Day: August 16, 2018

C. Willy Hodgson Award

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The C. Willy Hodgson Award is given in memory of Willy Hodgson, C.M., S.O.M., and her many contributions to advancing equality and diversity in the administration of justice for the people of Saskatchewan. Willy  Hodgson was a Cree Elder who worked as a nurse and social worker and served on the boards of the Saskatchewan Legal Aid Commission and the Moose Jaw Police Commission. She was appointed a Lay Bencher of the Law Society of Saskatchewan from 1997 to 2001. Willy passed away in February 2003.

To recognize the commitment and contributions that Willy made to the Law Society of Saskatchewan, the Benchers created an award in her honour. The C. Willy Hodgson Award is presented to individuals or organizations which exemplify integrity, leadership and character, and have made or are making outstanding contributions to advancing equity and diversity in legal education, the legal profession and/or the administration of justice in Saskatchewan or Canada.

Mervyn Shaw, Q.C., was selected for this award because he worked tirelessly his entire career defending underprivileged clients, seeing the humanity in every individual, whatever the  circumstances. He played a lead role in establishing the “Moose Jaw Indian and Métis Friendship Centre” with Willy Hodgson and others, which began a long-lasting association between them. It is fitting that this award be given to an individual whose goals aligned so closely with Willy Hodgson in working towards the administration of justice.

Mervyn was born in Dublin, Ireland and moved to Canada in his youth with his family. He currently lives near Moose Jaw and is the proud father of three talented daughters, Chantal, Andree, and Johane. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Saskatchewan. He articled to Manny Sonnenschein, Q.C., in Saskatoon and then Grayson & Co. in Moose Jaw. After being admitted to the bar, he opened the Legal Aid Office in Moose Jaw, known then as the “Moose Jaw and District Legal Assistance Society.” He has been the legal director of the Moose Jaw area office of Legal Aid Saskatchewan since its inception.

As legal director, Mervyn manages both the administrative functions of the Moose Jaw office and carries a full case-load, currently practicing mainly in criminal law. However, over the course of his career, he has also practiced family law. In the words of his nominators “[Mervyn]… showed a great deal of passion for his under-privileged clients. An empathetic lawyer, he has always gone, and continues to go, the extra-mile for his clients to make sure their needs are met.” It was told that he once remarked to a family friend that he “makes sure to discern the humanity in every individual he represents, and to not forget that, whatever the circumstances of the case may be.” A statement which aptly sums up who Mervyn is as a lawyer and a person.

In addition to his work with Legal Aid, Mervyn has been a very active member of his community. He served a term as an alderman for Moose Jaw and sat on and liaised with various Moose Jaw community boards. He was instrumental in the formation of “Community Action,” an organization dedicated to assisting people in need. He also assisted in arranging housing for homeless people in Moose Jaw.

Mervyn and Willy initially met as a result of their community involvement. Mervyn then created a practicum opportunity for Willy’s Social Work degree and they developed a lifelong friendship, through many joint efforts to better the lives of marginalized people.

Mervyn retired at the end of May 2018 and there is no better way to wind down a career than by knowing you have done your best and utilized all your talents, which is the way Merv lives his life. We wish to congratulate and thank him for many years of dedication to the legal profession and hope he will experience a renewed freedom to explore other untouched passions.

[Originally published in Benchers’ Digest, Summer 2018]