After deliberating for three and a half months, the Canadian Bar Association and the Canadian Bar Association, British Columbia Branch have decided that their members are not entitled to disclosure of the salaries and expenses paid to their Executive Directors.

Vancouver lawyer Cameron Ward had written both the CBA and CBA, BC Branch to request disclosure of the executive salaries and expenses, arguing that since he was compelled to pay an annual membership fee to the CBA, he ought to receive a full and transparent accounting of how his contributions were being spent.

The associations disagreed and politely advised Mr. Ward that such salary and expense information was none of his business. In a letter to Mr. Ward dated December 10, 2003, Robert C. Brun, President of the CBA, BC Branch, said, “your request for information regarding the salary and expenses of the Executive Director raised for us the conflicting interests of organizational transparency in operations, and the protection of personal privacy.” Similarly, Jack A. Innes, Q.C., Treasurer of the CBA, wrote Mr. Ward to advise that the salary of the Executive Director was confidential and was based on “an ongoing assessment of the appropriate compensation levels for an Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of a large professional association in the Ottawa market.”

For over fifty years the Law Society of British Columbia has required lawyers in the province to pay a membership fee or an “equivalent to membership fee” to the CBA in order maintain their practising status. Only one other Canadian jurisdiction, New Brunswick, has such a mandatory CBA fee regime. The British Columbia compulsory fee has been challenged in of at least five separate lawsuits over the years, most recently by Richard Gibbs, Q.C. a past President of the Law Society, but its validity remains unresolved.

This year, British Columbia’s approximately 10,000 lawyers will pay between $296 and $465 each to the CBA. “My British Columbia colleagues and I are forced to pay some $4 million every year to the Canadian Bar Association if we want to keep practising law in this province, so I think we are entitled to know where our money goes”, said Mr. Ward. “It doesn’t comfort me to be told that salaries and expenses are paid out in accordance with the standards prevailing in the Ottawa market.”