The Uniform Law Conference of Canada: Canada's oldest law reform agency

  • November 24, 2022
  • Sarah Dafoe

Sarah Dafoe headshot


This past August, the Uniform Law Conference of Canada (ULCC) held its annual meeting in Edmonton, Alberta.

Attendees included delegates from the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, as well as members of the bench, bar, and academia. The ULCC also welcomed international representatives from the United States’ Uniform Law Commission and the European Law Institute. After two consecutive years of meeting virtually, delegates were happy to meet in person again.

The ULCC is Canada’s oldest law reform agency. It was established 104 years ago as a non-partisan organization that fosters the harmonization and improvement of Canada’s laws.

The ULCC is made up of a Criminal section and a Civil section. The Criminal section normally debates a number of resolutions recommending changes to the Criminal Code of Canada and related criminal statutes. This year, the Criminal Section considered 24 resolutions that dealt with a broad array of issues, including recommendations related to ”sextortion”, the theft of service animals, the tertiary ground for bail, and the treatment of data seized within the context of a criminal investigation and prosecution.

The Criminal Section also received status reports from several working groups, including the working group on section 672.26 of the Criminal Code involving juries and the determination of fitness to stand trial, the working group on the search warrant regime under section 487 of the Criminal Code, and the working group on technology in the courtroom.

The Civil Section works a little differently than the Criminal Section. It establishes working groups to research issues, develop reports and draft legislation. These working groups meet virtually throughout the year, and then present their reports at the annual meeting for debate and consideration. Ultimately, working group reports may result in uniform or model Acts that can then be considered for implementation by provincial and territorial governments. The enactment of uniform laws recognizes the very mobile nature of the Canadian population and seeks to ensure that, where uniformity is desirable between provinces and territories, people will be able to rely on the law being the same wherever they may be.

This year, the Civil Section adopted the Uniform Gratuitous Crowdfunding Act (UGCA) in principle, subject to minor revisions that will be reviewed by jurisdictional representatives this fall. The UGCA is the civil law version of the Uniform Benevolent and Community Crowdfunding Act, which was adopted in 2020. Other areas of law under review by the Civil Section include

general partnership law / joint ventures, conventions on drafting, charitable organizations, the modernization of the Uniform Enforcement of Canadian Judgments and Decrees Act, and consideration of how to implement the Convention of 2 July 2019 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil or Commercial Matters.

In the upcoming year, the Civil Section will continue its work reviewing charities law, a project that was initially requested by the CBA National Section on Charities and Not-for-Profit Law. This has been undertaken as a joint project between the CBA and ULCC. The Civil Section will also continue its review and updating of the Uniform Enforcement of Canadian Judgments and Decrees Act (UECJDA). This project is part of the ULCC’s efforts to update its three enforcement law uniform Acts: the UECJDA, the Uniform Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act (updates approved in 2021), and the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act.

To date the Civil Section of the ULCC has adopted over 130 uniform or model acts.The ULCC’s website contains the text of adopted uniform Acts and Criminal Section resolutions, as well as information about the history of the ULCC, its structure and its policies.

The next annual meeting will be held in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, in August 2023.

Sarah Dafoe is the President of the ULCC. She has served as an Alberta delegate to the ULCC since 2006, and was Alberta’s jurisdictional representative to the Civil Section from 2016-2021, Chair of the Civil Section in 2016-17, and Vice President in 2021-22.  Sarah has been a lawyer with Alberta’s Department of Justice since 2001, and has led and participated in many law reform projects for the Alberta government.