Law Society urges government to halt Bill 21, consult stakeholders

The Law Society of BC has sent a letter to the Attorney General of BC Niki Sharma, KC strongly urging the government to reconsider proceeding with the passage of Bill 21 – the Legal Professions Act – in order to take the time to consult more widely with the public, the legal professions and the Indigenous peoples of BC.

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 and the Benchers have an obligation to act on that mandate. The Law Society, led by its governing board of Benchers, are certain that the development of Bill 21 has failed to meet reasonable expectations that the public and legal professions be significantly involved in commenting and advising on the substance of the Bill. 

We are also certain that the passage of Bill 21 will disrupt and diminish the effectiveness of legal regulation in this province. Bill 21 fails to protect the public’s interest in having access to independent legal professions governed by an independent regulator that is not constrained by unnecessary government direction and intrusion.

Should Bill 21 be passed and receive Royal Assent, without significant amendment, we believe that our mandate to protect the rights and freedoms of all persons will require the Law Society to initiate litigation to challenge the constitutionality of the Act. That outcome is, by no means, the one we consider most conducive to the public interest. The better option is to take the necessary time to get the legislation right.

We call on the government to exercise the leadership necessary to ensure the future foundations of legal regulation in this province are in the best interest of the public and the legal profession.