Bruce Lennon has Tried his Last Case

Former Town of Westlock mayor, town councillor and school trustee officially retires from the law.

WES Lennon IMG-7305
Bruce Lennon, 71, has retired from the law firm that bears his name. Aside from practicing law, Lennon was active on the local political scene, first serving as a Westlock School Division trustee in 1983, then spending nine years on town council before winning the mayor’s seat in 2004 — the start of a three-term run.

WESTLOCK – Bruce Lennon, a three-term mayor who’s been one of Westlock’s most influential and community-minded residents for the last four decades, has officially retired from practicing law.

The 71-year-old namesake of the law firm Lennon Barlow Keyes, which was founded in 1981 as Lennon & Logan, then became Lennon & Barlow in 2005 following the passing of Blaine Logan in 2004, officially announced his retirement at the start of November. For the past three and a half years Lennon has been living in St. Albert and working part time for the firm.

And while the law was his profession, Lennon was heavily involved in the community on a variety of fronts from the moment he arrived.

“I always wanted the town to stand out in some way, for it to be progressive with affordable housing and recreation and not always focusing on roads and on lower taxes, just for the sake of lower taxes. I wanted it to be more than just another small town in Alberta,” said Lennon.

“I always wanted to sell the Town of Westlock as being a step above the average rural town with facilities and infrastructure. I guess I just tried to make things better for everyone overall.”

And now looking back, he wants to express his gratitude to the community for giving him so much personally and professionally.

“I really want to thank the community for the opportunity to work and live there and be involved in helping to move it forward. I’m really grateful,” said Lennon.

“There’s really great people there and it’s a great community.”

From Churchill to Westlock

Born and raised in Churchill, Manitoba, Lennon studied at the University of Manitoba where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in 1971 and a Bachelor of Education in 1975. After teaching school in Manitoba, Lennon returned to the University of Manitoba to get his law degree.

So, how did a guy who grew on the shores of Hudson Bay in a town dubbed the “Polar Bear Capital of the World” end up in a prairie town like Westlock?

“Darrel Erickson (former R.F. Staples principal and town councillor) … he was from Thompson (Manitoba) and I was from Churchill and we knew each casually through high school sports. He was teaching in Vimy (late 1970s) and I came to visit him when I was in my second year of law school. I was looking for a small town to start up in, I didn’t want to be in the city,” he recalled. “So I ended up talking to Blaine Logan and they needed someone and everything just worked out.”

Practicing law in a small town allowed him to do a bit of everything, from family, to civil and criminal litigation. A typical week, which saw him travel throughout the region with an office in Athabasca, could include everything from corporate matters, to wills, drafting agreements, estates and real estate transactions.

And without fail, Lennon served as duty counsel at Westlock Provincial Court every Wednesday, meaning he would help people attending court for the first time who didn’t have a lawyer. It was during those years he even thought about becoming a provincial court judge, but ultimately decided against it.

“We had a great practice and really great staff. I started off doing family law, then did lots of criminal law. A lot of people couldn’t always accept that fact that I was defending someone charged with some horrific crime and then at the same time showing up as the mayor … some people couldn’t get past that,” he said.

“But I had a very satisfying career as a lawyer. I got to meet lots of different people, characters. Most people in the criminal justice system aren’t really criminals, they’re poor decision makers who do goofy things. There are a few real bad guys, but thank goodness not too many.”

First forays into politics

From 1983 to 1992 Lennon sat as a school board trustee for the then Westlock School Division and even served one year as chairman — he was elected in a January 1983 byelection defeating John Rollins 40-13.

bruce 1983
Bruce Lennon won the 1983 Westlock School Division byelection, his forary into local politics.

It was also during those years he was chairman of the Westlock & District Rec Society, the group that built the Westlock Aquatic Centre in the late 1980s.

“We were able to raise $1 million and ultimately end up building the pool for $3.5 million,” he said proudly. “The cost of building that pool now with the massive wood beams … it’s such a unique building even to this day.”

In the 1980s he also tried his hand at provincial politics, serving as Ed Caraher’s campaign manager in the 1982 provincial election in what was then the Athabasca riding. Running under the NDP banner, Caraher, who was also principal of R.F. Staples School, finished second to PC candidate Frank Appleby.

Then in 1986, Lennon took his own shot at the MLA seat running as an NDP in what was then the Westlock-Sturgeon riding. Lennon wound up finishing third behind PC Lawrence Kluthe and the eventual champion, Liberal Party leader Nick Taylor — Taylor passed away Oct. 3 in Calgary at the age of 93.

“We did well in Bon Accord and Cardiff, but the further north you went … we didn’t do very well in Westlock,” he chuckled. “Losing wasn’t fun. After that I kind of decided provincial politics wasn’t for me.”

Following his time as a trustee he decided to let his name stand for town council in 1992 and won his seat by the slightest of margins.

 “I won by three votes to get on town council … they had a recount even and I think I ended up winning by four votes,” he said with a chuckle.

During his nine years as a councillor Lennon said he was fortunate to work with tons of good people on council and administration, singling out former mayors Doug Rice and Shirley Morie.

The mayor’s chair

Following his three-term (nine year) council run he took three years off before running for mayor in 2004, a seat he won with 1,111 votes — Clem Fagnan, who continues to serve as a town councillor, finished second at 497, while Don Naclia wound up third with 102 ballots.

bruce 2004
Bruce Lennon served three terms as the mayor of Westlock — this photo is from his first win in 2004.

In the next two elections Lennon was unchallenged for the mayor’s chair, then retired from local politics in 2013.

The obvious highlight from those years is the construction of the Rotary Spirit Centre in 2012.

But the $19.7 million project had its fair share of challenges, from Westlock County not contributing any capital dollars, to the contractor going into receivership during construction in 2010. Plebiscites were also held in both the county and town on the fate of the building, while the final construction cost ballooned by roughly $3 million.

“We took some political heat and political chances to get it built. But it’s been great for the community and surrounding area and it’s half paid for now,” he said, noting the $1.6M raised by the Friends of the Spirit Centre that helped get it built.

But Lennon also pointed to Westlock Place, the town’s affordable housing apartment complex constructed in 2009, as another highlight. To this day it remains a unique facility in rural Alberta.

Keeping in the building theme, Lennon was also involved in the early stages of getting the Canadian Tractor Museum built back around 2005 and as a member of the local flying club was involved in getting the community hangar built — after being a partner in owning a few planes, he relinquished his pilot’s licence two years ago. In addition there was also the regional water line and regional landfill projects that started during his time as a politician.

“It’s a unique one for a small town,” said Lennon about Westlock Place. “We got lucky as there was some federal and some provincial money that wasn’t really sought after that was available. I think that project ended up being around $5 million and we got grants for almost $4 million to build it, which was a little unusual. It was the luck of the draw and we were able to make it a reality in fairly short order.”

His only regret politically is that the town and county weren’t able to come together on a regional recreation cost-sharing agreement — to this day the two municipalities, more often than not, don’t always see eye to eye on rec costs.

“That was a disappointment for me. It was so rational that that should have happened and it was the fair and reasonable thing to do. But when you talk to other places that’s the same kind of push-and-pull scenario.”

So, now what?

Being semi-retired for the last couple of years has somewhat eased his transition away from the courtroom, although in the COVID-19 world, travel and spending time with family isn’t possible.

 He still has his motorcycle, enjoys golf and has no plans for a book, he noted with a laugh, and would have liked to have hosted an in-person community event to say goodbye, but due to COVID-19 that just isn’t an option.

“Right now I’m kind of on idle, doing what old people do I guess, going for walks, meeting for coffee and kind of bumming around,” he said with a chuckle. “But definitely it’s going to be a big change not being involved in work at all. That said I think my wife is going to have a bigger adjustment to me being home all the time.

“But I’ve got three grandkids that will keep us both busy, except of course I can’t see them right now due to COVID. But that will change once we get back to normal.”

Nov 18, 2020 11:34 AM By: George Blais; Town and Country; Westlock, Alberta; <> retrieved on December 11, 2020

The Lawyer’s Prayer


Grant that I may be able in argument,

Accurate in analysis, strict in study,

Candid with clients, and honest with adversaries;

Sit with me at my desk and listen with me:

To my client’s plaints; read with me in my library;

And stand beside me in court; so that today I shall not,

in order to win a point, lose my soul.

– Unknown

Response to COVID-19

We remain open for business,

but in-person visits are by appointment only.

Hopefully, we have all come to understand that the current pandemic ought to be taken seriously.
It seems that the experts still have a great deal to learn about this specific virus and its properties. As new information unfolds, we will continue to take appropriate measures to serve clients and protect people from infection.
The courts have also taken measures to prevent the spread of disease, which will delay trial dates and frustrate the progression of court matters.
At LBK, we have taken several measures to prevent infection. Some of the precautions and protocols we have enacted are as follows:
  • We emphasize remote meetings via telephone and emails wherever possible;
  • Our outer front door is open and we unlock the inner door only for those who are attending the office for a scheduled appointment;
  • In person meetings are limited to meetings where signings are taking place, which cannot be accomplished remotely;
  • We are only accepting visits from those who have booked an appointment beforehand;
  • Each client that attends our office is screened beforehand, with regard to asking the client about symptoms of illness or recent travel;
  • Once the client arrives in the office (s)he fills out a form, as provided by AHS that inquires as to the persons status for quarantine;
  • We currently discourage handshakes, but accept other greeting, such as the elbow bump;
  • We stagger appointments to ensure that each meeting room is properly sanitized between meetings;
  • We are focusing on meeting with clients in one of our conference rooms, rather than the client meeting in lawyers’ individual offices;
  • Conference rooms, including chairs, tables, and pens, are disinfected between meetings with clients;
  • Light switches, door knobs, keyboards, and other items that are typically touched are to be disinfected frequently and after each use ideally;
  • We have increased our frequency of cleaning and disinfecting bathrooms;
  • We are maintaining the recommended distance between people;
  • We have increased stations for hand sanitizing and wipes for disinfecting;
  • We have a made an emphasis on lawyers and staff to increase frequency of hand washing;

5 points to remember if you are ever arrested

If you are ever placed under arrest or detained by investigating police, here are five points to consider:

  1. Remain Silent – Do NOT say anything to the police; you may have an urge to “talk your way out” of the situation. You ought to resist this urge.

The police want you to talk. They could possibly twist whatever you say and use it against you later. You may end up digging yourself a bigger hole.

Just be quiet and resist the urge to make any statement until you have discussed this with your lawyer.

  1. Be cooperative – Being cooperative does NOT mean answering the officer’s questions or making a statement.

For example, a refusal to offer a breath sample is a crime in and of itself. Cooperating to a certain point will give your defence a greater marge de manoeuvre than entirely refusing to cooperate. If the officers are asking you to blow into a screening device, do it.

NEVER lie to the police. Lying to a police officer could bring about a charge of obstruction of justice. Being cooperative does NOT mean answering the officer’s questions or making a statement;

  1. Understand why you are being arrested—The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects you against arbitrary detention. If an agent of the State uses authority to detain you, the officer MUST inform you of the reason for your detention (your 10(a) right).

As opposed to simply reading someone her rights off a que card, courts have interpreted this right broadly enough to obligate the arresting officer to take steps to ensure you understand the reasons for your arrest.

You need to fully understand the reason for the arrest in order to exercise your right to retain and instruct a lawyer (your 10(b) right). If you are unsure of the reason for your arrest, your conversation with a lawyer will be less productive.

4. Contact a lawyer without delay—The police must inform you of your right to speak with a lawyer and facilitate your efforts to contact one. You are typically allowed to enter a private room with a phone-book, list of lawyers, and a telephone. If you are a youth, the police MUST notify your parents;

5. Bail – You have a right to be granted reasonable bail. Release is the rule and denial of bail is the exception. If you are granted an interim release (bail), you may have to abide by conditions.

For instance, if you are accused of assault, one of the conditions may be that you cannot have any contact (direct or indirect) with the complainant in order to protect against intimidating a person that will give evidence against you in court. You must respect all the conditions and appear in court when required upon release.

If you fail to respect conditions of your release, you may face further criminal charges arising from the beaches. Breaching conditions also brings about further difficulty with obtaining bail in the future.

6 Tools for Estate Planning

Considerations of tax planning,  creditor liabilities, keeping Estate matters out of public court documents come into play when deciding whether a certain asset will form part of the Estate or transfer directly to the beneficiary outside of the Estate.

Some legal tools we use to (1) facilitate the transfer of property and/or (2) allow others to act for you (while you are still alive) or for your Estate (posthumously) are:

  1. Your LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT is the document that contains your final wishes for how your Estate will be managed. Distribution and winding up the affairs of one’s Estate must usually take effect by Grant of Probate from the Court of Queen’s Bench (Surrogate), which empowers the named Executor/Executrix to administer the Estate according to the Will. You can only form a valid Will if you are of sound mind. Once you suffer from a significant brain injury or comparable mental illness, you may lose your ability to make a legally binding Will. Considerations of tax planning, managing creditor liabilities, avoiding probate, keeping estate matters out of public court documents etc. come into play when deciding whether a certain asset should be transferred in your Will or otherwise.
  2. Your ENDURING POWER OF ATTORNEY (“EPA”) can take effect immediately upon signing. Most often, an EPA activates as a contingency when you lose capacity to make decisions with respect to your financial affairs. This contingency usually takes place upon certification by a Medical Doctor. Once an EPA takes effect, your Attorney has extensive abilities to act for you. For example, your Attorney would have the power to communicate to different bureaucratic organizations (such as the Canada Revenue Agency) on your behalf. Your Attorney can access your bank accounts, write cheques, mortgage your property, sell your property, acquire property in your name, give gifts, view your Will, and generally manage your affairs. However your Attorney may only act in your best interests. Any misuse of a Power of Attorney could bring about very serious consequences before a criminal or civil court.
  3. In a PERSONAL DIRECTIVE, you name the person who can speak for you, concerning medical treatment, residence, and end-of-life decisions. This document only takes effect if you lose mental capacity to make such decisions.
  4. JOINT OWNERSHIP is a possible arrangement for transfer of property outside of your Estate posthumously. For example, ownership of Land held jointly by two people will  pass automatically by operation of law to the surviving joint owner(s). Joint ownership arrangements often take place with bank accounts, vehicles, and matrimonial real estate.
  5. NAMED BENEFICIARIES on instruments such as life insurance or Retirement Savings Plans can pass outside of your Estate, going directly to the beneficiary named in the contract or financial instrument.
  6. Most TRUSTS activate as a provision of the Will (mortis causa). A Trust is a legal property arrangement wherein property is held by Trustees for the benefit of those named in the Trust as Beneficiaries. This often takes place with a provision of the Will that children or grandchildren can inherit from the Estate; your Executor can use the child’s share of the Estate for her benefit (school fees, and costs of living can also be applied) until the child becomes a certain age, which is most often in the age range of 18-21. You may also execute and settle Deed of Trust during your lifetime (an inter vivos Trust). If you create an inter vivos trust, you can pass property outside of your Estate. Because, inter vivos Trusts are taxed in a particular manner, you should seek accounting and legal advice before settling a trust.