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 meeting. “The Federation has also begun a dialogue with the Indigenous Bar Association, and reached agreement with the Canadian Council of Law Deans to establish a joint working group to share information and identify opportunities for collaboration on law school and law society reconciliation initiatives” Mr. Raby adds.
Mr. Raby joined the Federation Council as the nominee of the Law Society of Alberta in 2013. He was previously active in the law society, first elected a Bencher of the Law Society of Alberta in 2004. He served on its Executive Committee for five years, including a term as President in 2012. He is a senior partner in the Calgary office of Norton Rose Fulbright, with a commercial real estate practice, and has extensive expertise in municipal planning, leasing law, condominium law, construction law and mortgage law. He received his law degree from the University of Alberta in 1977, and was called to the bar the following year. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2004.