The Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch has submitted recommendations to the Ministry of Attorney General, in response to its Intentions Paper released in September 2022.
The BC Government’s Intentions Paper proposes legislation that will regulate lawyers, notaries, paralegals, and others under one statute and one regulator, as well as clearly define scopes of practice for each profession. These reforms intend to further the government’s goal of modernizing professional regulation in all fields in BC.
CBABC supports a single regulator model for the legal profession, as long as these changes do not impact lawyers’ independence and self-regulation.
“Clients need to know that the relationship with their lawyer cannot be interfered with by government”, stated CBABC’s current President, Aleem Bharmal, KC. “It is a cornerstone of our democracy that government not restrict who lawyers can represent or prevent them from challenging government decisions.”
In the submission, CBABC calls for strong parameters around each profession’s scope of practice; crystal clear criteria for education and competencies; an effective investigation and discipline framework; and satisfactory insurance coverage.
CBABC also recommends a smaller, more agile Law Society Board of Directors, comprised with a majority of lawyers, along with public appointees, notaries, at most two seats for paralegals, and at least one seat reserved for an Indigenous person. CBABC recommends that the paralegals’ defined scope of practice is not yet developed sufficiently to include it in this statute. Nevertheless, CBABC acknowledges that a limited number of seats for paralegals could assist in expanding and regulating the classes of professionals.
The Attorney General asserts these reforms are required in order to increase access to legal services and advice for British Columbians.
“Modernizing the regulation of lawyers is not the solution to advancing access to justice. Actions such as funding the family law legal aid system are more critically needed,” shares Bharmal. “For example, almost one in three civil cases in BC relate to Family Law. Legal Aid services provide limited coverage for issues like child support or parenting arrangements, and the public is left vulnerable to this gap.” Bharmal continues.
CBABC’s recommendations come after eight months of discussion and collaboration, during which more than 450 members and non-members were consulted virtually and in-person. The CBABC Professional Issues Committee, led by a mandate to monitor and develop recommendations regarding regulation of lawyers, has been reviewing the regulation of the profession for 18 months, while referring to CBABC’s work of the past 10 years.
Sylvie Kotyk, Communications & Marketing Manager
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