BC United condemns Bill 21, warns of threat to legal independence

VICTORIA (April 25, 2024) – BC United Shadow Minister for Attorney General, and Indigenous Relations & Reconciliation, Michael Lee, MLA for Vancouver-Langara released the following statement opposing Bill 21, 2024 Legal Professions Act, which proposes ending the self-regulation of lawyers in British Columbia:

“Bill 21 represents a profound threat to the independence of our legal system, an unprecedented move by the NDP government under Premier David Eby. By shifting away from the election by lawyers of a majority of their regulatory board, this bill undermines the very foundation of legal independence in our province.

“It is alarming that British Columbia is poised to become the first jurisdiction in Canada to lose self-regulation of lawyers. This change not only alters the structure of the governance of the legal profession — but also politicizes our courts, with judges being drawn from the ranks of lawyers. The increased government interference in our legal system with the taking away of the independence of the legal profession will undermine the administration of justice in BC and erode the checks and balances essential for a free and democratic society.

“Premier Eby’s track record as the most activist Attorney General in BC’s history has been marked by continued efforts to undermine the rule of law in our province. Bill 21 is a continuation of his pattern of government overreach that also mirrors actions taken against other professions such as engineering and healthcare, which have already experienced the consequences of increased government control.

“While Bill 21 includes measures that ostensibly aim to enhance access to justice — such as expanding roles for paralegals and notaries and creating an Indigenous Council — these objectives do not require, or justify, dismantling lawyers’ self-regulation in British Columbia.

“Bill 21’s implications are far-reaching and demand a more comprehensive, inclusive consultation process. This process should genuinely consider the implications for justice and governance in our province. It is crucial that we preserve a system where lawyers can operate independently, upholding the rule of law without the fear of political retribution or ideological interference.

“The BC United Caucus recognizes the need for modernization within the legal profession but rejects the notion that this requires stripping away the independence of lawyers. If elected, a Kevin Falcon-led government will maintain a self-regulating legal system free from governmental overreach and political manipulation by amending or repealing the sections of Bill 21 that threaten this independence.”