Robert Lattanzio receives The Law Foundation of Ontario Guthrie AwardOctober 3, 2022
The Law Foundation of Ontario is pleased to announce that Roberto (Robert) Lattanzio is the 2022 recipient of the Guthrie Award, the Foundation’s signature award to recognize exceptional access to justice champions.
Robert is the Executive Director of ARCH Disability Law Centre, a specialty legal clinic that defends and advances the equality rights, entitlements, fundamental freedoms, and inclusion of persons with disabilities in Ontario. Robert starting at ARCH as an articling student in 2003, then moving to staff lawyer, and finally, since 2015, has been serving as Executive Director.
“Robert has dedicated his legal career to advancing the full equality and inclusion of persons with disabilities,” says Linda Rothstein, the Foundation’s Board Chair. “He’s been at the forefront of the most substantial innovative test case litigation, law reform, legal professional development, and public legal education initiatives that are improving access to justice for people with disabilities in Ontario.”
“Robert is recognized as a committed and passionate leader in the disability rights and disability justice communities, the legal clinic community, and the broader human rights community in Ontario and across Canada,” say Kerri Joffe, Mariam Shanouda, and Doreen Way of ARCH Disability Law Centre who nominated Robert for the Guthrie Award. “Robert cares deeply about each of his clients. In countless cases, he has gone above and beyond what is ordinarily expected of a lawyer to defend his clients’ rights to equal access to services and resources.”
In his practice, Robert provides direct legal services to people with disabilities. Described as “incredibly empathetic”, he approaches his clients with sensitivity and a deep awareness of the trauma that many people experience due to systemic ableism and intersectional discrimination.
He has acted as legal counsel in test case litigation at all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada, and has made law reform submissions to various levels of government, committees, and administrative bodies. He is credited with championing some of the most important pieces of disability-rights legislation in Ontario and Canada. His law reform work advances the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and focuses on a broad range of law and policy including the Education Act, Medical Assistance in Dying, and the Accessible Canada Act.
Throughout the pandemic, Robert has led the ARCH team in identifying and responding to COVID-related legal issues impacting people with disabilities. This includes illustrating to government ministries the discriminatory impacts of COVID policies on people with disabilities in hospital and congregate care settings, with healthcare triage protocols, and vaccination distribution and requirements.
Over his career, Robert has designed and delivered numerous legal rights and education trainings for persons with disabilities, licensees, and law students. Alongside disability community leaders, he co-founded the Respecting Rights Committee, which is a group of self-advocates with intellectual disabilities who work with ARCH lawyers and social workers on public legal education and law reform projects. With Indigenous members from the ARCH Board and the community, he established the Moving Together Toward Supporting Reconciliation Committee. One of the committee’s recent initiatives is the development and launching of the Teresa Daw Internship, which offers a paid placement for Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit, Métis) law students to explore and work through current legal and disability related issues that are of utmost importance to the student and their community.
Robert led changes to ARCH’s service delivery model, and the creation of ARCH’s Accessible Services Program, which educates the legal profession on providing accessible services to Ontarians with disabilities. And, he was instrumental in developing the Disability Law Intensive, a collaborative program of ARCH and Osgoode Hall Law School that allows 12 law students to work on test case litigation and systemic law reform initiatives every year.
Robert is a sought after speaker and author on a diverse range of topics including equality and human rights law, administrative law, education law, and law reform advocacy. He has served on numerous advisory committees including the Law Society of Ontario’s Equity Advisory Group, and the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Community Advisory Group.
The Law Foundation of Ontario has been advancing access to justice since 1974. Through granting and collaboration, the Foundation invests in knowledge and services that help people understand the law and use it to improve their lives. The Foundation also administers the Class Proceedings Fund, which provides cost assistance in class actions. The Foundation’s main source of revenue is interest received from lawyers’ and paralegals’ mixed trust accounts. Another source of revenue is cy-près awards. When received, cy-près revenue is allocated to the Foundation's national Access to Justice Fund.
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