Every Journey Has a Beginning

  • October 01, 2016
  • By Michael Welsh

Our roadmap is set

I am sure every new Branch president has felt that she or he faces a daunting task. In the year ahead, events in the history of our province, our country and the CBA itself present some significant challenges that will affect our Branch and our members. But don’t cry for me Argentina. I gladly signed up for this, as with those challenges will also come opportunities.

In BC, we head into an election. While it will (I hope) not be the rollercoaster ride – and sometime circus sideshow – happening to our south, it will bring into focus many areas where the political parties will be pushed to address economic, environmental, social and other problems. We in the legal profession must ensure that the challenges facing our justice system are in the forefront of the discussions, and our Branch, as it has done in the past, will take a lead role in making that happen. We are preparing an Agenda for Justice that we will present to the political parties and their candidates by the beginning of 2017. I ask for your help in identifying where positive change is needed, whether in legislative reform or in addressing barriers to justice faced by parts of our society. Please send your thoughts and ideas to president@cbabc.org.

There has been somewhat of a sea-change in the attitudes of our present (versus our last) federal government about the need to address inequities in our criminal, family and civil justice systems, especially as these affect our indigenous peoples. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report (“TRC”) findings and recommendations cannot be ignored and must instead form an impetus for change. Professional organizations, like the CBA, must look inwards to see how we can better support our indigenous members and give leadership to the Bar as whole to better address and meet the needs and aspirations of First Nations people. Our Branch, which through our Aboriginal Lawyers’ Forum (“ALF”) and Aboriginal Law Sections has been an early and consistent supporter of our indigenous members will, in light of the TRC conclusions, be undertaking a review of what we can do better. As part of that process, we welcome Tina Dion, Chair of the ALF, to our Executive Committee as our Equality and Diversity representative.

The CBA has spent the past couple of years in intensive study of why our 120-year-old organization is increasingly failing to meet the needs of Canada’s lawyers and why increasing numbers are leaving as members. In August, our National Council unanimously passed a new direction for the CBA, its work and its governance. In the next year, various working groups across the country are filling in the practical details of implementation. Here in BC, one of my goals is to undertake that same process at our Branch level. As a lawyer who has practised mostly in smaller communities, I have seen how we need to better support all lawyers – in the large cities, but also the sole practitioners and small firms in all parts of BC. I intend to meet with lawyers and local Bar associations around our province; to take the CBA to them and to build new and stronger relationships.

In particular, we need to support those lawyers who are beginning their careers. The cost of a law degree grows constantly and unless we find ways to allow young lawyers to make a decent living in all parts of BC, our smaller communities will lose access to legal services. We cannot allow that to happen. Legal professionals, like doctors and dentists, are part of the necessary infrastructure of every community and we cannot lose sight of that fact.

 

 


MIchael Welsh
president@cbabc.org