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Late Coldstream lawyer remembered for compassion, dedication

Paul Danyliu, a renowned criminal defence lawyer, lost his battle with cancer in early March

Paul Danyliu went to bat for the underdog countless times in his career as a criminal defence lawyer, and now, after his recent passing, he is being remembered by friends, family, former colleagues and members of his Coldstream community as a beacon of hope for those down on their luck.

Danyliu passed away in early March at the age of 79 after a two-year battle with cancer.

He was a highly regarded legal mind even in his later years, getting calls from lawyers at Vernon’s Nixon Wenger asking for his advice on cases as recently as five years ago.

Danyliu is survived by his three children and his wife, Marilyn.

He lived in Coldstream for more than 50 years, and established himself as one of the pre-eminent defence lawyers in the valley.

“He always had young lawyers who studied under him, because he had acquired the reputation of being the best criminal lawyer in the Okanagan,” said Danyliu’s brother, Andy Danyliu.

“He was very sympathetic to the underdog,” Andy said, adding his brother had a soft spot for people charged with drug possession, and would often defend them pro bono.

“He wouldn’t charge money for possession of marijuana, on principle,” Andy said — and this was amid the war on drugs that U.S. President Richard Nixon declared in 1971.

“He would charge people what they could afford. He wasn’t in it for the money, he was in it for the challenge, for the achievement,” Andy said.

Darci Proudlove, Danyliu’s daughter, said her father was “an amazing man and an amazing lawyer,” whose “intelligence and brilliance was beyond anything.”

“He helped so many people who otherwise may not have been helped,” Proudlove said.

BC Supreme Court Justice Allan Betton worked as a lawyer with Nixon Wenger from 1985 to 2007, and got to know Danyliu during that time. When Betton was still “wet behinds the ears” and looking to get some court experience, Danyliu was the defence counsel in one of the first cases he prosecuted.

“So there was 23-year-old me who’s got virtually no experience, and Paul, who was a bit of a legend around that time, in the prime of his practice,” Betton told The Morning Star.

Betton said Danyliu was well ahead of his time when it came to defending cases of possession of controlled substances. He described Danyliu’s aura in the courtroom; Danyliu was sturdily built with a “booming, dominant sort of voice and presence” which he used to his full advantage.

Betton said he learned a lot about what it takes to be a successful lawyer from Danyliu.

“I learned quickly that to be effective as a litigator, and especially in the criminal realm, you’ve got to be prepared, you’ve got to be confident and you have to be prepared to stand your ground when you’re right,” Betton said. “I do credit Paul for teaching me that early in my career.”

Betton said that outside the courtroom, Danyliu was a compassionate person with a great sense of humour, and was someone he became friends with over time.

“He always had a story, always could give you an example of an experience he had, and was always willing to help.”

Danyliu was an athlete growing up and stayed physically fit through his passion for Aikido, a Japanese martial art. He opened a dojo which stood next to the Lincoln Lanes bowling alley in Vernon for many years.

“There are many graduates of his school still in Vernon,” Andy said.

A celebration of life for Danyliu was held at Alexander’s Pub in Vernon Thursday, April 4.

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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started at the Morning Star as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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