TBLA Awards

Nominations for the TBLA Service Awards and the James L. Murray Memorial Award can be submitted via email to the Public Service Awards Committee at library@tbla.ca at least one month prior to the Annual General Meeting, which is usually held in March each year.

At the AGM in March 2019, Ross Murray, Q.C. was awarded Honourary Lifetime Membership.  In 2018, Honourary Lifetime Memberships Awards were granted to Ken Whent, Q.C.; Allan G. McKitrick, Q.C.; and Kris Knutsen, Q.C.  These members all reflect the ideal of devoted and meritorious service to the association, the profession and the public, as well as being long-standing members in the Law Society of Ontario.


The awards are for members, whether Lawyers, Justices or Crown Attorneys, and are meant to recognize service. There are two awards. The criteria are as follows:

Service to Community Award

“A member who has performed work over a number of years, above and beyond usual or normal expectations or standards, all for the benefit of the citizens of Thunder Bay.”

Service to Profession Award

“A member, who has performed work, over a number of years, above and beyond usual or normal expectations or standards, all for the benefit of the members of the Thunder Bay Law Association.”

Through the presentation of these awards the Directors of the Association, on behalf of all members of the Association, wish to recognize members who have made significant contributions to the profession and the community at large.  

At the March 2021 AGM, the 2020 award for service to the community was presented to Katy Commisso for her volunteer work and leadership within the community, including Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation Board of Directors, and Magnus Theatre Board. She was instrumental in reviving the tradition of lawyers putting on plays (the postponed Twelve Angry Men production).  She is also a member of the charter class at LU and was involved in leadership roles as a student including the annual student vs the TBLA bar sporting events. Katy is involved in establishing the OBA Young Lawyers events in the north, and many other initiatives with the OBA. 

The 2020 award for service to the profession was presented to Madame Justice Elaine Burton who has facilitated effective delivery of independent, impartial, and timely justice in our community. She has also made a positive impact on the members of the Thunder Bay Law Association. Even before the onset of the pandemic, our exodus from the courthouse, the courthouse fire, the pivot to virtual proceedings, Justice Burton’s leadership has fostered a positive environment based on clear and timely communications.  It has improved cooperation among the various stakeholders in the criminal justice system and she has still had time to knit clothing for those in need! She has maintained a positive message that has resonated in the minds of TBLA members, the fact that we are all in this together rings true and has allowed for unprecedented levels of cooperation among institutions/stakeholders. 

Congratulations  to all the outstanding nominees and recipients of these awards!


This award was established at the Board meeting of April 13, 2018 to honour the memory of Mr. Jim (James) Murray, who passed away suddenly in January 2018.  He was an outstanding advocate and long-time member of the local bar.  Nominations for this award are reviewed by the Public Service Awards Committee with the following criteria considered:

“Awarded to a member of the TBLA that displays the highest standards of ethics, professionalism, and civility in his/her practice as an advocate.”

At the March 27, 2019 AGM the first recipient of this award, Jack Jamieson, was presented with the 2018 award. Mr. Jamieson definitely displays all the highest qualities of professionalism, ethics, and civility in his practice of law and is the perfect first recipient of this award.

Mr. James Wilcox, the second recipient of this award, received in his nomination high praise for his exemplary professionalism in his dealings with clients, lawyers and the courts.

The 2020 award was presented at the March 31, 2021 AGM  to John W. McDonald who received in his nomination high praise for his exemplary professionalism in his dealings with clients, lawyers and the courts. He is very good at helping/advising younger members of the bar, and he is always looking out not just for his client, but for everyone involved.  John is an ethical, trustworthy, professional individual who displays these qualities every day in his practice.

Mr. John Illingworth, Atwood Labine LLP, was the worthy recipient of the 2021 award at the AGM on March 30, 2022 with his consistently high level of professionalism, civility and ethics in his practice of law.  He is also commended for his willingness to provide sound advice and guidance to the younger members of the bar.

We extend our hearty congratulations to all of the nominees and recipients of this award!


  • 2018 – Jack Jamieson, Carrel + Partners
  • 2019 – James Wilcox, Legal Aid Ontario
  • 2020 – John W. McDonald, John W. McDonald Law Office
  • 2021 – John Illingworth, Atwood Labine LLP