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Our latest news highlights:

Vancouver county by-election results

[posted November 15, 2016]

Jeevyn Dhaliwal and Jasmin Z. Ahmad have been elected Benchers for Vancouver county in the November 15, 2016 by-election. Their one-year terms begin on January 1, 2017.

Jeevyn DhaliwalJeevyn Dhaliwal was called to the bar in 1998 and practises workplace immigration law as a solicitor with Larlee, Rosenberg. As an elected Bencher in 2014-2015, she served on the Rule of Law and Lawyer Independence Advisory Committee, the Legal Services Regulatory Framework Task Force, the Act and Rules Committee and the Discipline Committee. She is currently a non-Bencher member of the Discipline Committee and panel member on conduct reviews. Dhaliwal is also current executive and past president of the South Asian Bar Association of BC.

In her election statement, Dhaliwal expressed, in part: “The Law Society faces many diverse and important issues, from the expanded scope of legal services provided by non-lawyers, to law firm regulation and opportunity within the profession, to the omnipresent issue of access to justice, and to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s compelling calls to action.

“Diversity at the Bencher table can only assist the Law Society to address these issues, while governing in the public interest. As a woman of South Asian heritage, I possess diverse experience gained in various law firm settings.”

Jasmin AhmadCalled to the BC Bar in 1995, Jazmin Ahmad practises as a commercial litigator at Koffman Kalef LLP. For the past five years, she has been actively involved as a mentor with the Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch’s Women’s Law Forum Mentoring Program. She has served on the executive of the Vancouver Bar Association and has been a member of the Equality and Diversity Committee at CBABC. Since 2011, she has served as a member of the Law Society’s hearing panels for discipline and credentials hearings.

In her election statement, Ahmad said, in part: “My background provides me with a perspective and awareness that is wide-ranging and allows me to empathize and understand many of the issues that face both our profession and the public we serve. As a Bencher, I would try to tackle those issues with the practical approach that I have learned as a lawyer at a business law firm.” 

See the voting results.

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Law Society to seek leave to appeal TWU decision to the Supreme Court of Canada

[posted November 8, 2016]

The Law Society today determined that it will seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada the recent decision of the BC Court of Appeal in Trinity Western University v. The Law Society of British Columbia.

Background material can be found on the Law Society’s TWU web page.

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BC Court of Appeal decision on TWU matter

[posted November 1, 2016]

Today, the BC Court of Appeal released its decision in TWU v. Law Society of BC. The appeal was dismissed. See the decision here.

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2016 Annual General Meeting

[posted October 25, 2016]

The Annual General Meeting of the Law Society was held on Friday, October 14, 2016 in Vancouver, linked by audio-conference to 13 other locations around the province. One hundred seventeen members attended the meeting; for the second year, those unable to be there in person could watch the meeting via live webcast.

  • Nancy Merrill, QC was acclaimed as the Law Society’s Second Vice-President for the year commencing January 1, 2017.
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers was appointed as the Law Society’s auditors for the year ending December 31, 2016.
  • The Benchers were authorized to amend the Rules respecting general meetings to provide for voting at a general meeting either partly or fully by electronic means. This resolution required the approval of two-thirds of members voting in a general meeting, and passed with 81% voting in favour.

For more information, read the Notice to the Profession or watch the webcast.

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2016 Law Society Award

[posted October 19, 2016]

The Benchers have selected Constance D. Isherwood, QC as the recipient of the 2016 Law Society Award. Mrs. Isherwood is the first woman recipient of the award. She has served as a role model and mentor for young women lawyers since her call to the bar 65 years ago. She will be presented with the Law Society Award at the 32nd annual Bench and Bar Dinner on November 17, 2016.

To read more about Mrs. Isherwood's achievements, see Law Society Award. For more information on the Bench & Bar dinner or to purchase tickets, download the ticket order form.

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Benchers approve 2017 fees

[posted October 4, 2016]

The Benchers have approved the 2017 practice fee and insurance fee, as recommended by the Finance and Audit Committee. The committee based its recommendation on a thorough review of the Law Society’s financial position and the operational requirements for 2017.

The total annual mandatory fee for practising, insured lawyers for 2017 will be $3,875.57. The practice fee will increase by $68.48 to $2,125.57 and the insurance assessment will remain the same at $1,750.

For more information and a detailed breakdown and explanation of the 2017 fees, read the Notice to the Profession.

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Ministry of Finance announces additional property transfer tax effective August 2, 2016

[posted July 26, 2016]

[updated August 3, 2016]

The BC government has announced an additional property transfer tax on residential property transfers to foreign entities in the Greater Vancouver Regional District. The additional tax applies on all applicable transfers registered with the Land Title Office on or after August 2, 2016, regardless of when the contract of purchase and sale was entered into. For transactions involving Canadian citizens, the citizen’s social insurance number must be collected and their identity verified against official government issued identification. For details, read the Ministry of Finance’s tax information sheet and the legislation in progress.

The updated Property Transfer Tax form (version 27) is available for download through the Land Title and Survey Authority’s website.

For further information, see the following contact information:

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Supreme Court civil hearing day fees resume

[posted July 19, 2016]

Effective August 1, 2016, the Court Services Branch will resume invoicing and collecting hearing day fees, as outlined in the Supreme Court Civil Rules Appendix C, Schedule 1, Item 9 and Item 10. Any Supreme Court civil trial or hearing set after August 1, 2016 will be invoiced, and unless ordered otherwise, payment will be due forthwith from the party who filed the notice of trial or filed the documents to set the hearings.

Court Services Branch is considering the impact of the Supreme Court of Canada decision on the payment of hearing day fees for Supreme Court family matters and in the interim will not be charging hearing day fees for those cases. Court Services is also initiating a comprehensive review of all court fees.

For more information, visit the Court Services Branch website.

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Law Society delivers recommendations on appointment of judges to Supreme Court of Canada

[posted July 18, 2016]

The Law Society of British Columbia has submitted a report to the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould outlining recommended principles for the appointment of Justices to the Supreme Court of Canada. The report, approved by Benchers at their July 8 meeting, sets out four principles that the Law Society views as essential to the process of appointing Justices to the Court: transparency; judicial independence; merit and diversity; and public participation.

The Supreme Court of Canada plays a vital role in maintaining the rule of law and the process by which Supreme Court Justices are appointed directly impacts the public interest. The current process by which candidates are evaluated and selected is largely unknown.

It is the Law Society’s position that incorporating these four principles will enhance public confidence in the Court and in the legal system by ensuring candidates of the highest quality are appointed to the Court. Ultimately, this will promote and protect the rule of law.

See the report and the letter to the Minister.

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BridgePoint Indemnity Company ordered to cease and desist

[posted July 7, 2016]

On June 30, 2016, the Financial Institutions Commission (FICOM) ordered BridgePoint Indemnity Company (Canada) (BICO) to immediately cease conducting insurance business in the province of British Columbia, including the advertising, soliciting, offering, sale, and adjusting of legal expenses insurance under the product names Legal Cost Protection, LegalProtect and Trial Protect. In addition, FICOM ordered BICO to provide the Superintendent with a copy of every contract issued by it which insures risk in BC and is currently in force within 10 days and for BICO to arrange for all current contracts insuring risk in BC to be assumed by an authorized insurance company, at BICO’s expense.

For details, read the order issued by the Commission. For practice advice, please contact a Practice Advisor.

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Law Society’s second annual secondary school essay contest highlights significance of the rule of law

[posted June 22, 2016]

The Law Society’s Rule of Law and Lawyer Independence Advisory Committee launched an annual essay contest for BC secondary students last year to reaffirm the significance of the rule of law and to enhance students’ knowledge and willingness to participate actively in civic life.

For the 2016/17 school year, the Law Society is inviting all Grade 12 students and any secondary school students who have taken, or are currently enrolled in either Law 12 or Civic Studies 11, to submit an essay on the following topic:

How would you explain the rule of law to a fellow student who has never heard the term before? You might discuss why the rule of law is important, and how it impacts our daily lives. You might also discuss any current events involving threats to the rule of law.

Students are expected to submit an essay addressing the topic that demonstrates their understanding of the rule of law, its principles, and its significance in civil society. Entries will be judged on a clear expression of ideas, an understanding of the topic, originality and excellence in writing.

The winner and runner up will be chosen by a judging panel representing the Law Society and the education community. The winning entry will be awarded a $1,000 prize, and the runner up will receive a $500 prize. The first place winner and runner up will be invited to an awards presentation event at the Law Society in Vancouver. Travel and accommodation costs for a student not living in Metro Vancouver will be provided by the Law Society.

Deadline for submissions is April 10, 2017.

For further details, see the flyer, information sheet and submission guidelines.

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Supreme Court of Canada releases decisions concerning CRA notices of requirements [updated September 8, 2016]

[posted June 10, 2016]

The Law Society has received confirmation that the CRA will not be issuing requirements or compliance orders to lawyers or notaries for information related to their clients where that information is held in their capacity as a legal advisor.

The issue concerning lawyers’ professional obligations where they receive a notice of requirement to produce information from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in connection with a client’s information or documents has been discussed several times over the last number of years in previous Benchers’ Bulletins. Most recently, in the Spring 2016 issue it was noted that the Quebec Court of Appeal had declared the provisions for the Income Tax Act under which the notices of requirement are issued to be constitutionally invalid, and that the decision was appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Supreme Court recently released its decisions in Canada (Attorney General) v. Chambre des Notaires du Quebec, 2016 SCC 20, and Canada (National Revenue) v. Thompson, 2016 SCC 21.

In the former case, the court concluded that a notice of requirement issued under the Income Tax Act constitutes a seizure within the meaning of s. 8 of the Charter, and that the seizures made under s. 231.2 of the Act were unreasonable and contrary to section 8 because the requirement scheme did not provide adequate protection for solicitor-client privilege.

In particular, the court held that the procedures set out in the Income Tax Act did not require the holder of the privilege (that is, the client) to be informed of the notice of requirement or of any proceeding brought by CRA to obtain an order to provide the information or documents required to be produced. Moreover, the procedure also placed the entire burden of protecting the privilege on the lawyer. The court also concluded that neither the Attorney General nor CRA had established that it was absolutely necessary to impair solicitor-client privilege. Because the impugned provisions did not minimally impair the right to solicitor-client privilege, they could not be saved under s. 1. As such, the sections in question (ss. 231.2(1) and 231.7 of the Income Tax Act) were declared to be unconstitutional and inapplicable to Quebec notaries and lawyers in their capacity as legal advisors.

The court also held that the definition of "solicitor-client privilege" in s. 232(1) of the Income Tax Act was unconstitutional and invalid. The manner in which it limits the scope of solicitor-client privilege is not absolutely necessary to achieve the purposes of the Income Tax Act, and therefore the exception is contrary to s. 8 of the Charter.

In Thompson, the court noted that the definition of "solicitor-client privilege" in s. 232(1) of the Income Tax Act is unequivocal, and Parliament’s intent to define privilege so as to exclude a lawyer’s accounting record from its protection "could hardly be clearer." While Parliament may, with clear and unambiguous language, evince an intent to abrogate privilege in respect of specific information (see Canada (Privacy Commissioner) v. Blood Tribe Department of Health 2008 SCC 44), the question of whether a legislature can abrogate solicitor-client privilege over a class of documents in which the seizure of such documents is permitted cannot be answered, the court concluded, on the basis of Blood Tribe alone. In Thompson, the Supreme Court noted that Parliament’s intent and its ability, in constitutional terms, to define solicitor-client privilege in a particular way are not necessarily equivalent.

Where a seizure is involved, s. 8 of the Charter comes into play. As noted in Chambre des Notaires, the court concluded that the purported abrogation of solicitor-client privilege over accounting records in s. 232 (1) of the Income Tax Act is constitutionally invalid because it permits the state to obtain information that would otherwise be privileged to a far greater extent than is absolutely necessary for the administration of the Income Tax Act.

As a result of the court’s decisions, ss. 231.2 and 231.7 of the Income Tax Act are unconstitutional and inapplicable to lawyers and Quebec notaries in their capacity as legal advisors, and the exception in the definition of solicitor-client privilege in s. 232(1) of that Act is constitutionally invalid.

Lawyers who are currently the subject of an outstanding notice of requirement pursuant to s. 231.2 or who are a party to an application for a compliance order under s. 231.7 should contact Barbara Buchanan, QC (bbuchanan@lsbc.org) or Michael Lucas (mlucas@lsbc.org) at the Law Society if they have any questions.

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Law firm regulation consultation

[posted March 23, 2016]

The Law Firm Regulation Task Force continues to seek input from lawyers.

Regulating law firms as well as individual lawyers aims to provide more efficient and effective regulation – both from the public and the lawyer perspective. It is meant to simplify and improve the regulatory process from the perspective of the individual lawyer, not to create additional regulatory burden.

If firms were regulated, they would bear responsibility for activities that transcend the work of any individual lawyer, including, for example, advertising, accounting or file management.

Entity regulation is not unique to BC, or Canada. Regulators of the legal profession in England, Europe and Australia have adopted various forms of law firm regulation. In Canada, other law societies are studying how best to apply law firm regulation to the legal profession in their province.

Making law firm regulation a reality is part of the Law Society’s Strategic Plan for 2015-2017. In the fall of 2014 the Law Firm Regulation Task Force was created and given the mandate of recommending a framework for regulating law firms.

Consultation with the profession is underway

The task force thanks everyone who participated in the consultations to date. Over 100 lawyers responded to a survey in November 2015 and over 110 lawyers attended sessions that were held in 11 cities around the province in February, 2016.

It's not too late to be heard. Lawyers are encouraged to provide their comments for the task force to consider:

by email: firmregulation@lsbc.org

by letter:

Law Firm Regulation Task Force
c/o Michael Lucas
Law Society of British Columbia
845 Cambie Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 4Z9

If you would like the Law Firm Regulation Task Force to bring any future consultation opportunities to your attention, please provide your name and email address to firmregulation@lsbc.org.

For more information on this initiative, see Law firm regulation – consultation.

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