Central and Eastern Europe

With the fall of the Iron Curtain Central and Eastern European countries were faced with rebuilding not only their economic, political and social structures but also their legal institutions. In 1990 the CBA responded to the massive changes in Eastern and Central Europe by beginning a legal internship program with lawyers from Hungary. Over the next three years the program expanded to Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Ukraine. The program facilitated the training in Canada of over 75 lawyers from Central Europe.

The benefits of the program flowed through the participants to their countries and communities where the interns became advocates and instruments for the changes required to facilitate the transition to a democracy and market economy. In Canada, linkages with professionals with Canadian experience located in the developing markets of Central Europe benefited Canadian lawyers.  The internship program was a resounding success, in large part because of the active involvement and support of CBA members and law firms from across Canada.

In addition to the internship program, the CBA ran professional development seminars in Central Europe on topics related to commercial law and privatization in which more than 1400 registrants participated. The CBA also involved the St. Lawrence College, from Kingston, in a paralegal training program in Hungary, a program which has grown to a core curriculum within a prominent Hungarian training institute. In concert with the National Judicial Institute and the Canadian Judicial Council the CBA sponsored ten judges from all levels of court in the Czech Republic and Slovakia to participate on a judicial training session in Canada.

In 1994/95 the CBA reviewed its Central and Eastern European program in light of the rapid changes within that region and the Canadian resources, both financial and human, available to implement the program. Building on the results of the evaluation process and in response to the needs identified by the Central European Region, the 1995/96 program focussed on institutional capacity building within Bar Associations in each of the Central European Countries and identified substantive law areas for future programming where the CBA could bring a unique and valued contribution.

The 1995/96 Twinning Project, linked the Hungarian, Polish, Czech and Slovak Bar Associations with the provincial Law Societies and CBA Branches of Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and Nova Scotia respectively. Based on the feedback from all of the Canadian and Central European partners, the initiative has proven to be extremely popular and effective to date.  As a follow up the provinces  put together 1996/97 activity proposals which strengthened the linkages and built on the experiences and exchanges of the twinning program.