathetic to the challenges experienced by her clients and she spends the time needed to properly identify concerns, so she can provide strategies and services to help resolve their issues.

Going over and above her expected role as a Family Resource Facilitator is the norm for Michelle. She has worked her way up to a Team Lead position through her dedication and support to both her team and clients. Her advocacy and professionalism have enabled the entire Family Resource Facilitator team to build positive relationships with other agencies and professionals who also serve the vulnerable in southern Alberta.

Michelle embodies what it means to be an advocate – she is tireless in her efforts to support clients in a non-judgmental, compassionate and pragmatic way.

Practicing in the area of Family Law
Widdowson Kachur Ostwald Menzies LLP, Award accepted by Sandra Hudson and Sarah MacDonald

The lawyers at Widdowson Kachur Ostwald Menzies LLP ("WK") are outstanding supporters of families affiliated with Discovery House Family Violence Prevention Society. Discovery House is devoted to the safety and well-being of women and children fleeing domestic abuse and they currently support 119 families. The partnership between Discovery House and WK resulted in monthly on-site legal clinics ensuring that Discovery House clientele have the best possible access to legal information. In addition to the clinics, WK does on-site legal info clinics for staff at Discovery House and was involved in a pro bono group mentorship program linking University of Calgary students with Discovery House.

WK has been involved with this project since November 2013. It involves lawyers, juniors and students serving those who need family law help the most. With empathy and assistance they make the pathway easier for clients to move forward with their personal healing journey. Clients, often facing the most difficult challenges of their lives, feel supported and cared for, and many are referred to Legal Aid Alberta for further assistance and representation.

Creating access to justice and legal guidance, is an invaluable service to the clients of Discovery House.

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Congratulations to our award recipients (L to R): Michelle Protsch, Sonja DeAeth, Leighton Grey, Q.C., Sarah MacDonald, Sandra Hudson, Gloria Grieco

Read more about the Access to Justice Awards Gala 2014