Federation News Archive - 2020

Federation’s Commitment to Reconciliation

In recognition of its responsibility as a justice stakeholder to foster reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada has approved a formal statement of commitment to reconciliation. The statement, which received the unanimous approval of the Federation Council on December 7, 2020, is an essential part of the Federation’s framework for responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (“TRC”) Calls to Action. It recognizes the important role that all justice system participants play in fostering truth and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada and highlights the steps that the Federation will take in fulfilling its commitment, many of which are already underway. The statement of commitment was developed in consultation with members of the Federations Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action Advisory Committee (the Advisory Committee) and Indigenous legal experts. An essential component of the statement is the adoption of Guiding Principles that were developed by the Federation’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action Advisory Committee (the “Advisory Committee”) to ensure Indigenous perspectives inform the Federation’s journey towards reconciliation and are reflected in all aspects of our work. These principles were approved by Federation Council in June 2020 along with nine recommendations from the Advisory Committee to guide the Federation’s response to the TRC. The Advisory Committee’s full report is available on the Federation’s website. The statement of commitment is a small, but significant step in the Federation’s efforts to foster truth and reconciliation. The Federation is currently exploring ways in which it can demonstrate that commitment through its national initiatives, its relationships with law societies, law schools, and national Indigenous organizations.

Veteran Calgary Lawyer Becomes President of Federation of Law Societies of Canada

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada is pleased to announce that Stephen G. Raby, QC of Calgary has been elected President for 2020 - 2021. Mr. Raby acknowledges that he takes over the presidency in challenging times. “COVID-19 affects everyone, but as a national organization the Federation must carry on with its mission to foster collaboration among its member law societies and to move forward effectively with the initiatives that have been set out in our Strategic Plan” the Federation President says. He notes that the inability to bring people together from across the country in person means that the Federation has had to adapt by relying on virtual meetings. Among the Federation’s priority initiatives is the National Well-Being Study, a project designed by researchers at the Université de Sherbrooke to be carried out in collaboration with the Federation, law societies, and the Canadian Bar Association. The study will address the gap in data on the mental health of legal professionals in Canada. “A number of studies from other parts of the world point to a disproportionate number of legal professionals suffering from mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety, as well as addiction issues”, Mr. Raby explains. “This is a major concern, not only for the individuals involved, but for legal regulators whose job is to protect the public interest. Carrying out a national study of the factors that contribute to this situation for the Canadian legal profession will be an important step toward developing support strategies and other regulatory responses.” The COVID pandemic has also prompted major changes for the Federation’s National Committee on Accreditation (NCA), which assesses legal education credentials obtained outside of Canada, or in a civil law degree program in Canada, for individuals intending to apply for admission to a law society in a Canadian common law jurisdiction. “Before the pandemic, NCA candidates wrote their exams in person. Within the span of a few weeks, the Federation had to overhaul its processes to enable exams to be written online and for them to be remotely proctored” the Federation President says. “This new way of delivering this service is here to stay”, he adds. The Federation is also focused on reconciliation initiatives. Following Council’s June 2020 adoption of guiding principles for how the Federation should foster reconciliation with Indigenous people, the organization will be considering a formal Statement of Commitment at its December Council…

Federation Developing Competency-based Assessment Process for NCA

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada is developing a competency-based system for assessing the credentials of internationally educated applicants seeking to practice law in Canada. The Federation’s National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) is mandated by the law societies in Canada’s common law jurisdictions to assess the legal education credentials and experience of lawyers and graduates who obtain their law degrees outside of Canada. In 2017 the Federation undertook a comprehensive review of the NCA and its processes as part of its commitment to excellence in the delivery of its services and programs. The goal of the review was to assess whether the NCA process effectively prepares applicants for success in bar admission programs and legal practice. The NCA program review resulted in 28 recommendations in seven areas including communications, assessment, data collection and governance. Included in the recommendations was a call for the development of a competency-based assessment system for NCA applicants based on clearly identified competency benchmarks. The NCA Assessment Modernization Committee, comprised of representatives of the Federation Council, law society leaders and senior staff, and the legal academy, was established in 2018 to make recommendations on the development and implementation of a competency-based assessment system for candidates applying to the NCA. As a first step in the process of developing competency benchmarks, the Federation commissioned a study by an outside consultant to analyze whether NCA candidates experience challenges in the licensing process and in practice relative to the experience of Canadian educated graduates and lawyers. The consultants reviewed law society data and information from interviews with employers and representatives of law societies. They also conducted a survey of candidates who have completed the NCA process and Canadian law school graduates. The study demonstrated that while many NCA candidates experience similar rates of success in bar admission programs as those experienced by Canadian educated applicants, internationally educated lawyers and graduates can face challenges in the licensing process, in securing articling positions, and in obtaining post-licensing employment. The findings from the study will assist the NCA Assessment Modernization Committee in developing a comprehensive competency profile for NCA applicants with clear benchmarks identifying the level of competence required at each stage of the legal education and licensing process. The Federation has engaged the services of ACT, a credentialling services consultant, to assist in the development of the competency framework. Work on this phase of the project began in late summer…

Federation Council Unanimously Approves Recommendations that Chart Path Towards Reconciliation

The Federation has adopted an overarching framework to guide it on the path to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada. Laid out in a report from the Federation's TRC Calls to Action Advisory Committee ("Advisory Committee"), the framework is rooted in the recognition of the significance of Indigenous legal orders, legal principles, and the perspectives and experiences of Indigenous peoples. The framework encourages a broad approach to reconciliation while specifically addressing two of the Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Final Report, which highlighted the need to raise awareness and competence among all legal professionals and law students in Canada as it relates to Indigenous peoples. The nine recommendations in the Advisory Committee's report received the unanimous support of the Council of the Federation during its June meeting. The path to reconciliation envisioned by the Advisory Committee emphasizes enhancing knowledge, sharing information, encouraging ongoing dialogue and relationship building, and promoting reflection at individual and institutional levels. “This is a significant and very welcome step,” Federation President Morgan C. Cooper wrote in a note to law society presidents following the vote. “Much of the inspiration for these recommendations is directly attributable to the work that many of you have undertaken within your jurisdictions.” Two of the Advisory Committee’s recommendations directly address the Federation’s work as a national organization, recognizing its unique mandate and relationship with law societies and law schools. The first recommendation calls on the Federation to issue a statement that will include a series of principles to guide all aspects of the Federation’s work. The Advisory Committee also recommended that the Federation become the national information hub for law societies to share information and that it explore opportunities for building relationships with national Indigenous organizations. The second recommendation called on the Federation to pursue a collaborative relationship with the legal academy, rather than amending the National Requirement to respond to the TRC Calls to Action dealing with legal education. The remaining seven recommendations call on the Federation to urge law societies to take specific action to foster reconciliation, including: make a formal commitment to reconciliation and develop a framework for action; critically examine regulatory processes and structures to consider how they may be more inclusive of the needs and perspectives of Indigenous peoples, and how they may adversely impact them; provide ongoing opportunities for competency and awareness training for law society leadership and staff; continue building relationships with…

Federation Supports Proposed National Beneficial Ownership Registry

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada supports the creation of a beneficial ownership registry for federally incorporated companies as an appropriate, necessary and welcome measure to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and other illicit activities. In a submission responding to the consultation paper issued by the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and the Department of Finance, the Federation says a critical issue will be access rules for the proposed registry, which must enhance efforts to fight money laundering and the financing of terrorism. The Federation submission says legal professionals and other reporting entities must be given access to the registry from the start “to ensure that they have an objective, reliable means of fulfilling their obligations to identify beneficial owners.” The Federation acknowledges there are competing public policy interests in determining access rules. Careful consideration must be given to how to balance the goal of greater corporate transparency with the need to respect the reasonable privacy interests of individuals whose information would be accessible through a registry. The Federation also notes that a registry must not, directly or indirectly, require legal professionals to report information protected by solicitor-client privilege or professional secrecy to government authorities. The Federation submission says it is “thus imperative that the registry regime be designed and implemented in a manner that respects the constitutional protections for solicitor-client privilege and professional secrecy recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada.” It is the Federation’s position that access to the registry must be provided both to competent authorities (e.g. law enforcement) and all persons with due diligence obligations under federal anti-money laundering and terrorist financing legislation or provincial/territorial law society rules. “Access to reliable beneficial ownership information is essential if the obligations on reporting entities under federal regulations, and those imposed on legal counsel by the law societies are to be meaningful and effective” the Federation submission states. “In the absence of access to reliable information in a central registry, legal counsel and others obliged to identify beneficial owners as part of due diligence requirements are left with no choice but to rely on information provided by their clients or the entities themselves with limited means of verifying the accuracy of the information.” The Consultation Paper issued by the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Department of Finance states the primary goal of a central registry would be to ensure authorities have immediate access…

IMPORTANT NOTICE RE: COVID-19

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada is closely monitoring the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation and taking steps to prioritize the health and safety of our staff, NCA candidates and that of the community-at-large. In compliance with government of Ontario orders, the offices of the Federation are now closed. While we are able to carry on most of our activities remotely, the COVID 19 pandemic has had an impact on the services provided by the National Committee on Accreditation. The May 2020 NCA examination session has been cancelled. With the need for social distancing, the uncertainties around travel and the variety of government orders in locations around the world, it is simply impossible to proceed with the session. Candidates who were registered to take exams in May will be automatically registered in subsequent exam sessions. The Federation understands this is a stressful time for all NCA candidates, and is committed to ensuring that timely information is provided. Information regarding upcoming exams and the ongoing processing of applications to the NCA is posted on the NCA Advisories page, and will be updated as appropriate. The results of the NCA exams completed in January 2020 were posted in the NCA Portal at the end of March. The NCA continues to process requests for Certificates of Qualification (CQs), although during these challenging times there may be delays in processing applications. For the time being, the NCA will be unable to produce paper Certificates, but candidates qualifying for a Certificate will be notified, as will appropriate law societies. The NCA web site, online application form, and NCA Portal are available at all times. NCA staff will answer any questions about our services and these changes. Please submit questions to the NCA regarding any of these changes by email to nca@flsc.ca.