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BarTalk is published six times per year by the British Columbia Branch of the Canadian Bar Association, the leader and voice of Canada’s legal profession.

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    APRIL 2005 VOLUME 17, NUMBER 2

    SST Declared Unconstitutional in Part Appeal and cross -appeal both filed

    I n a decision that adds to the momentum of the CBA's campaign to remove the Social Services Tax (SST) on legal fees, Koenigsberg, J. released a landmark decision in Christie v. AG of B.C. In this case, counsel Darrell Roberts, Q.C. and Robin Bajer, both of Miller Thomson LLP, successfully argued on behalf of Vancouver lawyer Dugald Christie that the Social Services Tax on legal services impedes and denies justice for low income persons, contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    Justice Koenigsberg declared the Social Services Tax Amendment Act ultra vires the Province of British Columbia to the extent that it applies to legal servic-es provided for low income persons, as defined by the income and asset levels that determine eligibility "for the Family Duty Counsel Program of the Legal Services Society .. . as set forth in its policy and proce-dures manual." She also ordered the return to Mr. Christie of more than $6,000 that was seized by the government when Mr. Christie could not pay the tax owed on services provided to his clients.

    In the days following release of the decision, con-flicting messages came from the Revenue and Attorney General ministries: on the one hand, lawyers were told they were responsible for ensuring that clients under a certain income threshold were not charged SST; on the other hand, it was unclear whether the Attorney General would appeal the decision and lawyers would be liable for SST on those clients' bills should the appeal be successful.

    www.cba.org/bc

    Adding to the confusion, the Ministry of Revenue initially posted a website link to a chart showing the income thresholds for legal aid eligibili-ty, which are lower than those referenced in the court decision. The Ministry then removed the link and posted the duty counsel threshold levels that were in place the day of Mr. Christie's affidavit being filed . In the meantime, the Legal Services Society (LSS) had raised those thresholds quite substantially (the lowest level rising from $28,000 to $32,000). Anyone reading the Christie decision and referencing the LSS website for "LSS Family Duty Counsel Income Thresholds" found the new levels.

    Clarification has been sought from government, and has recently been provided . Lawyers with clients who may qualify for SST exemption need to educate themselves about the new requirements. Links to Ministry of Revenue information and Law Society instructions to lawyers are available at www.cba.org/bc.

    The Attorney General is appealing the Christie decision, and Mr. Christie's counsel has filed a cross-appeal to have the Act declared ultra vires and the SST on legal services eliminated. The CBABC has resolved to contribute to appeal costs, as part of the Branch's ongoing commitment to have this arbitrary and harmful tax removed for all British Columbians who have need of legal services. BT

    The Canadian Bar Association

    British Columbia

  • UP FRONT

    4 From the President 5 Executive Director 6 National News 8 Section Talk

    by Shelley Bentley

    10 Practice Talk by David f. Bilinsky

    12 Nothing Official by Tony Wilson

    13 On the Web by Patricia Jordan

    LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

    14 Acts In Force Legislative Update is available to CBA members at www.cba.org/bc.

    IN THE BACK

    20 Events 24 Bar Moves 25 Member Services 26 Partners

    B.C. Courthouse Library Society French Jurists Association of B. C. Continuing Legal Education Society of B.C. Law Foundation of B.C.

    28 Classified Ads

    2 BARTALK April 2005

    FEATURED THIS ISSUE

    In this issue we turn our focus to the vibrant small centres of B.C. In the Cariboo they are planning another fantastic AGM, in Comox the local bar is dreaming of summer baseball games, and in other cities and towns, local bars are organizing Law Week celebrations for their communities.

    The bar in this province is active from corner to cor-ner and we intend to bring you regional stories in this and future issues.

    15 Big City, Big Deals? by Warren Smith

    16 B.C. Voices Island and Interior lawyers consider the practice of law

    GUEST CONTRIBUTORS

    18 A Point in the Judicial Direction The process for appointment to the Provincial Court by the Hon. Chief Judge Carol Baird Etlan

    19 Court Services Online by the Hon. Geoff Plant, Attorney General

    Have you moved? Let us know! If you have changed firms, addresses, e-mail addresses or phone/fax numbers, please let us know. E-mail us at data@bccba.org. phone 604-687-3404 or fax 604-669-9601 or contact us toll-free [phone 1-888-687-3404, fax 1-877-669-96011.

  • Canadian Bar Association, B.C. Branch 1Oth Floor, 845 Cambie Street

    Vancouver, B.C. V6B 5T3 Tel: 604-687-3404

    Toll-free (in B.C.]: 1-888-687-3404

    BarTalk is published six times per year by the Canadian Bar Association, British Columbia Branch.

    BarTalk Senior Editor Caroline Nevin 604-687-3404, ext. 320 cnevin@bccba.org

    BarTalk Editor Sandra Webb 604-646-7856 slgwebb@bccba .org

    Editorial Board Chair David Dundee ddundee@kamloopslaw.com

    Ed itorial Board Members Kenneth Armstrong Johanne Blenkin Anna Feglerska Sarah Klinger Susan MacFarlane Christine Mingie Gurminder Sandhu Veronica Singer Dierk Ullrich

    Copyright the British Columbia Branch of the Canadian Bar Association 2005.

    This publication is intended for informa-tion purposes only and the information herein should not be applied to specific fact circumstances without the advice of legal counsel.

    The Canadian Bar Association, British Columbia Branch represents more than 5,400 members within British Columbia and is dedicated to improving and pro-moting access to justice, reviewing legis-lation, initiating law reform measures and advancing and improving the admin-istration of justice. BarTalk Publication Sales Agreement #40741008

    The Canadian

    Bar Association British Columbia

    CAROLINE NEVIN LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

    PENGE BUNGALOW SYNDROME (VOL. 17, NO.1) I am a huge Rumpole fan . Now here's my question: in what book does Mortimer actually write about the Penge Bungalow murders?

    Send your LETTERS TO THE EDITOR to : Caroline Nevin, BarTalk Senior Editor Canadian Bar Association, B.C. Branch Fax: 604-669-9601 Toll-free fax: 1-877-669-9601 E-mail: cnevin@bccba .org

    He's always referring to it but I've never read about the actual case. As an aside, in the mid-80s I was on the front cover of Lawyer

    Magazine as the gold medalist from University of Manitoba Law School. I remember thinking it was all downhill from there. Not quite true, but I've never been on the cover again.

    -Name withheld by request

    [Humour columnist Tony Wilson's reply: He mentions Penge Bungalow all the time, but Mortimer has only just written and released

    Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders, a prequel, I suppose, to all his other misadventures.]

    Win "Miss Saigon" Tickets Enter to win two tickets to "Miss Saigon" at the Stanley Theatre in Vancouver bye-mailing your name to cba@bccba.org with the subject "Miss Saigon Contest." The contest closes on Friday, May 6. We will hold a draw shortly thereafter and contact the winner by phone. You must be a CBA member on May 6, 2005 to be eligible to win. [Please allow up to 10 business days for processing membership fees .) Congratulations to Rowan Davison of Orchard & Company in Duncan , who won two tickets to "The Lawyer Show" on March 12. Mr. Davison guessed closest to the number of CBABC members as of March 1, 2005.

    April 2005 BARTALK 3

  • 2

    FROM THE PRESIDENT MICHAEL C. WOODWARD

    4

    SST on Legal Services A leaky boat

    I t is difficult to imagine a more fundamental right than "access to justice." If even one citizen is denied access to jus-

    tice by the actions of his or her own government, then all citizens have less than justice.

    On February 8th, in Christie v.

    infringement of access to justice by low income persons.

    AG of B.C., 2005 BCSC 122, Koenigsberg J. declared Bill 8, the Social Service Tax Amendment Act (No. 2), S.B.C. c. 24 to be, in part, unconstitutional, on precisely this ground. She said, "Thus I find the Act infringes the fundamental

    Michael C. Woodward President 2004/2005

    The CBABC is pleased with the removal of this impediment to provision of legal services to our lower-income citizens. I want to specifically commend Darrell Roberts, Q .C. and Robin Bajer who, acting pro bono, successfully represented the Petitioner, noted poverty lawyer Dugald Christie.

    Last year the tax collected $100 million from the fee-paying clients of lawyers in this province.

    B.C. Branch Canadian Bar Association

    constitutional right of access to justice of low income persons and that the Act is ultra vires to that extent" (paragraph 88).

    Noteworthy is that the government did not even attempt to justify this impairment under section 1 of the Charter. Koenigsberg J. quoted McEachern CJBC in Carten, saying " .. . it is difficult to imagine how a law that impairs access to constitutional rights and remedies could be justified in a free and democratic society," and herself went on to make findings that the Act cannot be characterized as a minimal impair-ment, and that it cannot be said to pursue an objec-tive that is sufficiently important to justify limiting the Charter right delineated.

    The Social Services Tax (SST) on legal services was introduced in 1992 by the Glen Clark govern-ment through Bill 8. The Campbell government did not enact the tax, but instead inherited it. Geoff Plant Q .C., the very thoughtful and refr