Federation News Archive - 2019

Federation contributes to The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin Access to Justice Fund

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada (Federation) is pleased to announce a $250,000 contribution to a fund established in honour of former Chief Justice of Canada Beverley McLachlin (Fund). The Fund will be used to issue grants to worthy causes or projects that could have a tangible effect on alleviating the access to justice crisis in Canada. The central objective of the Fund will be to financially support innovative projects and programs to improve access to civil and family justice. Former Federation President Sheila M. MacPherson is a founding member of the Fund’s Governing Council. “Access to justice is a central theme that preoccupies all stakeholders in the justice system, and taking steps to address it is a strategic priority for all of the Federation’s member law societies” Federation President Ross Earnshaw said. “The Federation has contributed to worthy access to justice related initiatives in the past, including the funding of research carried out by the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, and financing the start-up costs of a pilot project for an online dispute resolution platform in Nova Scotia” the Federation President added. The $250,000 donation from the Federation originates with the members of the legal profession, as well as the provincial and federal judiciary who have attended the Federation’s long-standing national legal education programs. The contribution comes from reserves of the National Criminal Law Program and the National Family Law Program, the leading professional development programs in Canada for lawyers and judges in the areas of criminal and family law. The Federation is the national coordinating body of Canada’s 14 law societies, which are mandated by provincial and territorial statutes to regulate the country’s 125,000 lawyers, Quebec’s 3,800 notaries and Ontario’s 10,500 licensed paralegals in the public interest. The Federation also speaks out on issues critical to safeguarding the public’s right to an independent legal profession, the protection of solicitor-client privilege and other issues relating to the administration of justice and the rule of law. The news release about The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin Access to Justice Fund is available here. Please also consult our full Media Release.

Federation welcomes opportunity to work with federal government to address issues related to money laundering and terrorist financing

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada (Federation) welcomes the opportunity to work with the federal government in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. The joint Working Group that was announced June 13 will include representatives of the Department of Finance, other federal government departments and agencies, the Federation, and the law societies of British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, and Québec. The mandate of the Working Group is to explore issues related to money laundering and terrorist financing that may arise in the practice of law and to strengthen information sharing between the regulators of the legal profession and the government of Canada. “The Federation of Law Societies of Canada and its member law societies have been actively engaged in fighting money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities for more than 15 years” says Federation President Ross Earnshaw. “This Working Group initiative provides an avenue to enhance this work by our regulators”. Two model rules, aimed at limiting the handling of cash by members of the legal profession and ensuring legal counsel engage in due diligence in identifying their clients, have been the cornerstone of the regulators’ anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing initiatives. The Cash Transactions Rule was adopted in 2004, and the Client Identification and Verification Model Rules were adopted in 2008. Both were implemented by all Canadian law societies. Those rules were updated with amendments adopted by the Federation in late 2018. At that time the Council of the Federation also approved the Model Trust Accounting Rule that restricts the use of the trust accounts of members of the legal profession as part of the law society regulations aimed at fighting money laundering and terrorist financing. “Adoption and implementation of the amendments and the new rule ensure law societies continue their commitment to assisting in the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism” the President of the Federation added. The Federation has also published comprehensive guidance on the model rules for practitioners and a best practices guide for enforcement by the law societies. In March 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down certain provisions of Canada’s Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act and regulations pertaining to the legal profession. That decision by the Supreme Court concluded a 14-year legal battle between the Federation and the government of Canada over application of the federal anti-money laundering and terrorist financing…

Federation Welcomes Supreme Court of Canada Initiative

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada welcomes the initiative of the Supreme Court of Canada to make the institution more accessible to Canadians by holding hearings outside Ottawa. For two days in September the courtroom of Manitoba's highest court will become the home of the Supreme Court of Canada — the first time in history the country's highest court will have held hearings outside of Ottawa. “The Federation and its member law societies recognize the importance of making our institutions accessible to Canadians and providing ways to make them better understood’ said Federation President Ross Earnshaw. “Holding Supreme Court hearings outside of Ottawa is an excellent way to do that, so we hope the initiative will be successful and repeated across Canada.” Access to justice is an essential ingredient of the rule of law, and Canada’s law societies have  made greater access to justice for Canadians a priority. The Supreme Court’s plans set a good example for all institutions that share a commitment to improving access to justice. In addition, the law societies, through the Federation, have also been at the forefront of ensuring that the public and the legal profession have free access to legal information to help them navigate Canada’s legal system. The Federation owns CanLII, the pre-eminent online search tool for legal information including all major Court judgments rendered in Canada. CanLII owns Lexum, the online publisher of all of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decisions. Chief Justice of Canada Richard Wagner has indicated that part of the Supreme Court’s plan for Winnipeg will be to meet with ten community or public groups, whose members have a stake in our legal institutions, including students and members of Winnipeg’s indigenous, francophone and legal communities. This type of outreach helps to demystify the Court and foster a better understanding of the people and processes that make up the justice system. The plan to sit outside Ottawa is just one of several recent initiatives by the Chief Justice to promote Canadians’ understanding of their highest court. Another is the “Case in Brief” plain-language summaries it began providing last year for every reserved judgment. The chief justice’s video statement to all Canadians is also a noteworthy development. The Supreme Court has established a presence on social media, first on Twitter and more recently on Facebook. In announcing the plan to sit in Winnipeg, Chief Justice Wagner spoke directly to Canadians…

Federation Statement on Integrity of Supreme Court of Canada Appointment Process

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada expresses its deep concern over published and broadcast reports that have exposed confidential aspects of the appointment process to the Supreme Court of Canada. The judicial appointment process requires that the identity of candidates in the appointment process, and the assessment of those candidates, be kept highly confidential to protect the reputations of the applicants and the institution itself. “Canada’s justice system is the envy of the world. It is vital that our judicial institutions continue to be respected, in Canada and abroad” says Federation President Ross Earnshaw. “By publicly disclosing information about prospective candidates and the merits underlying their consideration during the consultation and deliberation phase of the selection process, an essential feature of the process has been undermined”, he added. “This is an unacceptable violation of what all prospective candidates had been led to expect when they put their names forward.” The task of screening and nominating candidates for the Supreme Court belongs to an Independent Advisory Board, a non-partisan selection committee appointed by the government. The Federation of Law Societies of Canada was consulted on the establishment of the process and is represented on the Advisory Board. The final decision on any Supreme Court appointment rests with the Prime Minister. “When the current process was established, one goal was to eliminate any perception that partisan considerations enter into what Canadians ought to expect to be a purely merit-based appointment process” Federation President Ross Earnshaw emphasizes. “It is critical to the integrity of that process that individuals under consideration have no fear that their identity or other information will be used for any purpose other than the one intended. It is deeply concerning that such information was leaked in this instance.” The Federation is the national coordinating body of the 14 provincial and territorial law societies that regulate Canada’s 125,000 lawyers, Quebec’s 3,800 notaries and Ontario’s 9,000 paralegals in the public interest. It is a leading voice on issues of national and international importance relating to the administration of justice and the rule of the law. Our news release is here.

Advisory document details risks of travelling internationally with an electronic device

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada has published a reference document for the legal profession dealing with the risks of travelling internationally with an electronic device. You can download the document, Crossing the Border with Electronic Devices: What Canadian Legal Professionals Should Know.  This document can be shared directly by law societies with their members; similarly, its contents can be used by law societies in advising their members in regard to practice-specific questions and concerns. The document, developed by the Policy Counsel Counterpart Group of the Federation with the assistance of law society practice advisors, describes the risks of travelling with an electronic device when returning to Canada, going through pre-clearance with U.S. border officials on Canadian soil, and when travelling to the U.S. and beyond. The Policy Counsel Counterpart Group brings together policy counsel from law societies across the country. The document identifies how relevant professional responsibilities may be compromised by border searches of electronic devices, and concludes with 15 recommendations on how Canadian lawyers and Quebec notaries can minimize those risks. According to the publication, Canadian lawyers and Quebec notaries travelling internationally with electronic devices face increasing uncertainty about how those electronic devices will be treated by border agents on apprehension by Canadian Border Security Agency (“CBSA”) officers on return to Canada, by border agents in the U.S., or by border agents in other international destinations. Border agents’ searches of electronic devices (including smart phones, laptops, and USB sticks) of a legal professional may infringe solicitor-client privilege depending on what is accessed by those border agents. With travellers at Canadian airports and border crossings subject to increasing scrutiny, it is important for lawyers and Quebec notaries to understand how the privacy and confidentiality interests of their clients may be impacted by legislation and policies developed to address public safety issues. The document notes that legal counsel should also understand that their profession does not exempt them from policies and processes allowing for access to information that otherwise would be subject to solicitor-client privilege. The document concludes with practical guidance for the legal profession when travelling internationally with electronic devices.  Among the 15 recommendations: lawyers and Quebec notaries consider bringing less data with them when travelling internationally. If  a cloud-based storage provider is used, the legal professional can delete cloud-based applications before crossing the border and reinstall them at their destination. Client contact and calendar information can similarly…