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WSIAT Chair Ian Strachan
Presented with 2006 Ron Ellis Award

Representatives from the injured worker, employer and neutral communities gave a standing ovation to Ian Strachan, Chair of the Workplace Safety & Insurance Appeals Tribunal, as he was presented with the 2006 Ron Ellis Award at a dinner program on June 8th at the Ontario Bar Association.

Co-sponsored by LexisNexis and the Ontario Bar Association, the Ron Ellis Award recognizes outstanding contribution and achievement in workplace safety and insurance law. Ian was selected to be the recipient of the 2006 award because of his leadership, dedication, commitment to fairness and justice, and for continuing the Tribunal as one of the leading adjudicative tribunals in Canada.

An audience of close to one hundred listened attentively as speakers from the employer, neutral, and injured worker community spoke movingly about how Ian deserved this award. Although the Minister of Labour, the Honourable Steve Peters, was unable to attend due to a last minute commitment, he sent a special Certificate of Recognition to mark the occasion. Dan Revington, WSIAT General Counsel who chaired the event, read Minister Peter’s letter congratulating Ian, which stated:

“My colleagues and I thank you for your commitment as Chair of the WSIAT to fairness and justice in workers’ compensation adjudication in the Province. Congratulations on receiving this award of recognition from your peers, and thank you again for your terrific work.”

The Honourable Greg Sorbara, Minister of Finance (and a former Minister of Labour) also sent a letter congratulating Ian.

“Through Ian’s leadership, the Workplace Safety & Insurance Appeals Tribunal has provided workers and employers with the highest standards in adjudication on workplace safety, within a fair and just forum.  The Tribunal’s work has a profound impact on those who have suffered workplace accident and injury.  It is reassuring to know that the Tribunal has such strong leadership.

Congratulations and thank you, Ian, for doing a wonderful job.”

Alec Farquhar, former Director of the Office of the Worker Advisor, and current Director of the Occupational Health and Safety Branch at the Ministry of Labour, spoke about his long association with Ian. He described Ian’s humility, grace, self sacrifice, and his commitment to the cause of justice during the dark days when the Tribunal faced difficult issues about its independence, and the appointment of competent, experienced adjudicators. Making special note of Ian’s courage even during a time when Ian’s own position at the Tribunal was in jeopardy, Mr Farquhar offered this heartfelt tribute:

“You stayed and fought when it seemed hopeless”.

Dave Brady, a senior partner at Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP, and well-known advocate for employers, told the audience he had specially requested to be added as a speaker to this Award program, because he held Ian in such high regard. Mr Brady described Ian as being honourable, having good judgement, being a good role model, and being a team builder. Mr Brady said:

“The bottom line is this. Justice is done at the Tribunal. Justice is seen to be done at the Tribunal. The Tribunal serves an extraordinary function in terms of workers and employers, and it serves Ontario in its society. WSIAT, in my view, is one of the most sophisticated, well run institutions in Ontario, and I think anywhere.”

Wayne Samuelson, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour, gave a moving speech about the challenges the Tribunal had faced during Ian’s term. He spoke candidly about how Ian had very nearly not been reappointed by the previous government. Mr Samuelson said  

“….my friends, it isn’t about any of us in this room. It’s about the people who depend on the independence of this Tribunal to get justice….So Ian, on behalf of all my friends in the crowd, all the neutrals in the crowd, and I’m sure there might even be a few adversaries….I am really pleased that I could be here. I am impressed by your approach to dealing with people, I am impressed by your principled stand, and on behalf of the literally thousands and thousands of people who never heard of you, half of them, or most of them, never ever thought they would get caught up in this “system”, the workers’ compensation. I want to say on their behalf, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, for a job well done.”

Ron Ellis, the Tribunal’s original Chair, presented the Ron Ellis Award to Ian. Mr Ellis recalled first meeting Ian when Ian articled at Oslers, and spoke of their continuing association when he recommended Ian’s appointment as a Tribunal vice-chair. He described Ian’s career at the Tribunal, the quality of Ian’s decisions, and how Ian became an influential figure in the Tribunal’s life and culture. Mr Ellis expressed his personal pleasure that Ian had been selected for the Award, saying

“With a consummate mix of diplomacy, cool tactics, courage, integrity, determination and organizational and administrative skills, he brought the Tribunal through a period of great difficulty, still standing and still meeting standards of excellence on all fronts.”

In accepting the award, Ian modestly attributed his receipt of the award to surrounding himself with quality people at the Tribunal. Making special mention of the contribution and support of Tribunal Executive Director Marsha Faubert, Ian paid tribute to the fairness and integrity of his fellow adjudicators at the Tribunal. He described the Ron Ellis Award as a symbol of the “quest for quality in our administrative justice system”, as well as the importance of administrative law. Ian concluded by thanking the members of the audience for their own efforts to bring quality to the entire administrative justice system.

Posted on: October 4, 2006