After a brief but valiant battle with cancer, Joel Taller, a pioneer of the Canadian natural product and food industry and perhaps the preeminent regulatory lawyer in Canada, passed away on May 13, 2017. A member of the Gowling WLG law firm team for 34 years, Taller worked exclusively in the area of product regulation. He received his law degree and MBA from the University of Ottawa, and a BSc (Honours) in physiology and pharmacology from the University of Western Ontario. In 1983, Taller’s career started as an articling student. He was called to the bar in 1985 and became a partner in 1991.
Along the way, Taller not only managed a strong regulatory practice that specialized in natural health products, foods, drugs, cosmetics and medical devices, but he also nurtured the careers of many younger lawyers and professionals. He started what became, and continues to be, the most significant food, beverage, and supplement legal practice in Canada. Advising on regulatory matters ranging from pre-market reviews and labeling issues to recall and good manufacturing practices, the practice grew from a single partner to a full multi-disciplinary team with an international reach.
During his career, Taller worked with numerous companies and associations within the food, beverage, and supplements industries in Canada. He served as counsel to the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) for many years and was an integral part of the strategy and progress that CHFA achieved over the years. Taller’s expertise and guidance as well as his breadth of knowledge, were invaluable to the staff, board of directors, and members of CHFA for many years. His wisdom and logical approach will be missed.
For more than 20 years, Taller also acted as a registered lobbyist and worked to protect the industry on diverse files including bills C-51, C-52, and C-6, all of which proposed changes to the Canadian regulatory framework that suggested excessive regulation and threatened the availability of natural health products (NHPs) in Canada. He also worked on the initial cost recovery file, finished product testing, the NHP regulations, and Unprocessed Product License Applications Regulations (UPLAR). He was known and respected by many within Health Canada and by those throughout the directorates who had the opportunity to work with him over the years. He also worked with the non-profit American Botanical Council, writing articles and sharing his knowledge of the Canadian regulatory system across the border.
As well as being a highly accomplished lawyer, Taller was a wonderful person. He was kind and generous to a fault; someone who gave not only his money, but more importantly his time, to support others and to help those in need. And he did it quietly, with no desire for recognition or public praise. Stories abound of Taller’s support of groups in need. He donated rooms and funds for students who wanted to learn, and he was willing to help those who were going through a hard time.
Taller was also a man of faith and acted as an advisor at his synagogue. He continued to learn throughout his life and enjoyed a deep discussion or a debate. He lived by what he believed and demonstrated his beliefs so that others could benefit from his example. Finally, and most importantly, Taller was a husband, father, and grandfather. He loved his family and enjoyed every moment he spent with them.
Those who knew Taller have described him as a mensch, a Yiddish word that means “a person of integrity and honor; a person who takes responsibility.” As a man who truly lived by his values and was kind to a fault, we should all aspire to be a bit more like Joel Taller. In recognition of his efforts and work on behalf of the natural health industry in Canada, CHFA will induct Taller into the CHFA Hall of Fame in September 2017.
Canadian Health Food Association
Toronto, Ontario, Canada