Hamilton Law Association Journal Article April 2021

A year later and we are still in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, my term as the sitting Hamilton Law Association President for the 2020-2021 is ending and this is my last journal article. We have been through a multitude of different phases of lock down during my year as the President, and so, if nothing else, my claim to fame may be never having attended a live event as the President; unfortunately.

I do have a special pair of impractical Presidential shoes collecting dust and waiting for when that day arrives that I can attend a social event, either as the past president or perhaps even the past past president of the association, depending on the efficiency of the vaccine rollout.

Kidding aside, I have had the opportunity and honour to lead the association through uncertainty in a very complex world. I expect that our next president will also experience similar uncertain times given how quickly our situation evolves weekly and monthly. Nevertheless, I am hopeful that they will get to wear their special President’s shoes (or other sartorial accessory) at least once in persona.

Our staff at the HLA was required to work from home during the last stay at home order by the province. We have proudly been able to keep our members and staff safe with our adherence to pandemic protocols. We have kept our members up to date with notification of any COVID-19 infections in our local courthouses. We have continued to provide quality legal education on relevant and interesting topics. Our members have been able to continue as leaders in our community and for their clients during this pandemic. These are all accomplishments to be proud of.

It was a privilege to hear the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, speak at a Women in the Law Summit in February. She has been and continues to be my favourite Canadian jurist since law school and the event ingrained that even further for me. She labelled the pandemic “The Great Revealer” and after hearing her speak I couldn’t agree more. She talked about how the pandemic has caused doubt for us as the fragile fault lines have been cracked in social structures and hearts. The injustices and inequities that were previously hidden by complacency have been brought to the forefront of our thoughts. She highlighted that these are not new injustices or inequities but rather that we are looking at them with new eyes when building for a different future. She encouraged us to do better and to find ways to make changes and to rectify the wrongs. I hadn’t realized before, but Justice McLachlin, brought to my attention that we are suddenly seeing Women on TV screens; running things, many of the most important jobs such as Chief Medical Officers are women. We see Women caring for others and the strength that they possess despite years of inequitable treatment. She was hopeful that a better society would emerge for both women and men as a result of this crisis. I too am hopeful that both a better society and better legal system will emerge as a result of the pandemic.

At the Women in the Law Summit a statistic provided a basis for discussion; that one in four women considered leaving the workforce as a result of the pandemic also known as the pink recession by some news sources. The statistic comes as no surprise because our homes have become classrooms, child care centres and offices all at one. Is it really just 25% of us? During this pandemic, I considered what leaving a profession to deal with all of one’s other responsibilities would entail. I wondered how many of us could or would balance, working, raising a young child, combined with volunteer positions such as this association’s presidency. Personally and luckily, I have been able to lean on my family for help raising my daughter this year. If they were not here or couldn’t help, I probably would have had to leave the workforce and probably would not have sustained this leadership role; a role that I trained for with many years of sustained volunteerism for the Hamilton Law Association. We can all see that attempting to work within a traditional business day is seemingly impossible if you are also required to support a child’s online schooling or to provide care for the young or old or frail. Many women have expressed feelings of burnout and anger as a result of the emotional overload of responsibilities occasioned by the pandemic. I commiserate. Our dues to the Law Society support the Member Assistance Program, a helpful albeit limited service considering the circumstances. Notwithstanding that, I urge the lawyers of Hamilton to consider change to formal structures along with changes in their hearts and minds to allow all our people to bring their best selves to work and be champions of an inclusive culture at the office.

On Tuesday February 23, I attended a meeting with the other presidents of the South Central Regional along with the Treasurer of the Law Society, Teresa Donnelly to openly discuss the challenges faced by our associations. We have continued to advocate for reinstatement and reduction of further budget cuts for our law library. In Hamilton we are in a unique position as we have no law schools or other law libraries that are accessible by our members, which makes our library even more important to our members’ ability to maintain competency and ultimately the ability of our community to access justice. If you also feel that library funding is important, I urge you to complete the surveys that arrive in your inbox rather than just ignoring them, and also remember this issue at the next Bencher Election.

February is Black History Month in Canada. Black History Month reminds us of the inequity and barriers many continue to face, from anti-Black racism and discrimination to a lack of opportunity and resources. The Law Society hosted an online gathering entitled with panel discussion called “The Future is now”. The program was enlightening and enriched my understanding of the challenges faced by Black licensees along over 3000 other registrants. It helped me gain an understanding of the transformative work that Black Legal Professionals are making to our community. I urge you to watch the recording of this if you missed the live presentation.

During my time as president, our executive director, Rebecca Bentham, has been essential to our Association’s survival. Her guidance, wisdom and ability to act strategically and quickly have truly made things sustainable for our association. Our staff has been fantastic with the changes and keeping on top of the work. The quality and engagement of our continuing legal education is something to truly be proud of as an Association. I also need to thank my amazing Board of Trustees for your prudence, support and insight. The Executive and Trustees have worked very hard this year to ensure the success and sustainability of the Hamilton Law Association during the pandemic. Our board worked as a collective and are truly exceptional minds and volunteers. Thank you to our members for joining and supporting change over the last year. I look forward to that day when we all get to dust off and wear our special shoes. See you then.

February Hamilton Law Association Journal Article

The calendar has just rolled over to 2021 as I sit down to write my fifth article as President of the Hamilton Law Association. I wish all our members a wonderful and prosperous New Year with many happy days ahead.

Last year, 2020, will be an unforgettable year. I would say that it was unexpected for some, horrible for many and should be a wake-up call for all. The reality of the COVID-19 pandemic turned out to be so different from anything we may have imagined last January. Jury trials were once again suspended when Hamilton became a red zone in December. The isolation restrictions tightened further as we entered the grey zone lock down before Christmas and then the province instituted a universal public health lock down on Boxing Day. The concern surrounding the cases of infection that have impacted the court houses continues to require a response and impact our behavior. This past year was challenging in many ways, but it did strip away many illusions and has directed us to focus on what truly matters and is important in life. The past year has been frightening, tedious and taxing on civil behavior, but I remain optimistic; several vaccine options have been developed in double quick time and approved by Health Canada and some of our most vulnerable members of society are being vaccinated as I write. I am expectant that better days will return; that we will get to be with our families again and that as colleagues our wonderful association of Hamilton lawyers will meet again, in persona.

One personal reflection that continues to return to me during this time as the President of the Hamilton Law Association is that I am blessed in countless ways. Driving by the homeless encampments in Hamilton, watching the varied political rallies held outside of City Hall, frequently focuses my attention on how fortunate we are. I have my ability to work and have a warm house, food and family and I am privileged to be able to give back. As an example, I have a seat on the Charity Board of the Lawyers’ Legacy for the Children, a fund of the Hamilton Community Foundation. Last year the Lawyers’ Legacy for the Children made a financial donation to Essential Aid, a charity that provides physical resources to meet the basic needs of the most vulnerable children in Hamilton by providing families with packages of diapers, baby food and other essential supplies. In contrast to many when I was a new mother, I was able to stumble to the store in my eternal state of sleep deprivation and just buy what we needed without any thought to the cost of the nappies and mush. Not everybody is so fortunate. Nor has everybody been able to continue to support their families, maintain their businesses or continue to work during the pandemic. Despite being embroiled in a complicated and highly emotional time for Family Law, Christmas Time in a Pandemic, I have been able to keep family and work and finances in hand better than many. I am proud that as an association, the Hamilton Law Association, we donated this Christmas to the Lawyers’ Legacy for the Children on behalf of our members. I am proud that we were able to continue the tradition of contributing to a charity each year, undeterred by the pandemic.

In our workplaces, as lawyers, we must be responsive to mandated COVID-19 workplace requirements. Under the Province’s Reopening Ontario Act, we are required to appoint a manager to develop, implement and actively monitor a Safety Plan. We need to be cognizant of how we are keeping our workplaces safe from exposure to COVID-19, screening for COVID-19 and controlling the risk of transmission in our workplaces. In our workplaces, we need to plan what we will do if there is a potential or suspected exposure to COVID-19 and how risk will be managed. The plan needs to be reviewed to ensure that it is effective, needs to be in writing, be made available to any person for review on request and be posted in a conspicuous place.

Who knew what Zoom was a year ago? Not me

On November 12, 2020, I attended the FOLA Fall Plenary via Zoom. Listening to the keynote speaker, Dr. Hadiya Roderique was most thought-provoking. Dr. Roderique, a lawyer, researcher, broadcast commentator, and an award-winning writer, is perhaps best known for her Globe and Mail piece “Black on Bay Street”, which outlined her experiences as a young Black lawyer working in a Bay Street law firm. Dr. Roderique provided information and insight into race-based discrimination and discussed the term “microaggression” which (for your reference) is a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority. Her presentation provided compelling insight into systemic racism in the legal world and ideas as to how to combat the injustices.

As I mentioned in my last report, on November 17, 2020, I attended the 19th Annual Sopinka Legal Luncheon held in support of the United Way of Halton and Hamilton. This year the luncheon was, of course, held virtually, and the keynote speaker was The Honourable Justice Nicholas Kasirer a puisne justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. The Honourable Justice Kasirer’s lecture combined art history (namely the paintings in the Supreme Court of Canada) with theorizing on bridging the gap between judges from an academic vs. a practical background.
On December 2nd, I was delighted to present Kirsten Hughes with the Ed Orzel award at the 34th Annual Joint Insurance Seminar. The purpose of the award is to honour a member of the Hamilton Law Association who has demonstrated excellence in trial advocacy for a single outstanding trial effort, or for a career in trial advocacy in any area of the law. Kirsten clearly has a notable career in trial advocacy and was a very worthy recipient.

The Hamilton Law Association was dismayed to learn about a 14% cut to its library grant from the Law Society for 2021. The Trustees feel that these cuts will have a direct impact on the quality and currency of the information that the HLA can provide to its members through its library collection. We are cognizant of the severe and far reaching economic impacts of the pandemic. However, we do believe that the Anthony Pepe Memorial Library is a crucial link between lawyers in Hamilton and the legal information that they need to practice law effectively. With a view to developing a further response to this, the Trustees would like to hear from you concerning this and in particular as to how you feel about the usefulness of the library to your practice.

At the Hamilton Law Association our volunteers continue to provide interesting and quality Continuing Legal Education. In February, the 19th Annual Estates and Trusts Seminar is scheduled; in April, we plan on having the 20th Annual Advocacy Conference and there are a number of other interesting shorter seminars like the free Family Law Lunch Bucket seminars. I will be attending a number of these via webcast and hope that you can also join in.

The Hamilton Law Association website has a new look. We attempt to post important and timely information for you such as COVID-10 notices and links to the unfortunately ever evolving practice directions. This information is invaluable to help you stay on top of the newest developments and is easy to find at www.hamiltonlaw.on.ca. We have also transitioned to an online membership platform where you are able to renew your membership and enroll for seminars online.

Over the last few years, I have also been studying mindfulness as a way to deal with the stresses of the profession. Mindfulness is the practice of purposely bringing one’s attention to the experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment. A repeating theme in mindfulness has been finding balance through practicing mindful breathing. It is reported that breath control is one of the most effective ways to calm and restore yourself. By slowing and regulating your breathing rate you can lower your heart rate and lessen your feelings of stress or anxiety. One simple way I achieve this is with a four-count breath. This is a simple cycle, wherein one counts in one’s head to four as you breathe in, then you hold your breath for a count of four, then you exhale for four and hold again for four and then repeat the cycle. It is like working your way around a square in four steps with each step being four counts long. Once you have a comfortable rhythm you can close your eyes and visualize the square and working your way around it, while also bringing your attention to the air entering and leaving your lungs. I have been using this prior to my zoom court appearances to bring focus and calm to my presentation. Anxiety is normal and perhaps this little trick might help you in some way to reduce it.

Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank all our volunteers over the past year for both the small and large efforts made to benefit our Association. Each contribution big and small helps make our association great.


Alzheimer Awareness Month

We offer Elder Mediation Services. Give us a call or schedule a quick chat to see if we can help out if there is conflict with respect to decision making for an older adult in your family

Acclamation as the President of The Hamilton Law Association

Below are the HLA Journal Comments following my acclamation as President of the Association

Thank you for my acclamation as the 78th President of The Hamilton Law Association during these unprecedented, challenging and uncertain times. Having spent a number of years in various roles and positions volunteering with the Hamilton Law Association, I am honoured to now lead the organization through the global COVID-19 pandemic and ensure its continued strength and vibrancy. It is more important than ever that the Hamilton Law Association continue to play the significant and robust role, in the legal traditions of the City of Hamilton and the Province of Ontario, that it has for one hundred and forty-one years.

As a Family Lawyer tucked away in the outskirts of Hamilton, I recognize that some of the membership may not have had a chance to meet me. I am a Henderson Hospital born Hamiltonian. I attended both public school and high school on the mountain and I am a proud graduate of McMaster University. I studied Law at the University of New Brunswick and I have practised in Hamilton since articling and my call to the bar.

The Hamilton Law Association has been integral to the development of my practice, has informed my relationships with colleagues and has tremendously increased my satisfaction in practice. The Hamilton Law Association is one of the biggest, and might I add the best local law association. We have an energy and enthusiasm that is second to none. I look forward to continuing that legacy during my tenure serving as President.

We feel the separation in this world right now. We are unable to grab a coffee or chat about a file with our colleagues in person. We feel anxious about the technological changes that were thrust upon us seemingly overnight. We feel uncertainty about adapting our practice and what the cost of these changes will be to us personally and professionally. Our community wants to come to together, as colleagues, friends and might I go so far to say, even family, but we are constricted. Social distancing measures are absolutely necessary to protect us and our loved ones. Nevertheless, one cannot help but reminisce about the positive times that we spent at the Hamilton Club together for the Annual General Meeting, gathering for the Annual Dinner and Continuing Legal Education with food and drink in hand. We will do this again when we can.

No challenge to our community has ever demanded such a degree of cooperation and united action. The Hamilton Law Association has been a part of this united front and I urge you to take advantage of all of the support and virtual events of the Association. The Hamilton Law Association exists to help its members become successful, respected and fulfilled in their profession. This mandate continues and echoes strong despite the way that our services must be offered. That being said, I urge you to connect with an old friend, colleague or me by phone or online video conferencing software.

Work has been undertaken to protect our staff and volunteers. At the time of this writing, Hamilton Law Association volunteers and staff are working hard to present a number of programs, that were originally postponed due to the current situation, via webinar. I encourage you to take advantage of the online continuing professional development events currently being provided for free or at low cost to our members. All in-person social events and networking opportunities are currently on hold until further notice; however, I am hopeful that by next year we will be able to have an annual dinner and celebrate a return to more social forms of professional development.
It is important to note that Hamilton Law Association staff are still available via telephone at 905-522-1563 or email at hla@hamiltonlaw.on.ca to address member queries related to membership, upcoming CPD events and registrations, Library reference and research, publications, and financial matters.

The Hamilton Law Association staff are currently working to implement its newly acquired association management software, titled iMIS Cloud Enterprise 300. This cloud-based software will enable staff to conduct its many membership, CPD event, financial, marketing, and website-based administrative tasks much more efficiently and effectively through a single web-based platform. This platform will enable our staff to provide a seamless, all-in-one experience for our membership when they connect with the Association. With the new software, members will be able to pay their membership fees, register and pay for CPD events, search the Association’s latest news and publications, and communicate with staff using their personalized membership portal through the Association’s website. As a result, our website will undergo a complete redesign to enable our members to seek out all their membership, research, and educational needs with greater ease. We are very excited about the future possibilities our new association management software will bring to our members.
Many thanks to past president Mark Giavedoni, for his steadfast dedication to the Hamilton Law Association over the last 14 years. He is a true leader and mentor. The Hamilton Law Association was blessed for his countless hours of volunteer work, his precision of execution and kindness.

Thank you for the leadership of our excellent executive director Rebecca Bentham, our dedicated staff, guidance of our trustees, executive members and the contributions of our volunteers.

I wish you equanimity in knowing that there is unity in our association even in these bleak times. I am confident that we can rise to this challenge.

COVID- 19 Update

During this difficult and extraordinary time, we will not be meeting clients in person.  We are happy to schedule phone or Zoom virtual meetings.  We are doing our best to work remotely.

Reach out by email so that we can book something kcowan@waterdownlawyer.com


If you have traveled and have a fever and/or new onset of cough or difficulty breathing AND In the 14 days before symptom onset, you have: * been to a COVID-19 impacted area, OR * you have been in close contact with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19, OR *you have been in close contact with a person with acute respiratory illness who has been to a COVID-19 impacted are, please RESCHEDULE your appointment AND contact your health care provider.

2019 Waterdown Village Scarecrow Walk

Scary Jailbird Scarecrow

The 2019 Waterdown Scarecrow walk is just around the corner.  K. Cowan Law is participating for its third year in the event.  There are prizes to be won from the Waterdown Village BIA.


While we don’t practice criminal law at K. Cowan Law, we do practice primarily in the area of Family Law.  We offer both traditional litigation services and other forms of dispute resolution such as collaborative family law and mediation.

Our Scary Scarecrow, was inspired by Kanata’s recent trip to Alcatraz.  This past Summer Kanata attended the American Bar Associations Annual conference of Bar Presidents in San Francisco as a delegate from the Hamilton Law Association as she is currently the Vice President.

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