An accomplished litigator with a very keen interest in community and social justice issues has been elevated to the Ontario Court of Justice.
Donald McLeod, whose appointment to the bench took effect yesterday, will preside in Brampton.
“This appointment is yet another acknowledgment from the judiciary that there is a need for a wider representation on the bench,” said Senator Don Meredith. “In this case, one of our brightest legal minds is being called upon to serve and I have no doubt he will do so with honour and distinction.”
Raised in Regent Park, McLeod founded his own law firm a decade ago that was respected for its reputation as one of the leading boutique, criminal, administrative and human rights firms in the city.
“I have had a passion for the law since I was about 10 years old,” said McLeod who graduated from Midland Collegiate Institute. “The law was a way to confront the things that I saw or experienced on a daily basis in the Ontario housing neighbourhoods I grew up in.”
The Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL), which honoured McLeod with an Excellence in Practice Award in 2010, hailed his appointment.
“While Donald’s clients may be mourning the loss of an excellent advocate on their behalf, the people of Ontario are celebrating the elevation to the bench of a lawyer who has demonstrated all of the characteristics in his practice that will make him a great judge,” said CABL’s new president, Arleen Huggins, a partner at Koskie Minsky LLP.
“We have long held and expressed the view that our judiciary should be representative of the community on a whole and this appointment is an important step in that direction. We congratulate Justice McLeod on his appointment and wish him wisdom as he serves the people on Ontario.”
Intervening for the African Canadian Legal Clinic, McLeod successfully argued the R v Golden case in the Supreme Court of Canada in 1999 that addressed the constitutionality of police strip searches and the landmark 2009 R v Douse case that revolutionized the traditionally used racial vetting process that now takes into consideration non-conscious racism.
Former regional senior judge Greg Regis said McLeod has superstar qualities that will serve him well in his new role.
“Extremely smart, Donald has common sense and judicial empathy,” said Regis. “Even though he was a defence lawyer, he understood that he was functioning in a system that’s expected to work for everybody. He’s a solid young man who will make his mark.”
A McMaster University political science graduate, McLeod received his law degree from Queen’s University in 1995 and was called to the Bar three years later. He began practicing criminal law at Hinkson, Sachak in Toronto and was a sole practitioner in FMH Legal and the senior managing partner of the McLeod Group, Barristers & Solicitors that focused on criminal law trials and appeals as well as administrative law.
McLeod was part of the Hinkson, Sachak team that conducted a survey of Air Canada flights from Jamaica to Toronto that revealed that Black passengers are far more likely than White passengers to be searched by Canada customs. A total of 408 passengers were interviewed as they emerged from customs.
When he’s not on the job, McLeod is actively engaged in the community.
He founded and chairs 100 Strong, an initiative to fund a summer school program for 12- and 13-year-old Black boys and co-chairs Stand-up which is a mentorship program for Grade Seven and Eight boys, the majority of whom reside in designated priority neighbourhoods.
In addition, he makes frequent motivation speeches and hosts Black Robes, a professional development project aimed at mentoring new lawyers and law students of African-Canadian descent.
“Donald is a true advocate in our community and he understands the real value of leveraging resources,” said Black Business & Professional Association president, Pauline Christian. “A talented legal mind, he’s never too busy to give back to those in need.”
McLeod was legal adviser to the Jamaica 50 Celebration Committee.