Bar Association warns legislation won't solve access to legal services

  • April 10, 2024

The Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch announced today that it does not support the Legal Professions Act, newly introduced by the B.C. government.   

According to the lawyers’ association, the legislation – which brings lawyers, notaries and paralegals under one regulator – threatens a free and democratic society by undermining lawyer independence.  

“Lawyer independence refers to a lawyer’s ability to represent their client’s interests without interference from any source, including from government,” explained Scott Morishita, CBABC President.  “If, for example, the government wants to take your land to build a road and you want to challenge that action, you should have confidence that your lawyer is representing your best interests and is not limited in their ability to fight for you because of government interference.” 

The government’s proposed legislation calls for a one-lawyer majority on the 17-person board of the regulator, with four of the nine lawyers being appointed. “To be independent, lawyers must be self-regulated with more than a slim majority of lawyers represented on the regulator’s board. And those lawyers must be elected, not appointed,” said Morishita.  

For CBABC, the problem government is trying to solve with this legislation remains unclear. “British Columbians’ most common legal problems relate to employment, housing, money, and relationships. Nothing in the legislation addresses the supply of legal services in those areas,” shared Morishita. “To make legal services more accessible, people across the province would benefit more from increased funding for family law legal aid representation, something this government has refused to address.”

CBABC has advocated for government transparency since the idea of a single legal regulator was first introduced in 2022.  

“Why did this legislation need to be prepared behind closed doors? We repeatedly asked government to make the draft legislation available so that the legal profession and the public could understand it and provide meaningful feedback,” said Morishita. “The lack of consultation increases the risk that Indigenous and racialized lawyers, as well as 2SLGBTQ+ and other groups who have historically faced inequity in the legal profession, will not have their voices heard.”

“More time is needed for discussions with our regulator, with government, with the First Nations Justice Council, with notaries and paralegals, and with lawyers.”

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Melissa Shaw | 604.687.5293 |