Top Five Best Criminal Lawyers in Canada | Virk Barristers

Top Five Best Criminal Lawyers in Canada | Virk Barristers
Thursday, Jul 14, 2022

There is no doubt that the West has a number of distinguished legal minds who specialize in all types of cases. This includes corporate frauds and white collar crimes, while the East is known to be a hub for criminal defence lawyers. While some might think that Canada is a small country, it has several great lawyers who have made their mark on the world.

The best criminal lawyers in Canada are the ones that offer the best legal services for their clients and work to ensure that their money is well spent. This happens when they offer a variety of services that are necessary for the representation you need. While some criminal defense lawyers might specialize in one field of law, others have experience with a variety of cases that allows them to efficiently provide the best defence for their client's specific circumstances. The following is a list of top five best criminal lawyers in Canada .

Here are the top best criminal defence lawyers in Canada that have made a lasting impression on society by their hard work and dedication.

Marie Henein

Marie Henein is a Canadian criminal defence lawyer born in 1966. She is a partner in the Toronto legal firm Henein Hutchison LLP.


Henein went to Osgoode Hall Law School and earned a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) there. Henein completed an internship with renowned criminal defence attorney Edward Greenspan after graduating. She continued her education at Columbia Law School, where she earned her Master of Laws (LL.M.) in 1991. In 1992, Henein received his bar admission.

Legal Career

After working with Marc Rosenberg, Edward Greenspan's partner, she was later rehired by his company. In 1998, she was finally made a partner in the company.Henein resigned in 2002 to launch Henein and Associates. After former crown attorney Scott Hutchison joined the firm as a named partner, the company later changed its name to Henein Hutchison LLP.

Henein has established herself as one of the most "renowned and feared criminal lawyers in the country" in Toronto. She was referred to as the "most prominent criminal defence attorney in the nation" by The National Post.  She was designated one of the "Top 25 Most Influential" lawyers in Canada by Canadian Lawyer magazine in 2011. The publication noted that she was "one of the most sought-after criminal lawyers in the country" and "a crucial go-to lawyer for high-profile accused in Toronto." 

Notable Cases

Henein defended former premier of Nova Scotia Gerald Regan against allegations of sexual misconduct in 1998 alongside Greenspan. Regan's appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court of Canada, but he was finally exonerated of all charges.

Henein defended Daniel Weiz, one of the young men accused in the 1999 beating death of Toronto youngster Dmitri Baranovski, in her first case in her own practise. Weiz was cleared of all allegations. 

When David Frost, a hockey agent, was accused of sexual exploitation in 2008, Henein defended him. Frost was found not guilty.

Henein defended Marvin Sazant, a Toronto psychiatrist accused of regularly forced sex on multiple young boys while tying them up. Sazant's licence was terminated in 2009 by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, "concluding that in three of the four cases, the claims had been proven."

Brian Greenspan

Canadian lawyer Brian H. Greenspan was born on March 14, 1947, in Niagara Falls, Ontario. He is a renowned and well-respected defence lawyer in Canada.


Greenspan graduated from the University of Toronto with a B.A. in 1968 and the Osgoode Hall Law School with an LL.B. in 1971. In 1972, he graduated with an LL.M. from the London School of Economics. In 1974, he received his bar admission. He was a special lecturer in criminal law at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto Law School, from 1984 to 1998, and he taught the Administration of Criminal Justice at Osgoode Hall Law School from 1977 to 1984.

In the Toronto law firm Greenspan, Humphrey, Weinstein, Greenspan is a senior partner. He is the brother of Rosann Greenspan, the former Executive Director of the Center for Law and Society at the University of California, Berkeley, and the late Edward Greenspan, a well-known Canadian lawyer. Married to Marla Berger, Greenspan has two children, Jared and Jenna, and four grandchildren, Lucy, Greta, Sam, and Oliver.

In addition to serving as the founding chair of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers from 1992 to 1996, Greenspan served as the president of the Criminal Lawyers' Association (Ontario) from 1989 to 1993. Greenspan is a member of Litigation Counsel of America, the International Society of Barristers, and the American College of Trial Lawyers. He earned the G. Arthur Martin Medal for achievements to Canadian criminal justice in 2010[8] as well as the Douglas K. Laidlaw Medal for excellence in oral advocacy in 2002. The Law Society of Upper Canada awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2012 in recognition of his achievements.

He got the "Key to the City" of Niagara Falls, Ontario, the Alumni Gold Key for Achievement from Osgoode Hall, and he was chosen as a "Alumni of Influence" by University College of the University of Toronto in 2013.   Greenspan earned the Award of Distinction from the Toronto Lawyers Association in 2020, held the Milvain Chair in Advocacy at the University of Calgary Faculty of Law, and was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Chambers Canada. Greenspan is a director on Innocence Canada's board of directors.

Greenspan is a Band 1 top individual in White Collar Crime in Chambers Canada and has been listed in The International Who's Who of Business Crime Lawyers and The Best Lawyers in Canada since their establishment. He has three times been listed by Canadian Lawyer Magazine as one of the 25 Most Influential Lawyers in Canada.

Michael Edilson

Michael Edelson is an Ottawa, Ontario-based criminal defence attorney who was born in 1949. In Canada, he has defended a number of well-known individuals.


Before concentrating only on criminal law, Edelson first practised family, criminal, and business law. He had defended 55 people charged of murder by the year 2010. His "tough, direct manner" and "intensive preparation and thorough cross-examinations" are well-known.


Edelson successfully defended Larry O'Brien, the mayor of Ottawa, who was accused of influence-peddling and found not guilty in 2009; Raymond Lahey, the Nova Scotia Roman Catholic bishop, who was accused of possessing and importing child pornography; and Michael Cowpland, the founder and former CEO of Corel Corporation, on charges of possessing marijuana in 1988 and driving while intoxicated in 2004.


Since 1980, Edelson has successfully defended a number of police officers against criminal charges, including Constable Martin Cardinal, who won a conditional discharge after pleading guilty following a videotaped assault on a woman during her arrest;[4] Constable Daniel Montsion, an Ottawa police officer who was found not guilty on charges of manslaughter, aggravated assault, and assault with a weapon while arresting Abdirahman Abdi, who died during the arrest;[14] and Steven Desjourdy, a police sergeant accused of sexually assaulting a female prisoner.

He first defended David Frost, a former NHL agent, who was accused of sexually exploiting boys and girls between the ages of 14 and 16 between 1995 and 2001. Frost was charged with 12 counts of sexual exploitation and one count of assault. Later, Edelson gave the case to Marie Henein. He defended Col. Russell Williams, a Canadian Forces pilot accused of raping and killing two women close to the air base he oversaw in Trenton, in 2010. After a four-year streak of burglaries, he was also charged with two counts of forcible imprisonment and 82 break-ins. He entered a guilty plea and was given a 25-year life sentence without the possibility of parole.

He defended Khurram Sher in 2014 when the former pathologist from London, Ontario was charged with being a member of an al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist group in Ottawa. Sher was cleared of conspiring to support terrorism. It was the first time a terrorist offence suspect had been tried and found not guilty in Canada. Entrepreneur Liban Hussein, who was one of the first people in Canada to be charged with supporting terrorism, was successfully defended by Edelson. Additionally, Edelson represented Abdullah Almalki, who was detained and tortured for two years in a Syrian jail after being mistakenly identified as a terrorist threat, and Maher Arar, who was suspected of engaging in terrorist activity but was not charged (and would later receive a $10 million settlement from the Canadian government).

Edward Greenspan

One of Canada's most well-known defence attorneys and a prolific author of legal books was Edward Leonard Greenspan, QC (February 28, 1944 – December 24, 2014). [3] His notoriety was attributable to a number of well-known clients and to his widespread exposure on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio programme The Scales of Justice (1982–94), which later became a CBC television programme.


Graduate of University College Toronto (1965) and Osgoode Hall Legal School (1968), Greenspan served as the senior partner of the Toronto law firm of Greenspan Partners LLP and was admitted to the Ontario Bar in 1970. He served as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association's vice president. He was a Senior Fellow at Massey College at the University of Toronto and a member of the Quadrangle Society. In 1982, Greenspan was appointed a Queen's Counsel. He received his induction into the American College of Trial Lawyers in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1991.

Honorary degrees and awards were given to Greenspan for his efforts as a criminal defence attorney. His honorary doctorate of laws was conferred upon him by the Law Society of Upper Canada in 1999.  In 2001, he received the G. Arthur Martin Medal. In 2002, Assumption University, Brock University, and the University of Windsor all awarded him a doctorate in civil law. In 2009, he received the Advocates' Society Medal as well as the Law Society Medal, the highest honour given to an Ontario lawyer.

Greenspan, a Canadian Jew, was a strong advocate for Israel and related causes. He and fellow Toronto attorney David C. Nathanson argued for the need for the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency to recognise the Magen David Adom as a nonprofit organisation in an editorial piece that was published in the National Post on October 10, 2002.

The death penalty was strongly opposed by Greenspan. Greenspan put his practise on hold for three months in 1986 when the Canadian House of Commons was discussing a plan to bring back the death penalty. He used that time to travel the nation and discuss the proposal in every forum he could find. The suggestion was ultimately rejected . He successfully fought and won a case at the Supreme Court of Canada in 2001 that forbade Canadians from being extradited to foreign countries where they would be subject to the death penalty.

Several of Canada's most renowned lawyers were partners with Greenspan. Michael Moldaver, a judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, Marc Rosenberg, Marie Henein, and Todd B. White are some of Greenspan's previous partners. When pressed to reveal his fee, he advised the reporter to "be charged with a criminal offence, come to my office and I'll be pleased to talk to you." As of 1986, he was said to have charged $1.1 million for one murder case. Greenspan was a vocal opponent of Stephen Harper's criminal justice reforms, voicing his views in articles published in 2012 and 2013 by The Walrus and The Globe and Mail, respectively.

He was Brian Greenspan's brother, a lawyer from Canada as well. [17] At the University of California, Berkeley, Sister Rosann Greenspan serves as executive director of the Center for the Study of Law and Society. [2]

A Criminal Mind, a documentary directed by Barry Avrich, was about him.

John Rosen

One of the most notable criminal defence attorneys in Canadian history, John Rosen, has defended murder cases in Ontario[1]. Paul Bernardo, Pat and Angelo Musitano, Min Chen, Paul Volpe, Johnny Papalia, Carmen Barillaro, and Pietro Scarcella are just a few of the renowned offenders he has represented. He is a partner in the Rosen Naster LLP law firm in Toronto.


In 1968, John Rosen graduated with an LL.B. from Osgoode Hall Law School. In 1970, he was admitted to the Ontario Bar. He belongs to a number of professional organisations, such as the American and Canadian Bar Associations, the Advocates Society, the Criminal Lawyers' Association, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in the US.

The reputation of the alleged criminals Rosen defends is well recognised. He is also renowned for aggressively defending those who are accused of heinous crimes. [6] He received criticism for portraying a murder victim as a criminal in one instance.

After John appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada in the related case of Benson v. Brown[8, which established the guidelines for allowing access to lawyer-client confidential information regarding another suspect who had previously been cleared by the police, Rosen successfully defended a man accused of second-degree murder. The prosecution withdrew the charge on the eve of trial as a result of John's appearance.

Notable Cases

  • Paul Bernardo, a notorious Canadian rapist and serial killer.

  • In defence of Pietro Scarcella, who is accused of shooting Louise Russo, leaving her crippled, in a Vaughan sandwich shop in 2004.

  • At the time, Min Chen, a Chinese student on a visa, was convicted of kidnapping and killing nine-year-old Cecilia Zhang.

  • In support of Chuang Li, a former employee accused of stabbing four former coworkers.

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