Roger Burrill’s 35-year commitment to help the less fortunate recognized with CBA’s Legal Aid Award

  • April 16, 2021

Roger Burrill, senior lawyer with Legal Aid Nova Scotia, is the 2021 recipient of the Legal Aid Leader Award for his commitment to help the less fortunate in his 35-year career.

Burrill was chosen by the CBA Access to Justice Subcommittee for this award, which recognizes legal aid lawyers who have made a significant contribution to providing access to justice to people in need.

After the April 2020 shooting spree that resulted in the murder of 22 people in and around Portapique, the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia announced an inquiry, led by former Chief Justice of Nova Scotia Michael McDonald. Burrill will join the Mass Casualty Commission as part of the Presenting Counsel team. Charlene Moore, Service Delivery Director with Nova Scotia Legal Aid who nominated Burrill for the award, notes that this is an enormous accolade to his skill and camaraderie, a recognition by the provincial and federal governments of his work and dedication to justice.

In the last 10 years of his practice with Nova Scotia Legal Aid, Burrill has been a dedicated criminal appeal counsel, appearing as counsel 84 times including in the high-profile case of Randy Riley that resulted in the Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous decision to order a new trial for a man convicted of murder after the trial judge erred in applying a Vetrovec warning.

Burrill had many successful trial decisions involving access to justice, including The Queen v. Prosper in 1994 confirming that free legal advice should be available for anyone, 24 hours a day, regardless of means. Today, Brydges and Prosper are cases guiding all Canadian police forces and protecting everyone from self-incrimination without proper legal advice.

“He was co-counsel in an early Charter case of Hebb v. R, in 1989, which directly and successfully challenged the ‘fine in default’ provisions of the Criminal Code which had resulted in a full 40% of imprisonments in Nova Scotia being for fine default. This was a significant win for people living in poverty,” says Moore.

Burrill’s practice includes providing advice and mentorship within Nova Scotia Legal Aid and the entire criminal bar, she adds. “He easily spends an hour a day fielding questions from criminal lawyers, from the most junior to the most senior within NSLA and in the private bar.”

He regularly contributes to continuing legal education sessions for NSLA, the Nova Scotia Criminal Lawyers Association, the Canadian Bar Association, Federation of Law Societies and others. “Most recently he presented to CBA Nova Scotia Criminal Lawyers section on the topic of cross examination on prior inconsistent statements. He has served on the board of Phoenix Youth Programs for many years,” says Moore.

In addition, Burrill is “an active and regular instructor at the Schulich School of Law, teaching Criminal Trial Practice for many years and participating in moot court and the Gale Moot Cup. He has been a member of the Court’s Rules Committee, the Justice of the Peace Training Committee, the Court Liaison Committee, the Nova Scotia Barristers Society discipline committee, and the bar admission course.”