The National Criminal Law Program
Canada’s pre-eminent continuing legal education program in the field of criminal law
The National Criminal Law Program
Canada’s pre-eminent continuing legal education program in the field of criminal law.
The NCLP is an annual, week-long, not-for-profit continuing legal education program that takes place every July. The NCLP consistently draws in excess of 600 attendees from across the profession, including federal and provincial prosecutors, defence counsel, judges, members of the law enforcement community, members of the Canadian military and volunteers from local law schools. Registrants come from every province and territory in the country and many of our attendees return year after year.
The NCLP rotates annually through three themes: Substantive Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure and the Charter, and Evidence. Each year also includes content relating to ethics, inclusivity and diversity. Registrants from across Canada can typically fulfill all of their annual CLE requirements through attendance at the NCLP.
The format of presentations includes plenary lectures, panel discussions, debates, and demonstrations, as well as small group workshops and concurrent break-out sessions, which allow registrants to attend the presentations of most interest to them.
The faculty of 40 to 45 members consists of prosecutors, defence counsel and judges from across Canada who are regarded as leaders in the criminal law Bar and Bench. Members of the Supreme Court of Canada past and present have participated in the program, including former Chief Justice McLachlin, the late Justices Sopinka and Cory, and Justices Iacobucci, Binnie, Fish, Rothstein, Cromwell, Moldaver and Martin.
Each year, the faculty prepare approximately 80 papers for the Program. The written materials are highly regarded and, based on feedback received by the NCLP, they provide attendees with a useful reference and research tool for their practice or judicial role.
The week also includes many opportunities for networking such as a first-timers welcoming event, an opening reception, mentoring breakfasts and an optional social event on the penultimate evening.
History of the NCLP
The NCLP was founded in 1974 by two lawyers, Clay Powell, Q.C. who was a senior counsel in the Crown Law Office-Criminal in Toronto and Robert Carter, Q.C. who was a prominent defence counsel in Toronto. They perceived a need for continuing legal education designed specifically for those involved in the prosecution and defence of criminal cases. They gathered a group of colleagues from across Canada, and held the first NCLP in Halifax, Nova Scotia in the summer of 1974. It was an immediate success.
Apart from the cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCLP has been held every year since 1974, in different cities across Canada. Initially it was held on university campuses. As the program grew in popularity over time, the venue shifted to convention centres and large hotels. The NCLP now consistently attracts 600 registrants each summer.
The NCLP is offered through the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, which works collaboratively with the program’s Chairs and Planning Committee to ensure the consistent delivery of exemplary legal education. For decades, the Program was led by Chairs Richard Peck, Q.C. (defence counsel in Vancouver), Justice Michelle Fuerst (Superior Court of Justice, Ontario) and Justice David Watt (Court of Appeal for Ontario). Justice Watt was involved in the Program since 1974, Justice Fuerst since 1988 and Mr. Peck since 1992. In 2018 leadership of the program was assumed by Justice Joyce DeWitt-Van Oosten (Court of Appeal for British Columbia), Justice Jocelyn Speyer (Superior Court of Justice, Ontario), and Scott Fenton (defence counsel in Toronto).
Upcoming NCLP Programs
2023: July 10-14, 2023, Montreal, Quebec
2024: July 8-12, 2024, Halifax, Nova Scotia
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Julie Begbie, Program Coordinator