On October 27, 2003, British Columbia lawyers will vote on whether to approve the fee resolution submitted by the Benchers (governors) of the Law Society, or whether to amend it to include mandatory payment of a Canadian Bar Association fee.

The mandatory CBA fee has been the subject of five separate lawsuits and numerous debates. Prior to 2003, lawyers had to join the CBA in order to practise law in British Columbia. In 2003, they could opt out of membership, but were obliged to pay a fee ‘equivalent to membership’.

Although the CBA is an independent voluntary advocacy organization, and eleven other Canadian jurisdictions do not force lawyers to financially support it, British Columbia’s CBA proponents continue to fight to retained compelled support.

If a lawyer chooses not to join the CBA, why should he or she pay the fee?

With respect to those who feel differently, there is no good answer. It really comes down to money. British Columbia lawyers pour about $4 million a year into CBA coffers, which is used for various purposes, including offices, salaries, travel, parties, seminars, etc. The CBA doesn’t want to lose any of this revenue.

It seems most unfortunate, and unseemly, for lawyers to stake out a position based on financial considerations in preference to a position that is fair, just and right. Surely its unfair, unjust and wrong to force any member of the profession to financially support an interest group that he or she chooses not to join. It is time to bury the outdated idea of a mandatory CBA fee and let all of our colleagues be free to make their own decisions on whether to support this organization.

The CBA will be stronger, and better, for it.