And the 2016 AMS/John Hodgson Award of Excellence in Charity and Not‑For‑Profit Law goes to…. Brian Iler!

May 8th, 2016 by Iler Campbell

In 42 years of practising law, Brian Iler has focused on enabling social change.  Through his passionate efforts he has had a significant and sustaining impact on the non‑profit sector.  The Ontario Bar Association has recognized Brian’s work by awarding him the 2016 AMS/John Hodgson Award of Excellence in Charity and Not‑For‑Profit Law. And we couldn’t be prouder.

Brian, ever‑modest about his achievements, says: “I’m delighted. First, because the wonderful people in my firm chose to nominate me, and also that my peers in the profession have chosen to recognize the work I’ve done. Not that it’s over yet!”

What follows is our nomination letter:

Brian’s Housing Leadership

Brian helped get many of Ontario’s non‑profit housing co‑operatives off the ground in the 1980s and 1990s and has been serving them ever since. He has been active in the development of housing co‑op law and governance, and he’s been adamant that housing co‑operatives receive affordable, yet creative, legal services. 

Of Brian’s nomination, Tom Clement, Executive Director, The Co-operative Housing Federation of Toronto, says, “It is certainly well deserved. [… Brian] has been a leader in bringing together many co-ops, nonprofits, and charities.  He truly believes in his work and promoting social change.”

In collaboration with Options for Homes, Brian pioneered a funding model through which Options and its affiliated organizations across Canada and abroad have sold over 6,500 at-cost housing units. The model funnels money back to a related organization, Home Ownership Alternatives, when units are sold, ensuring sustainable funding for many more affordable housing units in the years to come. This inventive model is now being applied to car sharing, green energy and other projects.

Brian’s Renewable Energy Leadership

Since the early 2000s, through paid and voluntary work, Brian has been an integral part of the birth of the renewable energy sector in Ontario.  While not always “non‑profit”, Brian works to distribute profit differently in society – employing co‑operative corporations to ensure community growth.

Although the concept of community based ownership of renewable energy was not new, its implementation in Canada, and Ontario specifically, had not been contemplated by various pieces of legislation that were encountered along the way.  Ontario’s Co-operative Corporations Act, Business Corporations Act, Corporations Act, and Securities Act, and the federal Income Tax Act and Excise Tax Act all had to be either addressed or changed for “community power” to become a reality.   Brian’s participation was key.  Where necessary, the sector made its activities comply with certain legislation.  But at some points lines were drawn and decisions made that legislation had to be changed.  Brian was at the table throughout, providing sound professional advice and leadership.

A lead corporation throughout this process was TREC Renewable Energy Co-operative which incubates community-owned green electricity projects, including the wind turbine on the Lakeshore.  Brian has been on the board of this not‑for‑profit co-operative since its inception in 1996.  From TREC came The Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA), Windshare Co-operative, Lakewind Power Co-operative, the Community Power Fund , SolarShare Co-operative and Community Power Capital Co-operative.  Brian was an early board member for each of these corporations and provided legal advice and leadership to all.   OSEA awarded Brian its first Community Power Award for his contribution to the community power sector in 2008.

He is a member of the Green Energy Act Alliance Management Committee which oversaw the highly successful campaign for the Green Energy and Green Economy Act,[1] and the feed-in tariffs for green energy projects. 

Brian’s Social Enterprise Leadership

Brian is a director, since 2009, of the Centre for Social Innovation, an organization which supports and incubates social enterprises.  To finance its purchase of 720 Bathurst Street in Toronto, Brian did pioneering work to enable the issue of Community Bonds.  With the model defined, the concept is being widely used, opening up a significant new source of money for non-profit organizations.

Brian’s Broader Non‑Profit, Co‑op and Legal Leadership

As a member of the Ontario Non-profit Network’s Expert Advisory Panel, Brian has made submissions to the law in order to make social finance more accessible for non-profit organizations. In this capacity he is author of much of the ONN’s critique of the still as-yet unproclaimed Ontario Non-profit Corporations Act.

Brian is counsel to the Ontario Co-operative Association and recipient of its 2002 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Many beyond the non‑profit sector know Brian from his tireless volunteer work for CommunityAIR, a non‑profit that campaigns for a clean green waterfront with limits on the Island Airport.   

Brian gives presentations regularly, both to members of the sector and to other lawyers. He is co‑founder of the Tools Conference (1998-2006, 2011 – ongoing), which has provided inexpensive legal and accounting education to many hundreds of sector participants since.

Brian has provided opportunity to many lawyers who’ve come through his office to start their careers in providing legal services to the non-profit sector.  Rare is it to find a for‑profit law firm that is values‑based.   

Just 70 years young last December, Brian still demonstrates the passionate enthusiasm, energy and yes, idealism, that the sector has grown to expect from him.  We can think of no better belated birthday gift than the 2016 AMS/John Hodgson Award! 


[1] the 2009 bill that created a new stand-alone statute known as the Green Energy Act, and amended 15 other statutes. These legislative changes included a range of measures to foster a culture of conservation and encourage the development of renewable energy projects and stimulated the green energy sector in Ontario – attracting new investment, creating green jobs and providing clean renewable power to Ontario

Filed in: Charities, Firm News, Not for Profit Law