Public outreach and the public interest
Timothy E. McGee
In her President’s View column for our March issue, Anna Fung, QC stressed the strategic importance of consistent and concerted public outreach by the Law Society and the need to make direct linkages with media, governments and community groups.
Recently the Society has been active in building those linkages and will continue to do so in the months ahead.
On April 21, I attended Law Day festivities hosted by the CBA (BC Branch) at the Vancouver Public Library. It was great to see so many people taking in the many exhibits and demonstrations: a citizenship court session, a mock trial, free law classes and booths, including one from the Law Society, representing a wide range of organizations associated with the justice system. The theme of this year’s Law Day was access to justice, so it’s perhaps not surprising that attendance and interest was so strong.
Our staff contingent represented the Society well at the Vancouver event, fielding questions that covered all aspects of our organization, handing out our new Guide to www.lawsociety.bc.ca, and referring people to other resources. Chief Justice Lance Finch, Chief Justice Donald Brenner and Attorney General Wally Oppal, QC were among the many visitors to the Law Society booth over the course of the day. We were also represented at Law Day events in Victoria by Benchers Richard Stewart and June Preston, who reported similar interest by visitors and participants.
The Law Society took the lead in another community-based event on April 26, when we partnered with the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities to co-host a free public forum called Equal Access for People with Disabilities. Topics covered in the panel discussion moderated by Vancouver Sun columnist Peter McKnight included courthouse accessibility, support for independent living, breaking down barriers for people with disabilities and overcoming challenges to achieving success in the workplace. The forum was well attended and there was an enthusiastic question-and-answer period.
Early planning is underway for another community-based event in November. The Law Society is working with the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre to co-host an internationally acclaimed travelling exhibit in Vancouver and Victoria. Lawyers Without Rights tells the story of more than 10,000 German-Jewish lawyers who were summarily disbarred by the Nazis in the early 1930s. The exhibition and planned public forum will provide a powerful focal point for a discussion on the importance to the public interest of an independent Bar and judiciary.