Summer in Alberta is now in full swing as I come to the end of my term as President of the CBA Alberta Branch. It has been an honour to represent and advocate for the CBA as I have travelled across the country meeting with members and other stakeholders in the legal profession. In these final weeks of the 2015-16 year, I want to recognize the work of our entire Executive Committee, particularly that of outgoing Past President Steve Mandziuk, QC. Steve worked tirelessly towards the betterment of the CBA during his time on the Executive, culminating in his work chairing the CBA Re-Think Committee. It has been a privilege to work with him, and he will be missed.
This spring, the best qualities of the legal profession were on display in the face of the wildfire in Fort McMurray. Early on, we had more than a dozen law firms come forward to offer extra office space for those lawyers displaced by the fire. The CBA then partnered with Pro Bono Law Alberta, Legal Aid Alberta and other community legal organizations and clinics to host a special Dial-a-Lawyer event, which provided free legal advice to those affected by the wildfires. When we put out the call for volunteers, the response from the profession was so outstanding that we had to begin putting interested volunteers on a waiting list. On behalf of the CBA and our partner organizations in this initiative, I want to extend our thanks to all of those who donated their time to assist those in need. We can only imagine how stressful this time is for Fort McMurray and area residents, and know that by providing services such as Dial-a-Lawyer, we are doing our part to alleviate that stress.
The month of June brought a new round of judicial appointments from the federal government. We were very happy to hear that among the appointments to the Court of Queen’s Bench were CBA Alberta past president Gillian Marriott, QC, and former CBA National Magazine columnist and long-time member Doug Mah, QC. I had the opportunity to meet with federal Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould shortly after the appointments, and thanked her for taking action on the judicial shortage in Alberta. There are still vacant positions in our province that need to be filled, in addition to a number of new positions that we are hoping will be created to take the strain off of our court system. The CBA will continue to work with the courts to advocate on behalf of the legal profession in this respect.
Now is the time of year to renew your national membership and register for your chosen sections. When renewing your membership, take a moment to review the Portfolio and Portfolio Plus options available to you. Alberta has been leading the country in purchases of these two options, and our members have clearly seen the value added to their memberships. By purchasing a Portfolio or Portfolio Plus package, you will receive education credits, which can be used towards the purchase section registration, or registration in any CBA PD activity across the country, such as webinars and conferences. In addition, you will receive up to three free materials-level registrations to the sections of your choice and rebates of up to 3% on all CBA purchases. If you are active in CBA sections, regularly participate in other PD activities, or attend CBA conferences, the packages are an excellent added value to your base membership.
In Alberta, we take pride in recognizing the diversity of our membership, and consistently providing new offerings to meet the needs of our members. Accordingly, we are pleased to introduce two new south sections, which will be available to members starting this 2016-17 section year. The first of these is the Internationally Trained Lawyers Section, the goal of which is to address the diverse needs of those members of the profession trained outside of Canada. This section will provide insight into the qualification process for those members currently undergoing accreditation, as well as the opportunity for networking and mentorship. The second new section is the Food & Agribusiness Section, which will focus on the needs of those members who represent producers and companies involved in inputs, storage, trading, transportation and logistics, processing and distribution, and retail within the food and agribusiness sector. Both of these sections are available for members to attend in person in Calgary, or via webcast throughout the province. We are also proud to offer the Food & Agribusiness Section via webcast to members across Canada – a first for any Alberta Branch section.
Every member of the CBA Executive comes into the role of president with a personal list of priorities that they wish to achieve during their term. I have been overwhelmed by the support of my fellow executive in my efforts to achieve these goals. They included steering CBA Alberta to a balanced budget (which we achieved this year), and trying to get the Province of Alberta to adopt legislation to deal with the division of property when common law couples break up. I am pleased to say that the Alberta government has advised that work is now proceeding to create that legislation. I also made it a priority to press for the appointment of additional Queen’s Bench judges. I can categorically state that the CBA has played a large role in raising the visibility of the issue across the country generally, and especially with the media and the federal government. The hardest part of reaching the end of my term is coming to the realization that sometimes, the best that you can accomplish in one year is to get the ball rolling in the right direction. You then have to simply hope that the ball keeps rolling.
It has been an honour to serve the members of CBA Alberta and I only hope that I have done so in a way that honours the great history and contribution of other past presidents of CBA Alberta.
Wayne Barkauskas is the 2015-16 President of the Canadian Bar Association, Alberta Branch. He has practiced law for more than 20 years, having been in-house counsel for Canadian Airlines Internatoinal before switching to the practice of family law. As a partner with the firm of Wise Schieble Barkauskas in Calgary, Wayne has become one of the most experienced family law lawyers in the province, and is now also a mediator, a parenting coordinator, and arbitrator.