A Tale of Two Halves

Reflections on the 2019/20 term

A Tale of Two Halves

At the beginning of the year I set “Community” as the theme for my term. In the first half of the year I traveled across the province to give greetings on behalf of the CBA and to meet lawyers and CBA members, to listen to their concerns, to hear how the CBA can support them, and tell them what the CBA does. I was able to travel to meet lawyers in Kamloops, Kelowna, the Kootenays, Victoria, Duncan, Vancouver, and New Westminster; I also presented virtual greetings to lawyers in Prince George. I also participated in several special events such as welcoming ceremonies for newly appointed judges, the Bench and Bar Dinner, the ALF Holiday Banquet, the BC Courthouse Libraries’ 150th birthday party, and a special sitting of the three courts to celebrate the late Honourable Justice Patricia Proudfoot, O.B.C.

The first half of the year also saw results with respect to some of our advocacy work, as the provincial government announced a significant increase in the funding for the legal aid tariff and the legislature unanimously passed a government Bill requiring BC Legislation to be UNDRIP compliant. We were granted limited standing to participate in the Cullen Commission on money laundering, which has been underway for several weeks now.

While it was an interesting and exciting first half of my term, it was mostly smooth sailing. Our February 1, 2020 Council meeting and AGM proved a demarcation point in my presidential year.

The first patch of rough water was encountered on February 6, 2020 when we learned the government was going to introduce no-fault automobile insurance in British Columbia. Less than a year after the minor injury cap took effect, the government decided that was insufficient and announced a no-fault system denying innocent victims of automobile accidents full compensation for their injuries or access to the courts for any kind of adjudication of their dispute. Our advocacy priority immediately shifted to standing up for the rights of the injured person and their access to justice.

The next patch of rough water was encountered in mid-March when, in the space of a week, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic and the Province of British Columbia declared a public health emergency. All three courts suspended regular operations, including most in-person hearings, and then began the process of safely resuming in-person hearings. Most of us started working at home some or all of the time. Most of us became a lot more familiar with Zoom and/or MS Teams than we ever expected to be. The CBABC responded with pandemic specific law reform. We worked closely with the courts to support adaptations within the courts to expand in-person appearances, and we worked with government encouraging funding to enable much needed digital transformation within the courts.

We adapted all our professional development to a virtual format. We adapted how we engaged with members. Although my last in-person appearance was in mid-March, over the course of April and May we regularly engaged with lawyers across the province, including in Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, North Island, Kamloops, Kelowna, and Prince Rupert via Zoom roundtables to listen to their concerns during the pandemic, listen to how we can help, and share what we’re doing for the profession. As such, by the end of the year, I had managed to meet with lawyers in all eight counties as I had hoped. In addition, we prepared a COVID-19 Resource Hub on our website to help support our members.

While we hit two patches of rough water during the second half of my presidency, we have survived as strong and as relevant as ever. It has been an absolute thrill to serve this organization!

Thank you and take good care.

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