Canada

Review

Dispute resolution
Bennett Jones

ALBERTA 

Bennett Jones has remained an historic institution in its native Calgary, where it first opened in 1920. “We will have at least one or two files with Bennett Jones every year in perpetuity,” states one peer bluntly. “Other firms have come and gone, and some have been more successful than others, but in Calgary they are in a constant game of catch-up with Bennett Jones.” Blair Yorke-Slader continues to enjoy a profile in the market that is unanimously considered “very marquis” by peers. Yorke-Sladerprovides lead trial counsel for 801 Seventh, which owns a 37-story building in downtown Calgary. The tenant leased virtually all of the building under a lease that ran until 2031. After reducing its workforce, the tenant sought to reduce its lease burden by pointing to the presence of trace amounts of asbestos in the fireproofing.Though extensive testing showed the building had been and remained safe, in May 2019 the tenant fled the buildingleaving a building in downtown Calgary virtually vacant terminated the leaseand sued for $70 million. 801 has countersued both the tenant and its Chinese parent company and guarantorfor $500 million. Yorke-Slader continues to play a role acting for Dow Chemical in the client’s long-running billion-dollar dispute with NOVA, which is actually back in trial on a hearing that is slated to recalculate damages. Several peers (including Yorke-Slader himself) insist that Bruce Mellett is playing a more prominent role in this matter as well. “Self-promotion and him don’t go in the same sentence but he really does deserve the ranking, he is superior counsel, respected by the judges. He was heavily reliedon in the Dow case,” observes a peer. “He has 30 years at the bar and is a brilliant guy who just gets overlooked too often.” Another peer concurs, testifying, “Bruce is quietly effective, not a marketing-driven lawyer. He likes to be in his office reading case law. But he is a key lieutenant on real technical litigation.” Munaf Mohamed has etched an equally prominent profile in the Calgary market for his no-nonsense courtroom demeanor and his acumen with cases involving sensitive issues related to fraud. One peer’s opinion resonates as a general consensus: “Munaf continues to be the most aggressive and effective litigator in Calgary, without question.” Mohamed leads a firm team representing a group of Saudi companies in advancing one of the largest fraud claims in Canada against a high-ranking former Minister of Cabinet in the former Saudi government, who is alleged along with a number of close family and friends and the former Crown Prince of embezzling a massive amount of money and moving it into various offshore havens and who, once stripped of his titles and position, fled to Canada. A worldwide freezing order has been obtained against the former Minister, together with various other extraordinary orders.A peer exclaims, “Everyone is talking about this case!” Mohamed and Michael Mysak successfully represented NEP Canada ULC, the plaintiff, in significant litigation involving post-M&A matters. These involved complicated issues of reservoir engineering, oil and gas infrastructure, valuation methods and fraud relating to gross misrepresentations made within a share-purchase agreement. The plaintiff obtained a $185 million judgment, plus costs and interest, which will make the total well over $200 million, for fraud and breach of contract arising from misrepresentations made by the vendor in selling infrastructure assets.  

  

ONTARIO 

The firm’s Toronto office, which in recent years has raced ahead in a market prominence to rival its Calgary headquarters, continues to be in growth mode. “Bennett Jones has managed to stay good and responsive,” voices one peer, “and litigation has always been a predominant feature of the firm.” Further demonstrating Bennett Jones’s pole position in litigation concerning fraud, Lincoln Caylor led a case on behalf of the court-appointed joint liquidators of Stanford International Bank Limited (SIB) in their Ontario action against TD Bank, which is alleged to have facilitated SIB’s massive Ponzi scheme for over 20 years. The action seeks to recover US$5.5 billion from TD Bank and went to a four-month virtual trial in early 2021. The Toronto office houses some of the firm’s (and, some would argue, Canada’s) top class-action counsel. Chief among these is Michael Eizenga, referenced on a near-unanimous basis by peers in the defense capacity as well as by class-action plaintiffs on the other side of the equation. Eizenga is a prolific class counsel with several major mandates on the go in any given year. In just one recent example, he was counsel to Marriott International in defense of class actions arising from the Starwood Security Database data breach. Following a decision of the Ontario court directing Marriott to assist in developing a “procedure akin to, and perhaps better than, the MDL (multidistrictlitigation) procedure used by American states,Bennett Jones used a “first impression” simultaneous motion to settle how many class actions should proceed. In November 2020, the multijurisdictional panel directed that a single national class action in Ontario should proceed, reducing 16 actions in five provinces to a single national class action in Ontario. Ranjan Agarwal, who acts with Eizenga on this matter, is developing his own fan base as well. “Ranjan and his brother Rahool [at Lax O’Sullivan] just tick all the boxes. You will be hearing a lot more about both of them.” Another class-action specialist in the Toronto office, Cheryl Woodin is renowned for her experience as well as her expansive portfolio. One peer crows, “Cheryl is one of the top 50 women litigators in Canada! I encounter her frequently and I am very impressed.” Robert Staley, a fearless and “firebrand”star of the securities field, led a team (which included Calgary partner Justin Lambert) that acted for Calfrac Well Services in completing an arrangement under the Canada Business Corporations Act. Over the course of the transaction, the company successfully defended against a dissident proxy solicitation, a takeover bid, and appeals of the interim and final orders approving the plan of arrangement, each as proposed by an activist shareholder and debtholder of the company. The Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear an appeal of the decision from the Court of Appeal of Alberta that approved a lower court’s approval of Calfrac’s recapitalization transaction. 

Blake Cassels & Graydon

ONTARIO

Blake Cassels & Graydon’s Toronto office has long been a dominant force in the city’s business community, servicing some of the largest and most recognized names on Bay Street. While it is often linked to financial institutions, the firm has of late exemplified been active in cases that exemplify a more diverse roster of clients. Notably, some of these cases have been spearheaded by younger partners. Iris Fischer, a commercial litigator with a niche in the defamation and media capacities, represented the Toronto Star and one of its reporters in an application to unseal the estate court files of a prominent Canadian philanthropist couple that was murdered. After succeeding for her client at the Ontario Court of Appeal, she triumphed once again at the Supreme Court of Canada in June 2021. Melanie Baird, who joined the firm from Lenczner Slaght along with Andrew Skodyn (with whom she works in tandem with as well as on her own), has also quickly ascended the ranks, and yet is still considered underrated by some. “Blakes in Toronto is first-class,” declares a peer, “and Melanie in particular is a litigation standout. She drives a huge volume of work and is an exceptionally talented trial lawyer in intellectual property cases, class actions and commercial litigation generally. Although well regarded and highly ranked, her profile falls below exceptional contribution she makes to her firm and the litigation bar.” (Benchmark attempted to address this by bestowing the “Intellectual Property Litigator of the Year” award on Baird at the 2022 Benchmark Canada awards – ed.) Skodyn has also amassed his own fan base over the years, with one peer marveling, “It’s been fascinating to watch him blaze trails [at his former firms and his present one]."

QUÉBEC

The firm’s Montréal office scored a key young recruit in Matthew Liben, a noted standout who the firm lured to its bench from Stikeman Elliott. A client raves on Liben’s behalf: “Matthew has done an excellent job in his thoroughness and ability to advocate on behalf of us thus far. I observed several examinations and was impressed by his ability to quickly redirect the questioning and make objections on behalf of our witnesses. His calm demeanor and ability to succinctly analyze the issues in front of many of our senior executives has been very valuable.” Francis Rouleau, litigation group leader in Montréal, continues to represent Bell Canada and its affiliates as lead counsel in injunctive proceedings which called upon Québecor and its affiliates to restore the broadcast signal that Groupe TVA unlawfully interrupted during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Blakes succeeded in having the Court issue an injunctive order enjoining Groupe TVA to restore the broadcast signal to more than 425,000 Bell subscribers. Claude Marseille and future star Ariane Bisaillon scored a big win for Hydro-Québec before the Supreme Court of Canada in 2020, securing a unanimous decision that allowed for the construction of a new transmission line. The Blakes pair was brought in on appeal to the Supreme Court and succeeded in reversing the Court of Appeal’s earlier denial of the client’s right to build on disputed lands across the province of Québec. Simon Seida, who made partner in 2019, attends to a diverse practice, most recently attending to matters with a competition and class action element. Rouleau, Marseille and Robert Torralbo have long been championed as litigation leaders by local peers, and continue to be, with one contemporary taking care to note, “These guys are still at the top of their game, primo litigators without a doubt.”

 

ALBERTA

Blakes’ Calgary office houses one of the community’s deepest litigation benches, all attending to the most high-stakes matters affecting the region’s volatile oil-and-gas industry. Ken Mills, a longtime leader of the litigation group in this office, is credited by several in the community for several successful strategic recruiting, enterprising and culture-fostering decisions. A local peer asserts, “Blakes did phenomenally well during the COVID downturn. They were hiring and growing when others were letting go. They have a good group of young people coming up who just naturally ‘get it.’” David Tupper remains one of Calgary’s most active and in-demand partners. “David is someone I see on a lot of the big infrastructure work.” In one such example, Tupper represented Pembina Pipeline Corporation in a shareholder dispute, in which he triumphed in August 2021. Tupper provided counsel to Nexen Energy ULC arising from a 2015 pipeline spill in Northern Alberta. Dalton McGrath, along with future star Michael O’Brien successfully represented ENMAX Energy Corporation in connection with a CAD $120 million dispute concerning the existence of transmission lines and towers located in downtown Calgary that serve millions of customers against a private landowner. Mark Morrison, one of the only bona fide white-collar crime practitioners in the province, was selected as the Compliance Monitor for SNC-Lavalin for a three-year term as part of its recent conviction and $280 million fine arising from fraud and bribery in Libya.

 

BRITISH COLUMBIA

In Vancouver, peers point to securities star Sean Boyle as “someone who is doing some fairly novel and sophisticated work for BC and at the same time really hustling to get more of it. He has done a great job of getting his own name out there while also building the team.” Alexandra Luchenko is another swiftly risen star who is making waves in the white-collar criminal world. “Alex is a certified fraud examiner,” notes one peer, “and she is coming up huge in the criminal side of things.” Another peer raves, “Alex is awesome. She is smart, super hard-working and has the ability to cut through the morass and get to the nub of it. She’s efficient and doesn’t waste time with petty things.” The pair of Boyle and Luchenko act for Detona Capital in proceedings commenced in January 2019 by the British Columbia Securities Commission and Alberta Securities Commission against over 60 respondents styled as the Bridgemark Group relating to an alleged cheque swamp scheme in excess of $50 million. Blakes, along with other law firms, have filed a Notice of Constitutional Question, alleging illegal search and seizure of the Parties’ bank accounts and challenging the constitutionality of the Freeze Order provisions of the Securities Act. The investigation continues with document discovery and compelled interviews taking place.  Issues surrounding sealing order and the intersection of a class action are working through the court of appeal with applications being made to the Supreme Court of Canada. Joe McArthur is also beloved by many in the community, with one peer going so far as to call him “just my favorite, so easy to deal with” and further opining “We could sure use more in the profession like Joe.” Another asserts, “Joe can do it all, but his sweet spot is arbitrations and in particular those that cross borders. He’s not only a leader in that regard but also kind of cornered a market.” It is also noted that Laura Cundari has a “huge, and growing, arbitration practice that deals with a lot of construction and infrastructure. She is also getting a ton of arbitrator appointments.”

 

Peers also commend Blakes for its class action practice, and in particular, the evident fostering of younger talent attending to these matters. “Younger Blakes lawyers are getting more involved in class actions, and clients welcome it,” testifies a peer. “They want to hire a top-tier firm but they don’t want to necessarily pay the rates of a more senior partner.” Illustrating the firm’s class-action capacity as well as its inter-office prowess, a multi-office team consisting of Toronto’s Catherine Beagan-Flood and Nicole Henderson and Vancouver’s Robin Reinertson represent TDL Group in litigation stemming from a published report regarding location data collected by the Tim Horton’s mobile app. The plaintiffs allege collection and use of geolocation data of consumers without proper disclosure or consent through the Tim Hortons, Burger King and Popeye’s Chicken mobile apps.

Borden Ladner Gervais

BRITISH COLUMBIA 
Vancouver’s Dionysios Rossi is generating a pronounced profile among peers for his along with fellow Vancouver-based partner and transportation law specialist Graham Walker provided Canadian legal counsel to Kirby Corporation in all criminal and civil proceedings arising from the grounding of a US-flagged tugboat in 2016 while transiting the Inside Passage of British Columbia, spilling fuel into Seaforth Channel. In July 2019, Kirby pleaded guilty to three counts in connection with the incident and was fined a total of $2.9 million. A local Aboriginal group commenced a BC Supreme Court civil action against Kirby seeking damages in respect of the incident. Kirby commenced a Federal Court action seeking to have the Federal Court assume jurisdiction over the case and determine whether and to what extent Kirby was entitled to limit its liability in accordance with various international conventions. The motion was granted. A domestic and international arbitration specialist in Vancouver, Robert Deane acted on a matter in which a group of American investors brought a claim against the government of Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) seeking $100 million for alleged unlawful interference with the claimants’ casino business in Mexico, including raids on facilities, seizure of equipment and bank account funds, closure of facilities and invalidation of a gaming permit. An arbitral tribunal constituted under the NAFTA and International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Additional Facilities Rules issued a Partial Final Award dismissing the jurisdictional objections of the government of Mexico in the arbitration. “Rob Deane is just incredible, and really just one of the few people in Canada who even does this work,” extols a peer. “I actually sent a factum of his around to a bunch of my associates because I thought it was so good. [He is] Clearly one of the best counsel in the province.” 

ONTARIO 
In the Toronto office, Caitlin Sainsbury, a routinely championed commercial and securities-focused partner, actually triumphed in the competition area when she led a team that successfully defeated certification on behalf of Samsung of a $1 billion Federal Court claim alleging conspiracy in the supply of DRAM memory chips. This was the first decision by the Federal Court refusing to certify a cartel claim and is one of the only such decisions anywhere in Canada. “We are huge fans of Cait Sainsbury,” extols one high-level peer in the securities capacity. “She is definitely spreading her wings now, getting into a host of interesting mandates in a lead position.” Two other stars in the securities and class-action areas, David Di Paolo and Nadia Effendi, represented Amazon in a proposed employment class action in which the plaintiff proposed to act as representative plaintiff on behalf of a proposed national class consisting of tens of thousands of drivers who have delivered packages to Amazon’s customers since January 2016, either through the Amazon Flex app or as employees of third-party delivery companies. The plaintiff seeks declarations that the defendants are or were a common employer of the class members at common law and pursuant to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act and equivalent provincial legislation, and that the defendants breached the Employment Standards Act and equivalent provincial statutory requirements with respect to overtime, minimum wage, vacation and statutory holiday pay, premium pay, meal breaks, termination pay, and record-keeping and notification requirements. The case is still at an early stage and the certification motion has not yet been argued.“Nadia Effendi is one of the best,” ventures a peer. “She came up under [revered senior partner and star of the Ontario and Québec bars] Guy Pratte and so she got excellent training and is now carrying that forward.” Hugh Meighen is making a name for himself among the stalwarts of the domestic and international arbitration community. Meighen represents Tower EBC in a dispute related to a contested termination of earthworks contracts in Nunavut. The owner terminated the contracts when it faced major delays in obtaining certain permits, alleging frustration and a repudiation of the contracts by the client, a Québec- and Nunavut-based joint venture. The arbitration hearing was held in May 2020 and was one of the first full hearings to be conducted on a virtual platform at Arbitration Place.  

ALBERTA 
BLG’s Calgary office houses some of the firm’s biggest luminaries in its construction practice.Jeffrey Vallis receives universal acclaim. “He’s frequently on the other side of us and he makes us work for our money,” quips one peer. Another raves, “He is a superb advocate in counsel and has done a ton of arbitrations in Alberta and Manitoba in particular.” Trish Morrison, also acknowledged as “excellent, just really first-rate,” leads the defense of a claim made by Dow Chemical Canada and ME Global Canada for damages in the amount of $210 million arising out of negligence and breach of contract related to the failure and forced shutdown of a boiler feedwater preheat exchanger, which is part of the process of cracking ethane gas into ethylene. Patrick Heinsen, who practices in the firm’s celebrated health law space, represents Alberta Health Services (AHS) against four unvaccinated doctors practicing in Alberta who have commenced a litigation against the client and its CEO concerning the implementation and constitutionality of AHS’s mandatory immunization program, which allegedly breaches their freedom of religion rights, and are claiming that the science behind the vaccination strategy is flawed. Matti Lemmens, a multi-faceted commercial litigator, has been busy as of late with a raft of insolvency work across a diverse spectrum of industries, encompassing everything from energy entities to gyms. 

QUÉBEC 
The firm’s Montréal office hosts a variety of litigators spanning class actions, investigations, banking and securities. “They have a large – and great – class-action practice there,” insists one peer. Arguably the most prominent figure in Montréal, Mathieu Piché-Messier attends to a practice that balances commercial work with specialty cases of a more novel nature, especially where there is a media or celebrity element involved. Piché-Messier, a recent entrant into the American College of Trial Lawyers and one of the youngest partners to become one, is championed by peers on a near-unanimous basis. “Mathieu just continues to kill it,” marvels a peer. “All eyes are on him in Montréal.” In one such example of one of his more media-worthy cases, Piché-Messier represents Julie Snyder, a popular TV host in Québec, who is being sued for defamation after she mentioned on her live TV show that she had been sexually harassed by the plaintiff while she was sleeping. In yet another example, Piché-Messier is also representing the Québec Minister of Economy and Innovation in a defamation case after the client mentioned, while in office, that the plaintiff, a very prominent businesswoman in Québec and a director of Quebecor and of a subsidiary of Desjardins, might be in a position of conflict of interest while addressing a public/private investment opportunity. Exemplifying this office’s class-action depth and power, Stéphane Pitre is noted for “having a lot of work, especially for car manufacturers,” according to one peer, who further stresses, “I think he deserves more recognition.” Pitre, whose practice also encompasses construction and insurance, acted with Anne Merminod in the successful defense of IIROC in a class-action lawsuit over loss of personal information at the merit stage. The claim was dismissed. Merminod, a recent addition to Benchmark and a quickly rising future star, is developing her own devoted fan base among peers and clients. François Gagnon, a specialist in the banking and restructuring area, also is a peer favorite. “This guy’s good,” opines a peer. “Smart, tough, no-nonsense.” Borden Ladner’s Montréal office also recently benefited from a team of other insolvency and restructuring litigators returning to the firm after a stint at a more regional competitor. A peer confides, “They had a better chance of developing a team over there [at BLG] – they went back home!” 

Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg


Through its offices in Toronto and Montréal, Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg maintains a dominant position in the eastern half of Canada, with a litigation bench distributed evenly among both offices that is composed of a healthy generational spread of seasoned partners and up-and-comers, all imbued with a hard-charging approach to litigation. Peers regularly reference the firm as being one of the strongest and most balanced in terms of litigation horsepower at a firm that is not exclusively dedicated to litigation. “Davies remains one of the most consistently strong group of litigators. They’re always at the very front of the pack.” Clients meanwhile turn out in force to voice their appreciation for the firm. One cheers the Davies team as “incredibly responsive, with a very quick and thorough grasp of the issues to resolve” and specifically addresses the “excellent and rigorous legal analysis and attention to detail.” Another client notes, “The representations prepared [for us] addressed the issues in depth, and they were delivered within the agreed deadline and mostly on budget.” Still another offers in summation, “I have worked with almost all of the leading Canadian dispute resolution firms. Davies is in the highest grouping.”

In the Toronto office, all-purpose trial lawyer Kent Thomson is a towering figure. Respected as a tireless, dogged worker and a dynamic courtroom presence, Thomson has the support from both peers and clients. Thomson, along with Derek Ricci, is acting for TransAlta Corporation in defending an oppression action brought by a minority shareholder. This $750 million dispute was commenced after a Davies team successfully defended TransAlta in connection with “public interest” proceedings initiated against TransAlta by Mangrove Partners before the Ontario Securities Commission and Alberta Securities Commission. Michael Lubetsky is also part of this team and is a debut future star who is generating a notable groundswell of peer and client review on his own. “Michael Lubetsky was spectacularly diligent and thorough, particularly given the pro bono nature of the mandate [he led for us],” testifies one client. “He and the Davies team left no stone unturned and presented well-researched and creative arguments to the court.” Lubetsky is also working with Andrea Burke and Sandra Forbes in acting for McKesson in a proposed class action brought by the Province of British Columbia on behalf of all Canadian provincial governments, as well as the Federal government, against manufacturers and distributors of opioids seeking to recover health care costs related to the opioid crisis. Ricci meanwhile is also acting for Giant Tiger in the defense of numerous class proceedings commenced in jurisdictions across Canada relating to alleged price-fixing of commercial bread products in Canada at the wholesale and retail levels. Acting with Ricci is Chantelle Cseh, a swiftly risen former future star who is making her impactful presence felt in the market. “Chantelle Cseh is the pride of Barrie [Ontario],” enthuses one peer. “She is someone I’ve done a boatload of work with and she’s an absolute pleasure to do business with, an extraordinary lawyer.” Cseh is acting as counsel for the appellants, the Estate Trustees of Barry and Honey Sherman, in the high-profile appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada against the Toronto Star and its Chief Investigative Reporter in a matter concerning a sealing order obtained by the Estate Trustees which restricts public access to materials filed in connection with the administration of the Shermans’ estates. Cseh and Matthew Milne-Smith acted for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce as an intervener before the Supreme Court of Canada in an appeal concerning the applicability of arbitration clauses to class actions on Ontario. The plaintiff is an Uber driver who asserts that he is an employee entitled to the protections of the Employment Standards Act. However, at the time that he signed up to be an Uber driver, he entered into an agreement that stated that he was an independent contractor and not an employee, and that any disputes relating to the agreement were to be resolved by way of arbitration. The Supreme Court found that Uber’s Canadian arbitration clauses were unconscionable and invalid. The client intervened in the appeal to assert the importance of holding parties to their commercial bargains.

The Montréal team has been equally busy with its own unique mix of cases across several disciplines. The insolvency group has seen a particularly pronounced level of activity this year. “Davies has had a huge run lately in acting for debtor companies,” attests a peer. “Just taking a look at the numbers for this year it has been them [leading these matters] very often. Particularly out of Montréal because a ton of the retail filings this year have been there.” Denis Ferland is acting as counsel for The Pallinghurst Group, a global metals and mining industry investor, in its proposed equity investment of up to $600 million in Nemaska Lithium to help fund Nemaska’s Whabouchi project in Québec. The transactions involve the first reverse vesting order approved by a Canadian court in the face of active opposition from certain creditors. Leon Moubayed, a “young but very experienced” partner with a white-collar crime specialty, successfully acted for a franchisee in his defense to a prosecution regarding tax-related charges. This prosecution was a test case in a major investigation of computer products franchisees led by the Québec Revenue Agency and the Sûreté du Québec,the provincial police. Moubayed successfully challenged the disclosure of the evidence by the public prosecutors, obtaining a precedent-setting decision in December 2019, and also successfully argued and obtained a judgment from the Court of Québec concluding that the prosecution infringed the client’s right to be tried within a reasonable time and, as a result, ordered a stay of proceedings and charges. Nick Rodrigo, a class-action authority, is acting for US-based Epic Games and its Canadian subsidiary in relation to a proposed class action by users of the popular video game Fortnite. In a class action that is the first of its kind in Canada, the plaintiffs allege that Epic Games intentionally designed Fortnite to be psychologically addictive, leading to uncontrollable and compulsive behavior in players of the game. In addition, the plaintiff complains that the system of in-game purchases is designed to exploit this addiction and represents a form of illegal advertising to children prohibited under the Québec Consumer Protection Act. Guy du Pont, a seasoned trial lawyer and universally revered figure in the Montréal legal community, continues to pursue his agenda of pursuing cases with a tax element.

Fasken

BRITISH COLUMBIA

The Vancouver office of Fasken is widely viewed by peers as home to one of the strongest litigation teams in the city, and indeed one within a big national firm rather than a litigation boutique. “We regularly see someone from Fasken on files, you would have to work pretty hard not to,” confirms one peer. Sadly, the firm had to weather the loss of Mark Andrews, a senior litigation partner of considerable stature, whose unfortunate passing was felt by all in the Vancouver legal community. Even a loss this major, however, did not come as a devastating blow to the team’s collective strength. “Fasken has some of the broadest litigation reach in town,” confirms one local peer. “They have a really deep pool, with talent all across the generations.” Indeed, Geoff Cowper remains a formidable senior figure, with a practice that spans major arbitrations as well as trials. On the younger end of the spectrum, Gavin Cameron led a team representing DP World Prince Rupert in a Fisheries Act prosecution in relation to a port expansion project in Prince Rupert. The Crown laid 10 charges against the defendants, primarily for alleged breaches of conditions under the Fisheries Act Authorization obtained for the Project. Cameron is recognized by peers as “one of the best guys of our vintage in town,” with one confirming, “He would be on every shortlist. [He is as] Smart as they come but doesn’t mind rolling around in the ditch to get something done.” Tracey Cohen, a commercial litigator with a diverse practice, is touted as “one of the most quickly escalating presences in the province,” with one peer noting, “Tracey has a flair for making a client feel very cared for and protected, and if you’re against her, she can be ferocious and tough as nails.” Another competitor calls Cohen “a real leader in the business these days. She has really worked her way to the top.” Cohen represents Eastern Platinum Limited and its subsidiaries in an action commenced by them in the British Columbia Supreme Court against the former officers and directors of the companies as a result of questionable payments pursuant to a change of control of the board that occurred in 2016. Andrew Nathanson also continues to draw praise from the Vancouver legal community on a near-unanimous basis for a multi-faceted practice that blends elements of commercial litigation and white-collar crime.

ONTARIO

Fasken’s Toronto office is host to an equally diverse range of litigation practices, with class actions taking an undeniably central position. In this capacity, Steven Rosenhek has developed a niche practice of his own, with several class actions for automotive entities. Rosenhek is representing Kia Canada and its parent and affiliates in the context of a class action/motion for authorization to institute a class action in Ontario and Québec on behalf of a class of consumers who own or lease Kia models equipped with a panoramic sunroof based on allegations of design and manufacturing defects. Sarah Armstrong leads a team that represents Capital One in three separate CAD$20 million individual claims arising out of a data breach which was publicly disclosed by Capital One in July 2019. Vera Toppings is also making her mark in the class actions world but also beyond this practice. “Fasken has had an uptick on the more sophisticated side of financial work, with David Hausman and Vera Toppings showing up more,” confirms a peer. The firm’s Ontario footprint also extends to Ottawa, where Peter Mantas juggles a bucket of work that touches on administrative law, appeals and white-collar crime work.

QUÉBEC

Fasken’s Montréal office had to weather the recent loss of product liability figurehead Martin Sheehan to the bench, but it has quickly moved to make the strategic hire of Sebastien Richemont from his former post at litigation powerhouse Woods. Richemont is representing XTL Transport, a family business, and its founder against a claim for an oppression remedy and damages for an aggregate amount in excess of $71 million instituted by the daughter of XTL’s founder. Frédéric Gilbert is a commercial litigator who has developed a noteworthy niche in franchise law. He represented the franchise Modern Cleaning Concepts at the Supreme Court of Canada in such a dispute, seeking to reverse an earlier unfavorable decision at the Québec Court of Appeal. “Frédéric is emblematic of the future of commercial litigators,” asserts one peer. Peers are also quick to point out “Noah Boudreau is doing a lot of the heavy lifting over there these days. You’re seeing a lot more of him and he deserves more notice. He took over a good part of Martin Sheehan’s practice.” Alain Reindeau leads a team that successfully represented Transat, a Canadian airline and tourism public company, in the heavily disputed battle for the sale of the company. Eric Simard is part of a team acting for Areva Est Canada and Orano Mining in an action to annul two agreements of a value of more than C$50 million with respect to the sale of shares of a uranium entity following the discovery that one of Orano’s employees involved in the negotiation of the agreements illegally received a substantial amount of over C$17 million.

ALBERTA

The Calgary office, while smaller than the others, is in growth mode. The recent hire of Darren Reed, a commercial lawyer formerly with Blake Cassels & Graydon and JSS Barristers before that, is cheered by peers as “a fantastic recruit. Darren has that great combination of young energy and years of experience being seasoned at two other great litigation shops.” Peers also advise, “Pay more attention to Karen Wyke, she is a fierce litigator doing some big cases that people are sort of watching at the moment. She is doing a giant arbitration for an Italian client.” Gulu Punia and Arif Chowdhury represent Mac’s Convenience Stores in a lawsuit whereby the plaintiff seeks over CAD$24 million in damages on the basis of a disputed right of first refusal clause in an ATM services agreement.

Lawson Lundell

Lawson Lundell has for decades enjoyed a status as one of Western Canada’s most respected regional legal shops, and that status has only seemed to grow with each passing year. “They are going from strength to strength,” sums up a peer, elaborating, “They have a sweet spot in the market. They are expanding quickly but at the same time staying independent and focused on the Western Canadian economy. That allows them to build their client base, which features a lot of energy and resource players, but still be able to service them better than they would if they were a big international firm.” Several of these referred-to clients turn out in force to commend the firm; one notes, “The Lawson Lundell lawyers who represented us successfully avoided court, and ultimately we received the best outcome in favor of our case. The team was thorough and explained the process very well to what was a very complicated case. It also needs to be said that they were a great value.”  

     Already dominant in British Columbia, with a head office in Vancouver and another in Kelowna, Lawson Lundell has recently risen to the forefront in the Alberta market as well. Its Calgary office, for years primarily spearheaded by Tammy Coates, saw a major boost in profile in 2018 when it recruited nine partners from another Calgary institution. The Calgary team continues to impress its local peers. “They have really made a push here and are doing fine,” observes one Calgary peer. “They play with a little more bandwidth than you might expect.” Mike Donaldson was one of the team members that came to Lawson recently. “I’ve seen a lot of Mike Donaldson,” testifies a competitor. “He has a great relationship with TransAlta and has a lockdown on that work. But he also has a great team working with him.” One key member of this team is Shannon Wray, who has been busy with a number of cases over the past year, in addition to her efforts in driving and fostering the team culture in Calgary. Wray acted with Coates on a milestone commercial matter for Shaw in which the Western Canadian telecommunication entity would, if the plan receives final approval from regulators, combine with the more national-based Rogers in an ambitious expansion. Wray also acted with future star Jonathan Selnes on behalf of Crescent Point Energy in a $10 million commercial dispute. Grant Vogeli is one of Calgary’s most respected litigators and one of the only litigators at Lawson’s office there to not focus primarily on oil-and-gas disputes. “Grant is very good, and pretty much the entire legal community here shares that view,” insists one peer in summation. “He takes on an eclectic mix of stuff, and not just the massive files. I’ve actually got him opposite me right now.” 

     In Vancouver, Craig Ferris remains a central figure. “Craig is a trial lawyer through and through,” commends one peer. “He ticks a lot of boxes: tough but unflappable, crazy intelligent but understated about it. He knows how to use these skills to trick opponents through his calm demeanor and get them into boxes they have a hard time getting out of. It works.” A veteran of the mining work that Lawson has been known for over the years, Ferris acts for Rio Tinto in a commercial dispute arising from a major diamond mining exploration project located in Saskatchewan. Acting with Ferris on this matter, Marko Vesely is another Vancouver partner with extensive experience in the resources industry and is a favorite of peers and clients. “I have a file with Marko right now and I find him to be very strategic,” testifies one peer. This duo also represents Imperial Distributors in cases brought by the province against entities alleged to have a role in the opioid epidemic. Ferris also represents BC Hydro in a construction issue relating to the building of the Big Bend substation in Burnaby. Acting with Ferris on this matter is Mark Fancourt-Smith, a practitioner with a unique hybrid of commercial litigation, injunction work and “quasi-intellectual property issues.” Jeff Christian is another partner with a long history of attending to BC Hydro and acts for this entity in separate regulatory matter. Christian acts exclusively in the energy, resource and utilities sector and possesses extensive expertise in acting before regulatory tribunals. Laura Bevan is another peer favorite. “She is fantastic, I have a lot of time for her. She is a real force to be reckoned with, [she is] very effective, gets good mandates.” One such mandate is Bevan’s engagement on behalf of Gateway Casinos, a participant in the gaming sector, in a broad and high-profile review of money laundering within several key industries in British ColumbiaKeith Bergner is routinely identified as one of the top practitioners in the Aboriginal law and regulatory area not only within the firm but in the province. “Keith has real credibility,” states a peer. “Aboriginal groups and commercial entities alike trust in his insights.” Bergner acts for Grieg Seafood, which was one of several parties to commence a judicial review of a December 2020 decision by the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard regarding fish-farming facilities in the Discovery Islands. A number of preliminary motions were heard and decided by the Federal Court, including an injunction application, various applications by First Nations and environmental NGOs to be added as parties and/or intervenors, and an adjournment application. The Vancouver office maintains other niche specialties as well; Nicole Skuggedal attends to a thriving labor and employment practice, including issues of wrongful dismissal, labor relations, human rights and privacy issues in courts, in arbitrations and before various tribunals. 

McCarthy Tétrault



Miller Thomson

ONTARIO 

Miller Thomson stands out in Ontario for the diversity of its bench, its clients and its work, which spans a greater variety than that of many other firms, particularly those that are Toronto-centric. “Miller Thomson has an unusual model,” observes a local peer. “They are one of the biggest firms in Canada and cover almost every province. They have grown aggressively but have done so in a smart way. They went after a different market, a broader variety and a different strata of clients, in which they were able to undercut other firms on fees and actually land a good number of quality files this way. They do work that other firms don’t do, like insurance defense and family law.” One satisfied client addresses Miller Thomson as,A terrific business law shop that is building significant bench strength in various areas. They are professional, and the lawyers we dealt with understand First Nations issues very well.” The firm is one of the few national entities whose strategic expansion has focused on developing bench strength in areas of Ontario such as London and the Kitchener/Waterloo region, to the point where its concentration of litigators there is as dense as it is in Toronto. In Kitchener/Waterloo, Rohit Kumar attends to a varied commercial practice; examples of his work include a recent case that touches on employment law, in which a plaintiff brought a summary judgment motion seeking damages for breach of an employment contract or alternatively a declaration that he was entitled to an equity stake in the client company. The parties disputed the nature of the contract and what documents the court should look at in order to determine what the contract was. The court agreed with the defendants and dismissed the summary judgment motion in December 2020. Another commercial litigator, one who works from Kitchener/Waterloo as well as Toronto, Adam Stephens is namechecked by a peer as a “very good and able lawyer, particularly in shareholders’ rights cases.” 

 

QUÉBEC 

The firm’s Montréal team is regarded by peers as “fighters, who are not complacent. They are fighters in the right way, and I respect that a lot.” In particular, Yves Robillard is considered by peers to be “difficult but talented, a true generalist as well. He takes on all manner of stuff. Yves has street smarts, experience and knows what it’s like to be in a courtroom. He deserves more recognition. He works a lot with Fadi Amine, who does a lot of class actions – Fadi was involved in the Lac Mégantic class action!” Amine represented the plaintiff in judicial review and injunctive proceedings against the Minister of Immigration (Québec) when, in December 2019, without consultation or warning, the Québec government enacted a Ministerial Decree completely suspending the receipt and treatment of certificates of acceptance to Québec for temporary foreign students enrolled in private colleges. The measure allegedly targeted thousands of students from certain countries, upending their plans and studies and putting in peril the money they paid so far. Amine triumphed when, in January 2021, the Québec government almost immediately relented and reversed course, then annulled the Ministerial Decree. Patricia Fourcand makes her debut in this edition as a future star on the strength of a very busy and contentious family law practice that often involves international aspects and covers a novel array of elements that touch on religion, immigration and child custody, as well as distribution of assets. 

 

SASKATCHEWAN 

Miller Thomson is one of the only national firms to have any substantial depth in this province, and local peers are impressed. Regina-based Roger Lepageis a consistent favorite. A peer testifies, “Roger has a niche in human rights, labor and employment and education, and really kind of has that space all to himself. Judges and tribunals respect him and listen to him, and everyone gets along with him.” As do many other Saskatchewan litigators, Lepage also attends to quasi-family law cases. Most recently, he acted on a matter concerning recent amendments to the Rules of Court that obliged family law parties to proceed with mandatory private mediation before receiving a court decision on family law issues. The parties did so, but one party advised the mediator they wanted to terminate the mediation because it was not to their satisfaction. This request was refused. Lepage is also counsel to the Investigation Committee of the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association concerning the investigation of a registered nurse employed under the Saskatchewan Health Authority, who received three separate complaints concerning professional misconduct and professional incompetence. 

 

ALBERTA 

Miller Thomson’s Alberta footprint further exemplifies how it has set itself apart, devoting equal resources to both its Calgary and Edmonton offices. In the latter office, Scott Hammel is a peer favorite. “Scott was brought in on a dispute I was on one time,” testifies a Toronto-based partner, “and I didn’t know him before but I was very impressed upon witnessing him at work. I found him to be a very strong construction lawyer.” Hammel also focuses on insurance, professional liability and general commercial work. 

 

BRITISH COLUMBIA 

Miller Thomson’s Vancouver office boasts a younger crop of star litigators, which peers view favorably as “a sign of reinvigoration and growth.” One such example, Kelsey Sherriff, is noted as “someone who should be on your radar. She was involved in the opioid litigation, and I was impressed with her skills.” Sherriff is a commercial litigator with a niche focus on regulatory health law work. Another, Bryan Hicks (a recent recruit from Blake Cassels & Graydon), is viewed as “a real up-and-comer” in the commercial and securities fields. Hicks has experience representing clients before the British Columbia Securities Commission as well as in court. Sarah Hansen, a commercial litigator who also has significant experience with matters involving First Nations, is acting for an Indigenous tribe in the judicial review of a decision by the BC Ministry of Mines to issue a permit amendment to the Canadian National Railway, a Crown corporation, allowing it to continue to mine for ballast at a location near an Aboriginal fishery, which, the client argued, would potentially suffer grave environmental and fish count damage. The client submitted an action for judicial review and, in a case heard in the BC Supreme Court in 2021, a decision was rendered finding that the Crown failed to consult adequately and meaningfully with the client, returning the matter back to the decision-maker for an attempt at a proper consultation.

Osler Hoskin & Harcourt


ONTARIO

Osler’s Toronto office is its center of corporate activity and its litigators are a hit with clients. One commends the firm’s “team approach; appropriate billing rate for task; appreciation of balance between legal and business risk; user friendly client service, and gender diversity.” Another asserts, “Osler’s team is superior to others in their written and oral advocacy, practical advice, and client service. [They are] Very methodical, detailed and strategic. [They provide] Excellent briefs, well-structured and articulate advocacy.” Larry Lowenstein, a seasoned commercial litigator and perennial favorite with peers and clients, represents the Bank of Montréal in class-action lawsuits commenced in five provinces alleging that Canada’s major banks, including the client, and two credit card companies conspired to fix the credit card fees charged to merchants. The Ontario action alone is valued at approximately $5 billion. Another championed partner, Laura Fric is defending BP in a securities class action arising from the Deepwater Horizon explosion. The plaintiff alleges the defendant made misrepresentations to Canadian investors prior to, and following, the explosion. “Laura has really come up over the years and deserves more notice,” insists a peer. “Right now, when I think of Osler’s class-action practice, she is the first name that comes to mind.” Adam Hirsh makes his debut as a future star in this edition of Benchmark Canada on the strength of his wide-ranging commercial practice that encompasses a host of specialties, including tax litigation, an area for which Osler is known to hold the premier position among other Bay Street firms. Hirsh has already dazzled several clients; one notes, “Adam was the engagement partner on our matter and was outstanding both in terms of his legal skills and his attention to detail in practical, business, and finance matters. He demonstrated patience, thoroughness, and determination in all aspects of his work.” Another goes as far as to assert, “Adam is an outstanding lawyer in that he not only knows the law, but also takes the time to understand all practical business and client issues. I’ve practiced for 38 years and there are few lawyers I’ve seen that have his complete skill set.”


QUÉBEC

Osler’s Montréal office has been notably in growth mode as of late. “Osler is coming back! They are building back up here in litigation with some smart hires,” observes a peer. The firm made a key strategic recruit to its Montréal office recently when it brought on Stéphane Eljarrat, a white-collar practitioner formerly with Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg. Peers are united in their view that the recruit was a substantial one. “Stéphane is one of the few people in Montréal doing that kind of work at that level,” declares one peer. “In a typical year, he’d be off in India or Brazil.” Clients agree; One testifies, “Stéphane always provides sound advice, caters to the business needs and takes into account our reality. He provides prompt feedback and precise answers and just overall gives great service. He knows our business reality perfectly and is interested in it; he even participated in targeted training sessions for our internal clients.” More recently, the firm lured Celine Legendre to its bench from McCarthy Tétrault, an auspicious augmentation in the eyes of peers. “Her client contacts are phenomenal, and people love working with her,” opines one competitor. Legendre’s addition adds depth to a class-action practice previously chaired by Eric Prefontaine, himself a revered class action practitioner in the province and beyond. A peer raves, “Eric is actually called to the Paris bar! He’s just phenomenal.” Prefontaine represents Loop Industries in a national class action that was filed in October 2020 following the publication of a short-seller report, which alleges several issues with Loop’s technology, business model, and organization. The plaintiff alleges that Loop has therefore made misrepresentations to its investors and is responsible for the damages resulting from the decline in Loop’s stock price that followed the publication of the report at issue. Future star Alexandre Fallon is quickly gaining a devoted following. One competitor notes, “Alex is young but he’s asserting himself – he is taking the lead on some of the opioid litigation.” A highly appreciative client extols, “Alexandre is one of the most intelligent and brilliant persons I have dealt with. He is, by far, the best litigator in the Province of Québec.”


ALBERTA

Osler’s Calgary office is composed of a team that, while smaller than that of the eastern provinces, possesses “significant experience in issues related to building mega projects extending across various jurisdictions, especially, in the oil-and-gas mid-stream transportation industry,” according to a client. A peer confirms, “Oslers has become a very big player in the Alberta market.” Colin Feasby represents Alliance Canada Marketing and its various parent entities in the defense of a US $100 million claim brought by BP Canada seeking damages for breach of a contract for the shipping of gas on the Alliance Pipeline, which was slapped with a new tariff structure by the Canada Energy Regulator that allegedly adversely affected the fulfillment of the contract. Maureen Killoran is heralded for a “profile and presence in the market that is spectacular,” according to one peer, who elaborates, “She is more in demand than she has time for. She is getting called every day for the most challenging pipeline work in the province.” Killoran is spending an increasing amount of time in Vancouver, building out a burgeoning outpost for the firm in that city to attend to more of the cross-province pipeline work, but she is still viewed as one of Calgary’s most prominent energy players. She represents Canadian Natural Resources in issues involving contractual and account-billing practices relating to a processing and upgrader facility. Killoran and Melanie Gaston represent Williams Group and some related entities in a cross-border matter valued at $500 million regarding issues relating to a facility construction/purchase-and-sale agreement. On her own, Gaston represents the Town of Canmore regarding issues relating to development and municipal bylaw enforceability in the Town relating to various land-use restrictions.

Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel

Founded as a construction boutique firm in 1982, Vancouver-based Singleton Urquhart amended its name and firmly established a second office in Toronto when it attracted Toronto construction luminaries Bruce Reynolds and Sharon Vogelto its bench a few years ago. The combined unit continues to gain traction and win the acclaim from clients in both markets.  

One satisfied client testifies, “The lawyers at Singleton Reynolds have a winning mentality. Their knowledge and experience are vast, their work ethic is staggering. They are terrific at responding when needed and at looking for innovative solutions. They are the consummate professionals but have a very friendly and easygoing manner. Working with this firm is an absolute pleasure.” Another specifies, “The firm led a national engagement process of the Canadian construction industry, culminating in the development of a report titled ‘Building a Federal Framework for Prompt Payment and Adjudication’. The firm then provided ongoing advice and guidance on the development of our policy positions on both prompt payment in the construction industry and adjudication.” Reynolds is singled out for “his blunt honesty and his ability to find the best solution” by a client, who goes on to comment, “His depth of knowledge can be intimidating to those that may not know him as well.” Another client notes, “Bruce, Sharon and [future star] James Littleare very knowledgeable, experts in their field and have great reputations within the construction industry. They always made themselves available to respond to [my] questions within tight timeframes.” Vogel, along with Little and another future starJesse Gardner, represent the City of Ottawa in a matter concerning allegations of delays and service problems associated with the construction of the City’s $2.1 billion light rail transit system, known as the O-Train. Vogel and Gardner have also been retained by Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario to provide ongoing advice in relation to the completion of the $5.3 billion Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit system and to manage the various disputes that have arisen on the project. The Toronto office also benefited from the arrival of Peter Wardle. “Peter is just an awesome litigator – in that Chris Paliare, Jonathan Lisus type-level,” insists a peer, namechecking two of Toronto’s other top litigators. Wardle, whose commercial caseload often takes him outside the construction industry, represents the board of directors and executive team of Discovery Air in a class action brought by debenture holders alleging oppressive conduct by major shareholders, directors and officers of the public company seeking $35 million in damages.  

     Singleton Urquhart is also said to be “diversifying,” and indeed this observation is corroborated by a review of the firm’s Vancouver bench, with partners in this office occupying a spectrum of niches ranging from product liability, professional liability, labor and employment, entertainment and immigration. The firm’s Vancouver bench got a pronounced boost with the addition of Stuart Hankinson, a veteran of the local commercial and construction litigation who helmed his own firm for years before briefly joining Bennett Jones’s Vancouver office and eventually decamping to Singleton. In addition to his counsel work, Hankinson is noted as an in-demand mediator and arbitrator in British Columbia. “He has that experience,” confirms a peer. “He has the respect and trust of counsel on these types of cases, which sometimes take on international elements.” Hankinson provides a layer of reinforcement at the senior level along with firm namesake John Singleton, a celebrated construction litigation luminary and the firm’s initial figurehead, who still receives nearly unanimous praise. “John is among what is really only like two or three people of that caliber in the whole country,” opines one enthusiastic peer. “He works harder than any two people I know.” Singleton, along with Hankinson, is counsel for BC Hydro in a major claim against the course of construction insurers on the BC Hydro Site C Project arising out of two slippage planefailures on the left bank of the project. Stephen Berezowskyjis seeing his reputation gain momentum as well; a competitor confides candidly, “Every time I talk to my colleagues about Stephen it’s always in the context of ‘I wish he worked here!’” Berezowskyj acts for SEFC Properties, which was the developer of the Kayak project at the Olympic Village, on a complex, multi-party building defect claim against the project’s warranty provider. The warranty provider claims contribution and indemnity from the client, who claims contribution and indemnity from the various consultants and trade contractors involved in the project. Berezowskyj also acts for a tour operator in a matter in which 54 passengers have advanced claims for damages arising out of a rollover bus crash, which also injured the client. Another Vancouver partner, David Edinger is cheered by a client as “[Someone who] cuts to the chase, gets the issue, and provides useful, risk-based analyses.” Edinger has been busy with delay claims in various guises as well as several varieties of arbitrations. Edinger also maintains a niche in cases pertaining to the entertainment industry in Vancouver-based contract litigation.  

Smart & Biggar

Canada’s deepest and most renowned intellectual property-based legal entity, Smart & Biggar, has etched itself a dominant position in the country’s IP community, most notably in the capacity as true trial lawyers. One peer notes, “More often than not, these cases actually go to court! And Smart & Biggar has a pretty stellar record of winning at trial.” Another sums up the firm’s ethos with the declaration, “There are IP lawyers and there are IP litigators. Smart definitely qualifies for the latter designation.” 

      The firm is revered for its range of experience covering patents, trademarks and copyrights, each being areas in which the firm has secured some landmark wins. Its celebrated patent practice leans heavily on the pharmaceutical industry, but is far from limited to this area, with a diverse portfolio of patent victories concerning everything from polymers to hockey helmets. Its trademark practice, meanwhile, has attracted a list of clients that reads like a “Who’s who” of household names. Historically boasting its deepest bench in Ontario, with practitioners of equal horsepower in its offices in Toronto and Ottawa, the firm has recently provided a substantial boost to its Montréal office, which has grown to nearly double the size of just a few years ago. The firm has also made a noted push into the Alberta market, luring one of Calgary’s only IP practitioners, Evan Nuttall, to its bench. Nuttall brings a unique focus on patents in the oil and gas market, although his practice is not limited to this area. In what is arguably the biggest trademark dispute handled by the firm of late, Toronto’s Mark Evans, Mark Biernacki  and Ottawa’s  Steve Garland  acted in successfully defending a trademark infringement action brought by Loblaws in relation to Pampered Chef’s use of its “PC” logo. The case wound its way to the Federal Court of Appeal, where Smart & Biggar triumphed in February 2021. This case scored Smart & Biggar a prestigious “impact case” accolade during Benchmark’s 2021 award ceremony, one of only six cases to do so, and the only IP-related case to claim this honor. Also acting on this case is future star Graham Hood, who is championed by a client as, “a fantastic business partner with excellent business acumen, brilliant legal expertise and a pleasure to work with.” Garland and fellow Ottawa partner Jeremy Wantalso scored at the Federal Court of Appeal when that court affirmed the Federal Court’s decision awarding Dow $650 million in a patent infringement matter brought against Nova Chemical, bringing this long-running matter to a close. 

      The firm’s Québec pillar has been equally active, with  François Guayfeaturing prominently as the most seasoned IP litigator. Guay is known for “putting trial skills paramount, even before IP lawyering,” an approach that has paid dividends over the years in advancing his agenda in several key wins. Guay represented several media entities, including Vidéotron, Bell Media, Groupe TVA, and Rogers Media, against three retailers of “pre-loaded” set-top boxes and unauthorized internet protocol television services that were configured to provide users with unauthorized access to copyrighted television content. In August 2021, the Federal Court issued a judgment that awarded nearly $30 million in statutory and punitive damages for copyright infringement, in addition to declaratory and injunctive relief. In another media-related matter, and one that illustrates the firm’s strategic ability to work across jurisdictions, Guay and Nuttall successfully represented members of the Motion Picture Association of America, Bell Media, Amazon and Netflix in an interim and interlocutory injunction matter and show cause contempt proceedings against the operators of the Beast IPTV service, an unauthorized online subscription service that provided access to a vast amount of illegal television content.Guay andEkaterina Tsimberis  represented Bel and Fromageries Bel Canada in a trademark infringement matter against Agropur Coopérative and Aliments Ultima as their new for Iögo Nano and Oka L’artisan snack cheeses sold in Canada have packaging that is confusingly similar to the Mini Babybel cheese packaging, for which Bel holds several Canadian trademark registrations. The matter settled before trial. Guay also acted with Jean-Sébastien Dupont and Want for Tekna Plasma Systems, a manufacturer of atomized metal powders that are used for additive manufacturing applications, especially in the aerospace industry. Tekna is the plaintiff in these two related cases: the first one is an action for impeachment and declaration of non-infringement of patents owned by a competitor that were threatening Tekna’s continued operations in Canada. In the second case, Tekna asserts that this same competitor infringes one of its patents. The trial of both cases is scheduled for March-April of 2022.

Stikeman Elliott


QUÉBEC

Peers refer to Stikeman Elliott’s Montréal office, arguably its best known, as “an obvious example of a strong group, with significant critical mass.” It is also observed that “they also renewed themselves and are now a relatively young team.” The firm’s strength in Montréal is reflected in the gravity of the disputes its lawyers attend to. “Stikeman is always on the biggest files in Québec,” confirms a peer. “They like doing the premium work – this is not where you go for mid-market files.” The Montréal litigation team is currently being led by Éric Mongeau, a routinely revered figure and also a recent entrant into the American College of Trial Lawyers. Mongeau is acting with Éric Azran on a litigation valued at approximately $100 million regarding recapture rights found in reinsurance treaties concluded between two reinsurers. Azran, historically noted as a commercial litigation generalist, is noted as having “developed a significant insurance practice! He’s always done a bit of this work, but he is really building it out now.” Azran’s practice was given an unexpected but exponential escalation by the COVID pandemic and its subsequent tectonic effect on the insurance industry, specifically in the context of business interruption claims. The Montréal office is also an epicenter for files concerning insolvency, an area in which Stikeman has long been considered one of the strongest players. Clients cheer the “deep team dedicated to restructuring,” and a peer attests, “Stikeman has had a huge run lately in acting for debtor companies. If I just take a look at the numbers for this year it has been Stikeman on most of them, and much of it has been out of Montreal because a ton of the retail filings this year have been there.” Joseph Reynaud, as monitor’s counsel, has played an active role in the highly contentious CCAA proceedings concerning the entities formerly known as Bluberi. Guy Martel acted as lead counsel to the Cirque du Soleil group in its investment solicitation process approved by the Superior Court of Quebec, commercial division, in the context of Cirque du Soleil’s proceedings under the CCAA, resulting in a credit bid by the secured creditors for approximately USD$1 billion. The transaction closed in November 2020. In another COVID-driven matter that has graced headlines all across Canada, Frederic Pare and Pierre-Paul Daunais are acting for Hudson Bay Company in its challenge to multimillion-dollar claims by major landlords following the client’s decision to withhold rent payments in the context of the pandemic.

ONTARIO

Within the past several years, Eliot Kolers has emerged as arguably the most active and visible commercial litigator in the firm’s Toronto office. “I was on the other side of a trial from Stikeman,” confides a peer, “and the trial was led by Eliot, not one of the more senior figures that I would typically see. I think that speaks volumes as to his ascent in that firm’s profile.” In one of several cases showcasing Kolers’ elevated presence, he was front-and-center on a recent representation of Fairstone Financial in a major M&A-related file involving a transaction that was complicated by the effects of COVID on Fairstone’s business, causing the entity that agreed to purchase all of Fairstone’s outstanding shares for $1.4 billion in February 2020 to subsequently back away from the deal, claiming that Fairstone had not met its contractual obligations as outlined as being contingent for the transaction to close. In December 2020, the Ontario court released its decision holding that the closing conditions were met and ordering specific performance of the transaction. Alan D’Silva has continued to bolster his insurance litigation standing, securing a win for AIG in an important ruling in which the Ontario Court of Appeal set aside a large punitive damages award against an insurer and reinforced a fundamental insurance law principle that the burden of proof rests on the insured to establish a right to recover under the terms of an insurance policy. This matter was a follow-on to an earlier ruling from the Ontario Superior Court Justice ordering AIG to pay out the full value of a ring an insured claimed was stolen from him within weeks of its addition to his policy.

ALBERTA

Stikeman’s Calgary team is composed of two partners, Geoff Holub and Mike Mestinsek, both of whom are equally admired by peers. Holub acted for CLAC in an arbitration concerning the rent reset for the next 20-year term of a 99-year lease relating to a downtown multi-use high rise; the parties’ difference in basic rent positions exceeded $26 million and the tenant in the arbitration sought $1 million in damages for bad faith. Mestinsek is lead counsel for BP in its $1 billion litigation against Aux Sable in respect of a 20-year NGL product supply agreement involving the Alliance Pipeline. Holub and Mestinsek are acting as counsel for British American Tobacco in the C$10B action being brought by the Province of Alberta for recoupment of tobacco-related health care costs pursuant to the Alberta Crown’s Right of Recovery Act.

BRITISH COLUMBIA

The Vancouver office, historically the firm’s smallest, has been in growth mode as of late. While David Brown, a broad-based commercial lawyer, has for some time been the office’s sole partner, Melanie Teetaert has recently stepped in to bolster the bench. Teetaert, admitted in both Alberta and British Columbia, is a favorite in the Vancouver litigation community. “Melanie is super-smart and very likable and has also done a great job in embellishing that firm in this city,” declares a peer. Brown and Teetaert acted together on a trial in the summer of 2020 for a mining company in a hotly contentious matter concerning the terms of a transaction for a mine in South America. The pair secured a favorable decision for their client in March 2021. On her own Teetaert led an insolvency foreclosure trial, acting for the lender in a Vancouver commercial/residential development that had gone sideways. Teetaert secured a favorable decision in June 2020, shortly after which the sale applied for was completed.