The highlights of a year in review
Wow, where did the last 12 months go? When I assumed the Presidency of the Branch last August I had a pretty good idea of the pending issues and workload but I had no idea how the time would fly by with four Provincial Council meetings, dozens of in-person and telephone Executive Committee meetings, meetings with government, Committees and Sections, local Bar gatherings, National CBA Board meetings, welcoming ceremonies, and all sorts of important legal events.
ADVOCACY. Our advocacy efforts covered important issues such as legal aid and PST, and a number of legislative initiatives of the provincial government, some of which we suggested, in our Agenda for Justice, such as the new Society Act, the proposed Franchise Act and the new Enforcement of Civil Judgments Act. In addition, the government requested, and we provided, comments on the Trustee Act and the Society Act.
ACCESS TO JUSTICE. I sat on a stakeholder’s committee that made substantial progress on the establishment of the British Columbia Access to Justice Committee (BCATJC). On June 25, the BCATJC was formed with 26 members consisting of representatives of leading legal constituencies. The President of CBABC is a member, and the Executive is led by Chief Justice Bauman. BCATJC is now seeking support to fund its operations.
CBA BOARD. As a National Board member, I participated in the Chevron Intervention decision (intervention withdrawn), the Trinity Western Law School Intervention issues at the Court of Appeal level in Nova Scotia (intervention proceeding), the establishment of a Committee to review and suggest changes to the Public Interest Intervention Policy, as well as actively participated in the Rethink Project.
INCREASED SCOPE OF PRACTICE OF NOTARIES. The Notaries Society and the Law Society are meeting to discuss a merger that would see notaries regulated by the Law Society. CBABC supports this. However, our members have raised significant concerns about the proposed increase in scope of practice that notaries are requesting. The scope increases involve issues of probate, trusts and incorporations. The rationale that has been presented to support this increase is one of access to justice – specifically, that the public needs more suppliers of these particular services. CBABC disagrees that this proposal addresses access to justice. Lawyers already provide these services, and for many they are important parts of their practices.
This is especially true in rural areas, where many general practitioners are only available to provide the full spectrum of legal services to their communities because they are able to economically make a go of it with “bread and butter” services such as those notaries now propose to provide. In a province where rural access to legal services is a serious, proven access-to-justice concern, it is disingenuous to suggest that increasing competition will have a positive impact in those communities – especially when we know that lawyers are no more expensive than notaries for comparable services. Our CBABC representative on the Law Society “Qualifications Working Group” has strongly presented our position on these issues. It appears this is not likely to be resolved in the short term, and in our opinion should be referred to all Law Society members for input. Your new CBABC Executive Committee will continue to work for you on this and many other important advocacy issues.
I hope in some way we, the CBABC Executive and staff, have added to the value of your membership. I have been honoured to serve as your President this year. Thank you for the opportunity.