The CBA announces the newest Legal Aid Leader Award winner: Byron Williams

  • September 24, 2015

Byron WilliamsByron Williams graduated from the Faculty of Law at the University of Manitoba in 1992. Over the next twenty years, Mr. Williams developed expertise in public interest test case litigation and regulatory proceedings appearing before administrative tribunals, Provincial and Federal Courts and Courts of Appeal.

Since 2004, Mr. Williams has been the Director of the Public Interest Law Centre of Legal Aid Manitoba (PILC), where his mandate includes taking on test cases for public interest groups and low income individuals in the areas of human rights, poverty, environmental and aboriginal law. In addition to representing low income and disadvantaged clients, Mr. Williams has spent twenty years representing consumers in regulatory and environmental matters.

Mr. Williams is an innovative lawyer who presents novel legal arguments to advance the law. He pioneered a renewed effort at PILC to use The Manitoba Human Rights Code to achieve systemic change for disadvantaged groups including prisoners, persons living with intellectual disabilities and newcomers to Canada. In 2011, Mr. Williams obtained funding for a three-year Residential Tenancies Pilot Project, and as a result of his initiative, many people on the verge of eviction have been able to stay in their homes.

One of Mr. Williams’ many strength is the building of relationships between lawyers and communities to promote access to justice. Under his leadership, PILC has taken on numerous public interest test cases and research projects, including a national research project for the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Over the years Mr. Williams has worked in partnership with private bar lawyers through pro bono projects and he regularly mentors articling students, lawyers, and volunteers. Through his teaching at the University of Winnipeg, Mr. Williams uses his experience and enthusiasm to inspire students and raise awareness about the barriers faced daily by individuals with low incomes.

Mr. Williams has made a significant contribution to promoting Legal Aid and access to justice. He was awarded the Richard J. Scott award in 2013 for advancing the rule of law through advocacy, litigation, teaching, research and writing. Mr. Williams is a dynamic speaker and a tireless advocate for his clients. Over the past two decades he has given a voice to historically disadvantaged groups in Canadian society, particularly Aboriginal people, persons with disabilities, social assistance recipients, and prisoners. His work has had a profound and meaningful impact on people’s everyday lives.