Law Society of BC opposes Bill 21 – the Legal Professions Act

The Law Society of British Columbia is deeply concerned that Bill 21 – the Legal Professions Act, tabled by the Government of British Columbia on April 10, will have detrimental effects on the ability of legal professionals to represent the public. Bill 21 will create a single legal regulator for lawyers, notaries and licensed paralegals. 

The Law Society has a statutory mandate to protect the public interest in the administration of justice by preserving and protecting the rights and freedoms of all persons. The legislation tabled today fails to protect the public’s interest in having access to independent legal professions governed by an independent regulator that are not constrained by unnecessary government direction and intrusion.

As legal professionals represent clients whose interests often diverge from those of government, there must be trust that the legal regulator is independent of government influence. Any erosion of this principle in BC threatens our free and democratic society, and may have impacts nationally and internationally.

In 1982, the year the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into force, Justice Estey of the Supreme Court of Canada articulated the essential importance of an independent bar:

“The independence of the bar from the state in all its pervasive manifestations is one of the hallmarks of a free society. Consequently, regulation of these members of the law profession by the state must, so far as by human ingenuity it can be so designed, be free from state interference, in the political sense, with the delivery of services to the individual citizens in the state, particularly in fields of public and criminal law. The public interest in a free society knows no area more sensitive than the independence, impartiality and availability to the general public of the members of the Bar and through those members, legal advice and services generally.” (Emphasis Added)

A.G. Can. v. Law Society of B.C., 1982 CanLII 29 (SCC), [1982] 2 SCR 307 at 335–336. (

What Attorney General Niki Sharma, KC has tabled today fails to meet that standard and has broad public interest implications well beyond the legal profession, and beyond regulatory governance structures.

Law Society President Jeevyn Dhaliwal, KC commented that:

“The Law Society of British Columbia is steadfast in our commitment to protect the independence of the legal profession and of the regulator. We see one as inextricably linked to the other. The example we set here in Canada is particularly crucial in the context of increasing threats to the legal profession around the world. Independence is essential to the proper functioning of the administration of justice and we cannot – and must not – permit its erosion.”

Should the seriously flawed regulatory model reflected in Bill 21 be passed and receive Royal Assent, the Law Society has instructed counsel to initiate litigation to challenge the constitutionality of the Act. We expect a number of organizations will join in the litigation, including the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, the entity that speaks for all 14 Canadian legal regulators.

Media Contact:

Christine Tam
Director of Communications & Engagement
Law Society of BC