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Our History


CARREL+Partners’ roots extended as far back as the 19th century. Founding partner, John Carrel, once recalled that he had found a schedule of the 3rd Division Court dating back to the 1890’s and a message on Dowler & Sinclair letterhead pre-dating 1900 while cleaning up his former office above the old Canadian Bank of Commerce building at 409 East Victoria Avenue.

He also remembered a conversation that took place over 45 years ago between a woman employed at his office, Zelma McNally, and a Miss Peterson, her former co-worker who was visiting from Seattle. The women reminisced about working together back in 1919 at Dowler & Dowler, which was located in the old Bank of Montreal building near the corner of Victoria Avenue and Simpson Street.

Dowler & Dowler was originally a partnership between William Arthur Dowler, who later became a Judge of the Kenora District Court, and his son Arthur Harold Dowler. William was eventually called to the bench; then Arthur was appointed Judge of the District of Thunder Bay in 1937. He became one of the most respected judges in Ontario, and was frequently asked to take appointments to the Supreme Court of Ontario.

Arthur Dowler sold his practice to Cyril Valerian O’Connor who had been a sole practitioner since the mid 1930s. His office was located in the Murray block, the corner of May and Victoria that burned to the ground in the late 1970s. The elder Judge Dowler had recently retired and planned to join O’Connor as an associate. The deal closed on a Friday and Dowler died Saturday. Cyril O’Connor then practiced alone until 1950.

John Carrel joined O’Connor that year, forming a partnership that lasted until January of 1962, two years before Cyril O’Connor’s death. In 1967, John Carrel was joined by Robert Zelinski, establishing the firm of Carrel, Pustina and Zelinski. They worked out of the old Bank of Commerce building at 409 East Victoria Avenue, adjacent to the St. Louis Hotel, until 1969, when the firm relocated to 1020 East Victoria Avenue.

Kris Knutsen joined the partnership in 1975 and the firm became known as Carrel, Pustina, Zelinski, Whent, Knutsen and Thrasher.

Dave Thrasher left in 1984, and, in 1986 Robert Zelinski was appointed to the District Court of Ontario. When Jack Jamieson and Alex Demeo joined the firm in 1989, the firm’s name became Carrel, Pustina, Knutsen, Jamieson and Demeo, and, eventually, CARREL+Partners. Dan Newton and Rod Johansen were admitted to partnership in 1992, continuing with that membership until the death of founding partner, John Carrel in 2000. In honour of Mr. Carrel’s legacy, the firm retains his name.

Since 2000, senior partners have transitioned out of partnership, into "of counsel" and other roles.  In 2008, Samuel Bachinski and Johanna Maki joined the firm as partners, followed by Robert Botsford in 2014.  Dan Newton was appointed a justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in January 2015.  The current partners of the firm, charged with carrying on the firm's legacy as a provider of highly skilled legal services in diverse areas of law, are Samuel Bachinski, Johanna Maki, and Robert Botsford.