The Work of Provincial Council
by Frank C Kraemer
In this column, I would like to discuss the role and make-up of Provincial Council and bring to your attention one of the important issues that will be discussed at an upcoming Council meeting.
Provincial Council is the legislative or policy-making body of the Branch. Under Branch bylaws, Provincial Council “shall carry on the work of CBABC and advance its objectives.” Within the sphere of strictly provincial affairs, Provincial Council has the same powers as the National Council has for the CBA as a whole.
Council is made up of 60 members elected from the eight BC counties and the Chairs of the Branch’s 72 Sections. Council also includes the members of the Executive Committee, consisting of the President, Vice-President, Secretary-Treasurer, Past President, four Officers-at-Large, a Young Lawyers Representative and an Equality Committee Representative.
Also included are a number of non-voting ex-officio members including Branch Past Presidents and representatives of other justice system partner organizations, such as the Law Society of BC, the Law Foundation, CLE, the Legal Services Society, the Trial Lawyer’s Association, the BC Law Institute, the Courthouse Library Society, and the Ministry of the Attorney General. Council meets four times a year, on a Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
In fulfillment of its mandate, Provincial Council deals with a number of important matters. For example, a recent meeting in March featured presentations by: the President of the Law Society, Richard Gibbs, QC, on the Law Society’s Admission Program Task Force, and Jane Morley, QC, Official Trustee of the Legal Services Society; the creation of a new Branch standing committee on the Business of Law; and a presentation by Dean Joost Blom, QC, on the UBC Law School Academic Plan.
Council will meet on June 22, and in addition to the election of the Executive Committee and the approval of the Branch’s budget, members will discuss the important issue of whether or not the Supreme Court should continue to make available its Family Law decisions on the Court’s Web site.
Earlier this year, Chief Justice Brenner wrote to our President, Carman Overholt, indicating the Court’s intention to cease publishing Family Law decisions on the Court’s Web site. The rationale was the number of complaints the Court was receiving as a result of public access to family law judgments. The sensitive nature of the subject matter and findings of fact that judges of the Court routinely made were cited.
This issue raises a number of competing interests. On the one hand, there is the privacy interest of the parties to the proceeding. I recently received an expression of concern from a parent whose child had gone onto the Web site and found the decision relating to the child’s custody.
On the other hand, with the legal aid cutbacks and the increasing familiarity with the use of technology as a research tool, members of the public and indeed our own members see the availability of these decisions on the Internet as an access to justice issue.
Another issue to be considered is the cost and time associated with either introducing a system that would limit access to the decisions or modify the judgments to make the parties less identifiable.
As a practitioner, I expect you may have a view on this issue. If you wish to make that view known, you may either write directly to Chief Justice Brenner or inform your elected Council member of your views, so that they may be presented at the Provincial Council meeting on June 22.
This article was published in the June 2002 issue of BarTalk. © 2002 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.