Federation News Archive - 2013

Federation grants preliminary approval of Trinity Western University’s proposed law program

(Dec. 16, 2013)  After a thorough review of the proposal submitted by Trinity Western University (TWU), the Common Law Program Approval Committee of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada has granted TWU preliminary approval of its proposed law school program. The Approval Committee identified three concerns that it will monitor in subsequent reviews. The Approval Committee had a limited mandate: to determine whether the proposed law school program would produce graduates competent for admission to law society bar admission programs. All law schools in Canada must adhere to a National Requirement set by the Federation and the law societies that outlines the knowledge and skills competencies that applicants for entry to the bar admission programs in the Canadian common law jurisdictions must possess. Until it produces its first graduates, a program that complies with the National Requirement can be granted preliminary approval only and will be subject to regular reviews. The concerns that will be monitored by the Approval Committee in these reviews relate to TWU’s teaching of legal ethics and public law, as well as the budget for the proposed law program. The Federation's news release is here.

New Federation President maintains focus on national standards and access to legal services

(Nov. 15, 2013)   The Federation of Law Societies of Canada is pleased to announce that Marie-Claude Bélanger-Richard, Q.C. has been elected President for 2013-2014. Ms. Bélanger-Richard earned her law degree from the University of Moncton, and was admitted to the Law Society of New Brunswick in 1986. She was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2003. Ms. Bélanger-Richard is a partner in the firm Stewart McKelvey in Moncton, N.B. where she practises family law and civil litigation. She joined the Federation Council in 2009 as the representative of the Law Society of New Brunswick, and also served as President of the law society in 2010-2011. She is currently president of the law society’s Mandatory Continuing Professional Development Committee, which is responsible for implementation and enforcement of the continuing education program for lawyers in New Brunswick. The new Federation President says national standards projects underway are the logical follow-up to national mobility of the legal profession. “We are developing national admission and discipline standards designed to ensure there is a high and consistent standard of regulation of the legal profession across Canada. The Federation’s Model Code of Professional Conduct is another example of this principled approach to consistent regulation.” The first mobility arrangements between law societies go back to 2002, but it was only in 2013 that provincial law societies agreed to a regime that permits lawyers to transfer with ease between Quebec, a civil law jurisdiction, to common law provinces and vice versa. “One challenge in 2014 will be to ensure that the new mobility agreement is implemented because it only comes into effect when each law society adopts the necessary rules. In addition, the Office des professions and the Government of Quebec still have to give their approval,” the new Federation President says. Ms. Bélanger-Richard says the ongoing national discipline standards project is aimed at raising the bar for how complaints and discipline matters are handled. “Receiving, investigating and resolving complaints are the core work of law societies” she notes. “Developing and implementing high and consistent process and performance standards based on sound principles, together with a mechanism for measuring compliance, is key to maintaining public confidence in our system of regulation of Canada’s legal profession” Another priority identified by Ms. Bélanger-Richard is the ongoing national focus on access to legal services. The Federation was a key stakeholder in the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family…

New National Mobility Agreement bridges common law and civil law traditions

(Oct. 22, 2013)  An agreement that allows Canadian lawyers easier mobility across all provincial jurisdictions regardless of whether they are trained in the Canadian common law or civil law tradition, has been signed by all provincial law societies. Representatives from each provincial regulator signed the agreement during the Annual Conference of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, held October 17-19, 2013 in St. John’s Newfoundland and Labrador. The President of the Federation, Gérald R. Tremblay, Q.C., told those attending the signing ceremony that the new mobility agreement was a form of declaration of something that had been known for so long by so many in the profession - “there are more similarities in legal training and in daily practice in Canada’s two legal traditions of common and civil law, than there are differences.” National mobility is at the heart of several national standards initiatives undertaken by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada on behalf of the law societies, including in the areas of admission to the profession, discipline and professional ethics. “You might ask why national mobility is so important today” Mr. Tremblay added. “The very essence of Canada is on display in a way that has never been seen before. Tonight, we formally join hands across two great legal traditions that are at the foundation of Canada’s system of justice – the common law and the civil law traditions. “ The previous mobility arrangement with Quebec set up in 2010 created a Canadian Legal Advisor regime which permitted limited practice rights for lawyers transferring between Quebec and the other provinces.” That agreement only allowed transferring members of the profession to practice in areas of federal law, the law of their home jurisdiction, and public international law. The new agreement removes all such restrictions and maintains the existing principle that lawyers only practice in areas of law for which they are competent to do so.  “Especially with the globalization of markets, it was important for the law societies of Canada to allow lawyers to move freely and practise across Canada without any barriers” the Federation President told those attending the signing ceremony. . The new National Mobility Agreement was ratified by the provincial law societies following adoption in principle earlier this year. The terms of the new mobility agreement were first proposed by the Bâtonnier of Quebec in 2012, Nicolas Plourde. The details of the agreement were then fully developed by…

Federation welcomes Action Committee’s Report on Access to Justice

(Oct. 8, 2013)  After five years of work, the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, a broad-based committee established by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, released its final report on October 8, 2013. The Federation of Law Societies is a key stakeholder and has played a leading role on the Action Committee since its inception. The Action Committee has previously released four working group reports relating to; court processes simplification; access to legal services; prevention, triage and referral; and family justice. The final report sets out a broad road map for reform while recognizing that change must come at the local level. The Action Committee, working with local stakeholders, is organizing a series of meetings across the country beginning in October to encourage engagement with the problem of access to justice and to stimulate action. A colloquium of leaders of the civil and family justice system will also be held in Toronto in January 2014 with the objective of promoting concrete steps to improve access to civil and family justice.

Supreme Court of Canada Clarifies Conflict of Interest Rules

(July 5, 2013) The Federation of Law Societies of Canada welcomes the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Canadian National Railway Co. v. McKercher LLP released June 5, 2013. The case raised a number of critical issues relating to the rules governing the conduct of lawyers in situations of conflict of interest. The Court’s decision brings clarity to these rules, particularly to the scope and applicability of the “bright line” rule from the Court’s earlier decision in R. v. Neil. The rule prohibits a lawyer from representing one client whose legal interests are directly adverse to immediate interests of another client, even in unrelated matters, unless both clients consent. The Federation has developed a Model Code of Professional Conduct that provides guidance to the law societies in setting rules governing legal ethics and professional conduct. The Model Code includes rules on conflicts of interest that were developed by our Standing Committee on the Model Code after extensive consideration. These rules are designed to protect the public interest and to respect the duties that are fundamental to the lawyer-client relationship. The rules were drafted to reflect existing law on conflicts of interest as set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in its decisions in R. v. Neil, and Strother v. 3464920 Canada Inc. “The conflict of interest rules in the Model Code reflect the Federation’s view that the “bright line” rule is the best way to protect the public interest” says Federation Gérald R. Tremblay, C.M., O.Q., Q.C., Ad.E. "The Federation is very pleased that the Court today confirmed this approach to the rules governing conflicts of interest. This decision by the Supreme Court is the culmination of many years of thoughtful reflection within law societies and the legal profession about this important aspect of professional ethics.” The Federation is satisfied that the rules in its Model Code are consistent with the Court’s decision. However, the Standing Committee will be reviewing the decision in due course and will consider whether the rule or its accompanying commentary should be refined in any way. The Federation was represented at the Supreme Court by Vancouver lawyers John Hunter, Q.C. of Hunter Litigation Chambers and by Stanley Martin of Fasken Martineau.

Court of Appeal for B. C. confirms Canada’s law society rules to fight money laundering are effective

(April 5, 2013) The regulation of the legal profession by Canada’s law societies provides an effective and constitutional way to fight money laundering and terrorist financing, the Court of Appeal for British Columbia has ruled. In a judgment handed down April 4, 2013, the Court  said if the federal Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act and the related regulations were applied to the legal profession, they would interfere with the independence of the Bar to an unacceptable degree. The Court held that independence of the Bar is a principle of fundamental justice under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “That is a crucial point” says Gerald Tremblay, Q.C., Ad.E, President of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada. “In this decision, the Court of Appeal has held that the independence of the Bar is a principle of fundamental justice, and dismissed the appeal on that basis.” The case was brought to the Court of Appeal by the federal government following a B.C. Supreme Court decision in September 2011. That decision also said that the anti-money laundering rules imposed on the legal profession by Canada’s law societies are effective, and that the application of the federal regime to the legal profession would be unconstitutional. The Federation of Law Societies of Canada was supported in its position by the Law Society of British Columbia, the Barreau du Québec, the Chambre des notaires du Québec and the Canadian Bar Association. The Federation had argued the case on a theory of three principles of fundamental justice: solicitor-client privilege, the lawyer's duty of undivided loyalty to the client and the independence of the Bar. The Federation’s position is that the federal legislation is also unnecessary for the legal profession because Canada’s law societies have already implemented rules requiring legal professionals to identify their clients, and prohibiting them from accepting large amounts of cash from clients except in certain limited circumstances. The parties had previously consented to a court order agreeing that the legislation would not be applied to the legal profession pending the resolution of the constitutional challenge, so the Court’s decision preserves that status. The parties also agreed in advance that the decision from the B.C. Courts would be binding across Canada. “We are pleased that the Court of Appeal has identified the importance of the issue of independence of the Bar, as well as again recognizing the important and proactive…