Mtre David E. Platts

Mtre David E. Platts: Debunking Myths through his Story
by Mélanie Dugré, lawyer
(Article published on October 18, 2017)

Talking about the career of a colleague who has deeply impacted our professional lives is at once a great responsibility and a tremendous privilege. That is exactly how I feel about introducing Mtre David E. Platts, our latest Figure de Maître.

An elementary school teacher in David’s hometown of Calgary once predicted that this brilliant and resourceful little fellow, who enjoyed defending his positions to one and all, would surely become a lawyer.

David started down that path at the University of Calgary, where he majored in Political Science and minored in French. Along the way, he decided to increase his mastery of the language of Molière by doing his third year of undergraduate studies at Université Laval. As a result, David arrived in Quebec City in 1984, the year of the Tall Ships, and was immediately drawn to the energy of the Old City and intrigued by the always-ready-to-demonstrate nature of the student and civil populations.

During his year in Quebec City, he fell madly in love with the Quebec culture, the French language and a Québécois. This was a turning point for David, but he returned to Calgary to complete his Bachelor’s degree. After earning a top-notch score on his LSAT, David decided to study at the McGill University Faculty of Law on a Wainwright Scholarship, which is awarded to students with an outstanding academic record.

After articling interviews in 1988, David accepted a position at Martineau Walker, where he practiced family law under the guidance of Pierrette Rayle. The following year, he was offered a clerkship for Judge Peter Cory at the Supreme Court of Canada. David remembers Judge Cory as a modest, industrious and generous man who handed out cookies to his clerks in appreciation for their hard work. During that exhilarating year, the highest court in our nation handed down judgements that would shape Canadian society (e.g.: Kindler, Ng, Stinchombe, Butler, Milgaard and Zundel).

After leaving the Supreme Court, David joined Langlois Robert, where he continued his training under Michel Robert and Raynold Langlois. Although he no longer practising family law, David was involved in a broad range of interesting work, including Ruffo, a high-profile disciplinary law case. Known as the “Brief Writer”, David honed his skills in pleading and cross examination through hard work in the practice division.

When Michel Robert was appointed to the Court of Appeal, David decided that he was ready for a change, and moved to McCarthy Tétrault in January 1996 to build a medical liability practice. The very first case in which the firm involved him, St-Jean v. Mercier, went straight to the Supreme Court (eight years later), and instilled in David a passion for this area of law, where science meets humanity, often at its most vulnerable.

In addition to a fulfilling legal practice, David places great importance on mentoring, having had the opportunity himself to learn from some of Canada’s finest jurists. His leadership role in mentoring younger people is a matter of personal and professional pride to David.

David first took on the responsibility of mentoring and supporting the firm’s young lawyers in connection with recruitment, and later served on the Professional Resources Committee for a number of years. David is also a member of the National Inclusion Committee, which he has chaired since January 2017. This Committee seeks to accommodate each individual’s differences and recognize the impact of certain personal factors, such as parenting, race and sexual orientation, or the illness of a loved one, on the careers of members of the firm.

In a more personal and social context, David joined GRIS-Montréal in 2005. He and his spouse soon became workshop facilitators, which allowed him to directly reach out to young students. GRIS-Montréal is dedicated to demystifying and debunking myths about the LGBT community through personal testimony. I should mention that David is a generous and stirring speaker. For example, he speaks movingly about the moment when he disclosed his sexual orientation to Judge Cory, while working on Mossop – a case that carried great personal meaning for him – involving the refusal of an employer to grant bereavement leave to a homosexual worker so that he could attend the funeral of his partner’s father. Judge Cory was open to and respectful of his clerk’s confidences, while admitting that the Supreme Court was perhaps not yet ready for the social changes demanded by Mossop, as reflected in the Court’s final decision in 1992.

David has been President of GRIS-Montréal for the past five years. He has stepped down from this position this fall, but he has left behind an important legacy, thanks to his unrelenting work ethic and the qualities that make him such an extraordinary person. This is the man I interviewed for this article, and this is the mentor who took me under his wing and taught me so much during my first few years of practice. I look back on that time with tremendous affection and gratitude.

David Platts is a gentle man and a wonderful mentor. He is patient, discreet and polite, and he expresses deep respect for others, including their strengths and their weaknesses. A lover of the French language, he tries to speak and write it impeccably, with a touch of poetry that never fails to impress and amaze. Guided by a teacher’s instincts, David actively shares his knowledge, his work ethic, his intellectual rigour, and most of all, his profound love of the law and innate sense of justice.

Guided by all that he has seen, experienced and achieved, and convinced that we can debunk myths and taboos through our personal testimony, David Platts has managed to change the world in his own way, one word and one story at a time.