This year had it all
Advocacy, Law Reform, Composition of the Judiciary and Radical Change to Our Sections – This Year Had it All. Ask the nearly 7,000 members in BC what they value in their CBA membership and the answers will vary greatly. Meeting the varied needs and interests of our members must be at the forefront of the CBABC’s activities year-round. As the 2013-2014 year draws to a close, I thought it appropriate to highlight some of the year’s events and where we are headed in the months to come.
Advocacy and Law Reform. We had a string of successes in building allies in our advocacy for enhanced and stable funding for legal aid and the Court Services Branch. First up in September was the Union of BC Municipalities, which called for long-term, increased and stable funding of legal aid.
In November, the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services adopted the CBABC submissions and recommended that the government commit to stable funding for the Court Services Branch and increases to legal aid.
In May, the delegates to the AGM of the BC Chamber of Commerce unanimously adopted the resolution of a joint CBABC/Chamber task force calling for commitments to funding of legal aid and the Court Services Branch and for the establishment of a formula to determine the proper number of Provincial Court Judges.
Throughout the year, the Legislation and Law Reform Committee and our many Sections made submissions to government on law reform. Topics varied from local government election reform and a proposed Franchise Act to regulation of other legal service providers such as notaries and paralegals.
Excellence and Diversity in the Judiciary. Members of CBABC’s Advisory Committee to Judicial Council make reports on all applicants who apply for a position with the Provincial Court. These reports are the primary source of information for assessing the suitability of applicants and for deciding whether Judicial Council grants an interview. The CBABC performs an invaluable service to the profession, the judiciary and the public.
We have also been focused on diversity in the judiciary, and in late May held a very successful forum, webcast across the province, “Building Diversity on the Bench.” Several judges spoke from their own experiences and why both diversity and excellence in judicial appointments are so important.
A Look to the Future – Unlimited Sections and Forums. In consultations at Provincial Council and through the Rural Lawyers Task Force, we were told that our members want more access to Sections. Currently, CBABC membership comes with one free Section, with a $50 fee to join additional Sections.
Starting next month, that all changes. Branch membership will include unlimited access to all 78 BC and 41 national Sections and Forums. And with that comes a commitment to making sure that even more of the meetings are webcast right across the province. With Sections offering literally hundreds of hours of accredited PD programs, members can easily fulfill all of their PD requirements through the price of CBA membership.
Space permits me to only briefly mention the Rural Education and Access to Lawyers (REAL) program, the Annual Branch Conference and our Law Week activities. Suffice it to say, our activities are as varied as our members’ interests. Through all of this, we are supported by the incredible volunteer efforts of lawyers and a dedicated and talented staff.
It has been a pleasure and privilege to serve as President over the past year. I confidently “pass the baton” to incoming President Alex Shorten, who I know will serve our members well.