As lawyers, you all know lawyer independence is in the public’s interest to live in a free and democratic society. I also believe most British Columbians do too.
It would be trite to mention but for the B.C. government’s stated plan to pass legislation in the spring that will seriously compromise our power to self-regulate. We have been left in the dark about the details and haven’t been engaged by the government in their proposed plans.
Some benchers argue we should “wait and see” what the draft legislation says. I disagree. We need to be proactive in defending lawyer independence now. The government does not have a monopoly in protecting the public’s interest. Far from it. We have a joint responsibility to work together on important public legal matters, so it’s surprising we’re being shut out of the legislative process thus far.
I believe and hope the government may be persuaded, with reasoned argument and proactive, transparent engagement, to abandon their intentions.
Last year B.C.'s current government issued an “Intentions Paper,” declaring their intention to take over the regulation and discipline of lawyers. The details of how it will be implemented are woefully inadequate. Given lawyers regularly and necessarily oppose the government on behalf of the public and individuals, the government’s plan threatens the rights and freedoms of all British Columbians and the rule of law more generally.
Imagine the opposing party in a lawsuit you were involved in assumed power over what your lawyer could, or couldn’t, do or say. You would likely seek a new lawyer. I have attached the “Intentions Paper,” and one candidate’s response (James Legh from Victoria).
While the general public is unable to vote in a bencher election, this critical issue has important public interest implications and a debate about it needs to be brought into the public square.
Benjamin Levine, principal at Levine & Co., in Prince George, B.C., has experience of over 20 years practising law in Prince George. He has focused his practices on matters of family, civil and criminal law.
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