38. Joseph Arvay

Partner, Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy

November 17, 2015

By Staff / Photo: Dominic Schaefer

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Age: 66 | 2014: #20

Knowing something about the plight of minorities—he was confined to a wheelchair after a car accident while a student at the University of Western Ontario—Arvay has long fought for the underdog. He helped strike down the law preventing same-sex marriage, fought for the rights of the children of sperm donors, and argued all the way to the Supreme Court that the Canada Border Services Agency’s withholding of gay materials violated the constitutional rights of Little Sister’s bookstore and its owner, the late Jim Deva.

Arvay has represented clients dealing with issues of all legal stripes, but it’s his work in helping to define what the Charter of Rights and Freedoms actually means that has made him perhaps the pre-eminent constitutional lawyer in the country. He represented Gloria Taylor in the case that led the Supreme Court to strike down the law banning assisted suicide, forcing the government to come up with a legislative response and prompting the Canadian Medical Association to instruct its members to follow their conscience in dealing with individual cases. As increasing numbers of baby boomers watch their parents endure protracted deaths, and public opinion polls favour more humane end-of-life options—not to mention the new Liberal government it Ottawa—it seems inevitable that the laws will soon be changed. And that Joseph Arvay will one of the people making it happen.

To see who else made 2015’s Power 50, click here >>

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