Introducing Ola Malik and the new CBA Alberta

By M. Jenny McMordie

As summer holidays become a distant memory and children are now firmly back at school, the Canadian Bar Association has also begun its new calendar: September 1 marks the turning over of our new executive members at the national and the branch levels. And it is my pleasure to introduce to you both your new President, Ola Malik, and your new CBA-Alberta.  
CBA-Alberta represents over half of the lawyers in Alberta. These members come from large and small centres, in-house, government or private practice; in large national firms and small local firms; represent clients on every side of every issue; and have diverse personal characteristics including gender, religion, sexual identity, ethnic background, country of origin, parental or family status, etc. What is best for one member is not the same for another member. And what one member supports passionately another member may not support at all.

We all agree however, in the value of CBA Sections, which are universally appreciated by our membership. We also know that CBA is the voice of the legal profession and because it recognizes the diversity of its members, when it takes a position following internal consultation, that position is respected by the courts, by all levels of government and by the many stakeholders with whom we engage of behalf of members. The organization is therefore challenged to ensure that diverse perspectives are considered at the board level, and to enunciate broad positions which members can take pride in, even if personally they do not always agree on every point.

Following very recent approval of the new bylaws, CBA-Alberta is now governed by 13 dedicated board members, including the existing five-member executive which also includes Vice-President David Hiebert, recently-elected Treasurer Bianca Kratt, Secretary Amanda Lindberg, and our Past President Frank Friesacher. The board will also include eight further members, elected directly by the membership, to fill out a roster with a new diversity and a broader reach across the Province. Our new board will be supported, as always, with the thoughtful and experienced guidance of our Executive Director Maureen Armitage, and the CBA staff in Edmonton and Calgary who make it easy for members to participate in CBA activities whether section meetings, longer seminars, committees, etc.

As I write, we are in the middle of the first election of the new board of directors who will now govern CBA-Alberta. These individuals will help set policy and guide the organization through interesting debates and balancing of various priorities. Our new eight members will include a north and a south member who are not from Calgary or Edmonton, and a north and a south Young Lawyer (under 10 years at the bar). For this initial election, board members will be elected for one or two years, so that in future years the two-year board positions are staggered to ensure both continuity and renewal as some board members retire and new individuals join each year on September 1.

Unlike in years past, the entire membership may run for these additional board positions (subject to geography and years in practice where indicated), and unlike in years past, the majority of the membership is the electorate. In this way, you determine your new CBA-Alberta Board, and the direction of your CBA-Alberta. The changes to our structure respond particularly to members who felt that they would not have a chance to participate because the 5-year executive ladder was more of a commitment than they could offer, or because they did not know how to get into the “exclusive” club from which CBA executive members were drawn. That 24 candidates put their names forward for 8 board positions demonstrates a much higher level of interest than we have seen in past years, and is a truly rewarding response to our new governance structure, particularly given the high calibre of all of the candidates. As a member-service organization CBA-Alberta will be strengthened by this increased participation from members, whether running for the board or participating as members of the electorate.

One of the most passionate advocates for a new governance structure at CBA-Alberta has been our President for 2019-2020, Ola Malik. Ola is a lawyer in the Law and Legislative Service Department at the City of Calgary, where his practice includes regulatory law, Charter litigation and prosecutions. He writes frequently on issues pertaining to freedom of expression in public spaces. Ola is passionate about being involved in his community, serves on the boards of various organizations, including Calgary Legal Guidance and the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Association, and is deeply committed to initiatives which seek to make the legal system more accessible and understandable to the public. Ola is also a strong promoter of the Alberta Wellness Initiative’s Brain Story Certification which provides detailed science information for those seeking a deeper understanding of brain development and its consequences for lifelong health.

Those who know Ola know that he is not shy to advocate for change or to disrupt the status quo. He has shown himself to be direct, focussed and a clear thinker, and also to have a deep appreciation of the purpose of CBA-Alberta and the needs of its members. Ola is a compelling speaker and is passionate about access to justice. He is a “doer” and gets things done. Ola will, no doubt, meet as many CBA-Alberta members as possible over his year as President, and when you meet him you will find that he is genuinely interested in you as an individual. He likes people and likes to understand them. On a personal note, Ola loves to learn new things and his recent endeavours have helped him develop expertise in trail running, baking the very best chocolate cakes and playing ukulele. He is very active, likes to walk and to ride his gearless bike, and no one comes before his partner, Jennifer, and his lovely daughter, Zalea.

Many of us were privileged to hear Ola speak at recent Council meetings in which he summarized the activities of the board of directors by reading out an executive meeting agenda, which listed important activities, duties issues for discussion, and diverse wants and needs of members. He also informed us all about the results of governance surveys and how CBA-Alberta needed to restructure to be as inclusive of members as possible. For Ola, access to the CBA is part of access to justice, and he has consistently advanced this goal.

Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”  The CBA vision has begun with the new governance structure and Board of Directors in place and I look forward with great anticipation to seeing CBA’s successes as our new President and Board of Directors guide us over the coming year!

M. JENNY MCMORDIE is a past president of the Canadian Bar Association - Alberta Branch and practices in civil litigation at West End Legal Centre in Calgary.