Law Society of British Columbia announces legal action to challenge Legal Professions Act

The Law Society of British Columbia has announced its intention to challenge the constitutionality of Bill 21, known as the Legal Professions Act, which was granted Royal Assent on May 16, 2024. This Act consolidates the regulation of lawyers, notaries, and paralegals under a single regulatory body, a move that the Law Society argues undermines the independence of the legal profession and its regulator, a core democratic principle. The new legislation replaces the former Legal Profession Act, under which the Law Society’s mandate was to protect the public interest by preserving and protecting individual rights and freedoms. The Law Society contends that the government’s direction and interference threaten these rights.

The legislation was introduced on April 10, despite strong opposition from the Law Society, the Canadian Bar Association – BC Branch, the Trial Lawyers Association of BC, and other stakeholders who called for wider public and professional consultation. The BC government, however, expedited the passage of the bill by invoking closure to limit further debate, despite concerns from all opposition parties about the potential threats to the independence of the legal profession. Law Society President Jeevyn Dhaliwal criticised the government’s approach, suggesting that it was not conducive to a full and transparent discussion on the implications of such significant legislative changes.

Following the Royal Assent, the Law Society announced plans to initiate litigation challenging the Act. The Times Colonist published an op-ed by First Vice President Brook Greenberg in May 2024, highlighting concerns about the Act’s provisions that allow the regulator to mandate medical treatment for legal professionals, which he argues are stigmatising and discriminatory.

The Law Society’s opposition to the bill began as early as March 2022, when the BC government announced its intention to create a single legal regulator. This was followed by public consultations and the publication of findings in the “What We Heard” report. The process saw numerous responses from the Law Society, including a request to bring amendments to the current Legal Profession Act into force and concerns over the proposed consolidation of legal regulation. Despite these efforts, the government proceeded with Bill 21, leading to the Law Society’s current legal challenge.

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