A. Cameron Ward Barristers and Solicitors
A. Cameron Ward
Vancouver BC
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On December 17, 2003, Mr. Justice Taylor of the Supreme Court of British Columbia issued reasons for judgment in Gibbs v. Law Society of British Columbia, holding that the Law Society has the power to compel its members to pay “equivalent to membership fees” in the CBA. Although s. 24(1) of the Legal Profession Act provides that the Law Society may “act as agent of the Canadian Bar Association for the purpose of collecting fees of that association from lawyers who are members of it”, the judge found that it was within the general mandate of the Law Society to collect fees from non-members also.

The decision is posted at www.bccba.org. There is no word yet on whether Mr. Gibbs, a past president of the Law Society, will appeal the decision.

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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.”

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The trial of five people on charges of assaulting police officers, being members of an unlawful assembly and causing a disturbance has been adjourned after eight days of testimony. It is expected to resume in March of 2004.

The charges stem from an incident that occurred on October 3, 2002 outside the Britannia Community Centre, just off Commercial Drive in Vancouver. A group of local mothers had congregated there to protest provincial government cutbacks in anticipation of a visit by Premier Gordon Campbell.

Mr. Campbell called off his visit, but the police moved in anyway. The evidence of the police witnesses at trial confirms that the crowd became angry after Rev. George Feenstra, a 53 year old United Church minister, was arrested, handcuffed and pushed face-first into a wall by two police officers.

Several other demonstrators were subsequently arrested and taken into custody. They were handcuffed and put into two police wagons. The wagons were driven to a parking lot adjacent to a Canadian Tire store, where they were met by an estimated 40-60 uniformed and armed police officers. Two of the demonstrators allege that they were threatened by the police at the Canadian Tire store and are seeking a stay of the criminal proceedings based on alleged violations of their constitutional rights.

The trial is expected to resume in March, 2004 before Provincial Court Judge Smyth at 222 Main Street in Vancouver (Court File No. 138904).

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Demonstrators face trial

November 28, 2003 in News

On Monday, December 1, 2003, six local activists will be in Provincial Court at 222 Main Street in Vancouver to face a series of allegations arising from a demonstration in October, 2002. A crowd had gathered at the Britannia Community Centre on Vancouver’s east side to protest Premier Gordon Campbell’s planned attendance there. The police responded with force and arrested a total of eight people, including two juveniles.

Some of the accused will allege that their constitutional rights were violated by the police actions. According to the contents of a formal complaint filed with the Vancouver Police Department, the police transported the activists to a private parking lot on commercial property, opened the paddy wagon doors, and threatened to assault them. (This occurred about three months before the notorious Stanley Park assaults). Later, the activists were strip-searched and detained for up to 27 hours before being released.

The Court file number is 138904.

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The six Vancouver Police Department members convicted of eighteen counts of assault face a sentencing hearing in British Columbia Provincial Court on December 16 and 17, 2003. The prosecutor’s submissions may shed more light on the terms of any plea agreement negotiated with the police officers’ lawyers.

On November 24, 2003, the six men pleaded guilty to eighteen charges of assault arising from an incident that occurred on January 14, 2003. According to an agreed statement of facts negotiated between the officers’ lawyers and the prosecutor, the six VPD members apprehended three civilians in downtown Vancouver at 4:30 a.m. and put them in a paddy wagon. The paddy wagon and three squad cars then drove to Stanley Park, a large wooded area adjacent to the city. There, the civilians were taken out of the paddy wagon one by one and assaulted. The civilians were not charged with any offences. The incident only came to light when a seventh officer, a new recruit, reported it to superiors.

These cowardly criminal acts were an appalling abuse of police power and breach of the public trust. One can only imagine how terrifying the experience must have been to the three victims who were assaulted in the darkness by six burly uniformed policemen.

Surprisingly, the officers remain on paid leave while they await sentencing in December and a disciplinary hearing in January. Amazingly, the VPD’s spokesperson has suggested that each officer may ultimately retain his job.

There can be no doubt that the six officers and their lawyers made a favourable plea bargain with the prosecutor. The agreed statement of facts minimized the severity of the conduct, including phrases like “P.C. Kojima contacted [one of the victims] with his police-issue baton in the vicinity of his knee” and “P.C. Kojima prodded [another victim] with his boot”. When the guilty pleas were entered, charges of assault with a weapon and attempting to obstruct justice (in relation to an alleged coverup) were stayed.

Whatever punishment may be imposed by the court, these six officers are no longer fit to wear the City’s badge and uniform, in our opinion. They abducted three people and perpetrated premeditated assaults on them in a dark, private location. In so doing, they showed contempt for the law they were sworn to uphold. They do not deserve to be employed by the citizens of Vancouver.

*Pride, Honour, Respect: the first three words in the Vancouver Police Department’s promotional videotape entitled “The Promise”.

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