Home Legal News Law Society of British Columbia opposes proposed Legal Professionals Act, cites threat to legal independence

Law Society of British Columbia opposes proposed Legal Professionals Act, cites threat to legal independence

by HR Law Canada

The Law Society of British Columbia has expressed strong opposition to Bill 21 – the Legal Professions Act, recently introduced by Attorney General Niki Sharma, KC.

The bill proposes to consolidate the regulation of lawyers, notaries, and licensed paralegals into a single entity. According to the Law Society, this legislative change threatens the independence of legal professionals and, by extension, the public interest.

In a statement released on April 10, 2024, the Law Society voiced its concern that Bill 21 compromises the independence necessary for legal professionals to effectively represent the public against governmental interests. The Society emphasized that the independence of legal regulators is crucial for maintaining trust in their impartiality, particularly as legal representatives often handle cases where client interests are opposed to those of the government.

The Law Society’s statutory role includes safeguarding the public’s interest in the justice system, a responsibility it claims Bill 21 fails to uphold. Citing a historical precedent from 1982, when the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted, the Society referenced a Supreme Court decision by Justice Estey which underlined the essential nature of an independent legal bar for a free society.

Law Society President Jeevyn Dhaliwal, KC, stressed the global significance of maintaining this independence amidst increasing threats to the legal profession worldwide. “The Law Society of British Columbia is steadfast in our commitment to protect the independence of the legal profession and of the regulator,” Dhaliwal stated, asserting the intertwined nature of these aspects.

Should Bill 21 pass and receive Royal Assent, the Law Society plans to challenge its constitutionality in court. It anticipates support from various organizations, including the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, which represents all 14 Canadian legal regulators. The Law Society’s firm stance underscores the broader implications of this issue for both national and international legal standards.

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