The Power of the Many

  • June 01, 2017
  • Caroline Nevin

Why CBA advocacy – and your voice – matters

Have you ever wondered about the CBA’s role in advocating on behalf of Canada’s legal profession? Sure, you pay CBA fees to belong, but perhaps it’s because you like getting free PD through unlimited Sections and online ethics courses. Or, you maximize your professional profile by volunteering, speaking or writing with us. Maybe you support our Access to Justice work at home and around the world, and want to make a difference that way. Or, maybe you don’t pay at all, but happily benefit from everything we do for the profession (if that’s you, THINK about that for a moment, please!). 

What does it really mean to deliver on “lawyers for lawyers” advocacy in a truly meaningful way?

President Welsh has outlined a spectacular recent example in his column: this spring, we put all of CBA’s clout, integrity and the weight of tens of thousands of lawyers behind a concentrated effort to ask the federal government to revisit “Work in Progress” (“WIP”) tax reform that would inevitably have resulted in unintended negative consequences to the legal profession and to people of limited means.

Minutes after the federal government’s new plan was announced, the CBA kicked into action – as it always does when policy or legal matters arise of relevance to our members. We are the only national Association that solely represents the interests of the Canadian legal profession. We have a 100% success rate in achieving Supreme Court of Canada intervention status, and we are regularly invited to appear before both Parliamentary and Senate Committees when difficult legal matters get debated. The media calls us. Members of Parliament and MLAs call us. When there is an important justice or legal concern in the public domain, the CBA is there.

The CBA’s primary role lies in bringing the expertise and influence of 200 staff and 35,000 lawyers across the country to bear on the review of any new policy or law that affects lawyers, legal clients or the administration of justice.

CBA staff meet regularly with the appropriate civil servants in Ottawa and in capitals in every province and territory, and maintain those relationships through ongoing discussions, even when no specific issue may be on the table. Our credibility and objective expertise opens doors, but it is always personal relationships that make any advocacy organization truly effective. Volunteers and leaders within the Association also proactively bring forward key issues, and we take their informed counsel and make sure the right people hear their message and any calls to action.

The “well-oiled machine” that is CBA advocacy takes on big national issues like money-laundering provisions, solicitor-client privilege, child rights in the law, immigration rights, and the appointment of sufficient numbers of – and diversity of – judges on our courts. Locally, we take that same respectful but dogged approach to issues like notaries scope-of-practice expansion, Law Society regulation, administrative tribunal amalgamation, and rural access to lawyers. Not to mention really big issues like legal aid funding, no-fault auto insurance... and that damned tax on legal services! All of which we include in this year’s Agenda for Justice (cbabc.org/A4J).

Our success as an effective advocate relies on you: as a supporter through your membership, but also through your willingness to share your views and expertise through Sections, Committees and direct communication on issues with your MPs and MLAs. Let us know how we can help.

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Caroline Nevin
cnevin@cbabc.org