Spotlight on the 2018 AGM in Ottawa

  • February 20, 2018

The CBA’s second new-look AGM took place in Ottawa on Feb. 15. A clear indication of what the new-style meeting, with people participating on-site and from hubs spread out across the country, means for members came during the resolutions debate, when a member in Vancouver noted that he’d been part of the CBA for 35 years and this was his first meeting.

That’s a win for virtual meetings!

A total of 48 members were on hand in the room in Ottawa, while another 117 joined the 2 ½-hour business meeting from 14 hubs in branches, law offices and other locations across the country.

The Association bylaws adopted at the August, 2016, AGM mandated that the CBA’s annual general meeting be held each February in Ottawa, which is why this meeting follows so closely on the last.

Some things don’t change, however – one of them is resolutions. All members were invited to participate in the discussions, but only regular members on-site in Ottawa or at the hubs were able to vote. There were 143 voting members this meeting. There were six resolutions up for debate at the AGM, members made it through four of them before the end of the meeting:

  • Establishing a national commissioner for children and youth
  • Protecting LGBTI2S human rights worldwide
  • Adopting a protocol for multi-jurisdictional class actions
  • Making the Canadian Constitution fully bilingual.

“C’est incroyable,” Board member Marie-Laure Leclercq noted, that in 2018 the Canadian Constitution still doesn’t represent all Canadians. Perhaps 150 years after Confederation, maybe it’s time to change that.

The final two resolutions, which deal with upholding solicitor-client privilege and adding a definition of diversity to the CBA bylaws, will be dealt with at the next AGM.

Check out the resolutions page on for more information.

President Kerry Simmons, Q.C., provided a report on behalf of the Board of Directors; the meeting also featured a report from the CBA Chair of Finance, Dean Scaletta, and CEO Cheryl Farrow. Kerry said that the CBA currently has about a 34,600 members. She reported that the decline in membership has slowed, and the Association is working on a pan-Canadian membership strategy.  One recurring theme of the reports from both Kerry and Cheryl was of better coordinating services, such as professional development and advocacy, not just between the national offices and the Branches, but also between the Branches where possible.

Vice-President Ray Adlington was presented to the meeting participants; he’ll take over as president on Sept. 1. Vivene Salmon who will be Vice-President in 2018-19 was also introduced. (See article about her elsewhere in this newsletter.)

Other events taking place around the AGM included the annual dinner with Supreme Court of Canada justices, the Leadership Forum, a meeting of the CBA Board and the President’s dinner.

As is traditional at the President’s dinner, two awards were handed out: Steve Pengelly, who is stepping down after more than a decade as Executive Director of the OBA, was this year’s winner of the Jack Innes Award, which recognizes outstanding contribution to the CBA by a current staff member who has exhibited creativity, innovation, leadership and commitment.  

Senator Murray Sinclair was the winner of the President’s Award. Senator Sinclair was called to the bar in 1980 and eight years later became the first Aboriginal justice appointed in Manitoba – and only the second in Canada. He served the justice system in his home province for more than 25 years, but many will know him better as the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which delivered its final report in 2015. He was appointed to the Senate in April 2016.

On Feb. 16, the first CBA Leadership Forum took place, with Branch Executive Directors and Presidents, Board members, chairs of Sections and Subcommittees, and the Chair of the Young Lawyers Forum attending. Among other items, participants discussed the report from the Funding Formulae Task Force. Attendees also heard a presentation from pollster Nik Nanos on the results of the two waves of member surveys that Nanos has carried out since last summer.

The Board met on Saturday, Feb. 17, and chief among the agenda items was discussion of a report from the Funding Formula Task Force, whose goal was to, as Kerry said at the annual meeting, to make sure there are more financial resources in the hands of the Branches.