A. Cameron Ward Barristers and Solicitors » Cameron Ward
A. Cameron Ward
Vancouver BC
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CBA fee dispute unseemly

October 15, 2003 in Opinion

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 It is time to bury the outdated idea of a mandatory CBA fee and let all of our colleagues be free to make their own decisions on whether to support this organization.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.

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After describing herself as a ‘political prisoner’, Betty Krawczyk concluded her sentencing submissions with the words ‘lock me up or let me go’.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Harvey chose the former, sentencing the 75 year old environmental activist to six more months in jail for criminal contempt of court. The judge declined to give Ms. Krawczyk credit for the 4 1/2 months she had already served in jail.

Imediately after the sentencing hearing, a group of her supporters blocked traffic at the intersection of Hornby and Nelson streets in downtown Vancouver. After a few minutes, police arrived and arrested and removed six persons. Charges of mischief under the Criminal Code are apparently pending. Ironically, Ms. Krawczyk had argued that her conduct in blocking a public forestry road should have attracted an arrest on mischief charges, rather than contempt of court proceedings.

Ms. Krawczyk was arrested on May 8, 2003 after refusing to move off a public logging road in the Walbran Valley, contrary to the terms of a court order made in a civil lawsuit brought by a Weyerhaeuser subcontractor. In British Columbia, political demonstrators are usually dealt with pursuant to the Attorney General’s policy of encouraging companies to seek civil remedies, which can then be escalated into contempt proceedings. By proceeding in this fashion, the criminal law safeguards of the Criminal Code do not apply and there are no statutory sentencing guidelines.

Several judges of the British Columbia Supreme Court and Court of Appeal have criticized the Attorney General for its ‘officially induced abuse of process’, but the criticism has not yet been heeded.

Ms. Krawczyk has appealed her conviction to the Court of Appeal. No hearing date has yet been set.

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More than 600 people are being detained indefinitely without charge at “Gitmo”, an American military base located in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They were apprehended in Afghanistan in late 2001 or early 2002 by coalition troops fighting the “War on Terror”. They have been denied access to lawyers, consular officials and family members. Twenty-one have attempted to commit suicide.

The continued detention of this group of people, which includes citizens of Great Britain, Australia and Canada, is a gross violation of fundamental human rights and international law. It is appalling and more than a little ironic that the perpetrator of this abuse is the self-proclaimed bastion of liberty and justice, the United States of America.

To take action, call, write or e-mail the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The Hon. Bill Graham can be reached at 613-992-5234 (tel.), 613-996-9607 (fax) or graham.b@parl.gc.ca (e-mail).

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In a strange development, the B.C. Government has determined that the Georgia Straight must pay over a million dollars in taxes, on the basis that the popular weekly publication is not a newspaper.

The Ministry of Provincial Revenue has determined that the Georgia Straight is not entitled to the exemption from social service tax that is available to newspapers despite the fact that it is published on newsprint, is distributed from newsstands and its publisher has won a lifetime achievement award for journalism. The Straight does not share the enthusiasm displayed by Vancouver’s two major dailies for the current provincial government, making the imposition of the tax appear like a hamfisted attempt to muzzle criticism.

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Betty Krawczyk was transported from Burnaby Correctional Centre for Women to the Law Courts in Vancouver for a brief appearance today in B.C. Supreme Court. Mr. Justice Harvey indicated that his calendar was too full this week to accommodate Ms. Krawczyk’s sentencing hearing and the matter was adjourned to Tuesday, October 14, 2003 at 10:00 a.m. Ms. Krawczyk was then transported back to the BCCW to continue serving her 128th day in custody.

Ms. Krawczyk was convicted of criminal contempt of court on September 19, 2003 for disobeying an injunction order made in a civil lawsuit commenced by Hayes Forest Services Ltd. Hayes, a Weyerhaeuser contractor, has given no indication it plans to proceed with the lawsuit, which was apparently commenced for the sole purpose of having Ms. Krawczyk arrested and imprisoned. Crown Counsel appointed by the Attorney General of British Columbia will be making submissions on the appropriate punishment.

As a result of the Attorney General’s policy on ‘civil disobedience’, political protesters are frequently the subject of private injunctions and contempt of court proceedings. When this approach is used, the Attorney General can seek substantial jail sentences for people who engage in acts of passive dissent. In another recent case, the B.C. Supreme Court called the use of the injunction/contempt power as ‘officially induced abuse of process’:

Read the judgement

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