As we move into the new year, the legal and injured worker community continue to honour the memory and achievements of engineer, labour lawyer, arbitrator, teacher and legal scholar Dr Ron Ellis. His lifelong work promoting fairness in administrative justice and workers’ compensation reform, grounded by a deep-seated belief in social justice, inspired numerous colleagues and benefited countless Ontario citizens.
Among his many contributions enhancing access to justice: trailblazing work, with Mary Jane Mossman, in setting up Parkdale Community Legal Services (1979) to provide services and information to low-income persons; serving as inaugural chair of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal (now WSIAT) from 1985-1997; tireless advocacy and education for administrative justice system reform through initiatives including his website, 2013 legal text Unjust By Design and as founding member (2020) of Tribunal Watch Ontario , established to monitor the administrative tribunal system and reform its procedures.
As Chair of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal Ron Ellis wrote many seminal decisions that laid the foundation of workers compensation jurisprudence in Ontario. They began with Decision 915, the leading case on pensions which affirmed that chronic pain that is real, disabling and results from a workplace injury is a compensable disability, despite the inability to identify a physical cause for the pain. That decision also explained the thin skull principle and the legal causation requirements, that scientific certainty is not required, the question is whether the workplace was a significant contributing factor in the development of the illness or injury.
In recognition of his work, the Ontario Bar Association (OBA) has presented since 1999 an annual award for lawyers and advocates, the Ron Ellis Award for Excellence in Workers’ Compensation Law. The June 2022 OBA Ron Ellis Symposium presented the highlights of his extraordinary career.
We extend our sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues.