By Ola Malik
As I write this report to members in late April, it is hard to say what our world will look like when this issue of Law Matters lands on your desks and in your email inboxes in late May. In a very short time, the COVID-19 outbreak has had a profound impact on all of us – on how and where we work and connect with our clients and work colleagues, how we live our lives with our kids and family, and how all of us are helping our clients navigate our justice system at a time of adaptation and change. And then to top it off, the flood in Fort McMurray!
As the voice of the legal profession, the CBA regularly engages with various stakeholders including the courts, government, the Law Society of Alberta, and various other legal associations. Today is no different. COVID-19 has required all of us to work together in finding new ways to practice our profession and to ensure that our courts remain open and accessible for the work we do for our clients.
Our profession is undergoing an immediate crisis, the likes of which we have not seen in our lifetime. Our members know that their professional lives will not quite look the same when they return to work. Some may not have jobs to return to and others may see their work environment greatly changed. There is, understandably so, a great deal of apprehension about what the practice of law post-COVID will look like.
There’s little question that COVID-19 has exposed fundamental structural shortcomings in our system of administration of justice. Addressing this may well require, as some have argued, a complete re-imagining — and big systems change. This is a critically important discussion we cannot avoid, and we will continue to engage our members in answering the big questions that address these shortcomings in our justice system in the coming weeks, months and years.
To this end, in April I had the pleasure of hosting a webinar series with Alberta's courts where we addressed the immediate challenges posed to the legal profession by the COVID-19 outbreak. We first heard from the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta with Chief Justice Moreau and Associate Chief Justice Nielsen, and then held a second session with the Provincial Court of Alberta where we were joined by Chief Judge Matchett, Deputy Chief Judge McLellan and the team of Assistant Chief Judges. Both sessions are available to all CBA Alberta members to watch on demand on our website, and I encourage you to visit www.cba-alberta.org/COVID-19 to access these and other resources related to the pandemic.
I am proud of the transition that our organization has made to provide relevant programming to our members remotely. In a relatively short amount of time, our Sections changed gears and began providing their content to members by webcast. In order to strengthen the community of our members in the face of physical distancing requirements, we also made the decision to offer webcast Section meetings to all active CBA Alberta members at no charge. On behalf of our Board of Directors, I want to extend our thanks to the Section Executive Committees for their leadership during this time of transition, and for providing programming to our members to help us all make sense of our "new normal" and the impacts on our practices.
This is a time of transition for our magazine as well. This current issue marks the penultimate issue of Law Matters to appear in print. After the summer 2020 edition, we will be moving to a fully digital publication, assisted by CBA National. As indicated in the Editors' Note for this issue, you can find some online exclusive content related to the COVID-19 outbreak on our website and our new digital platform at www.nationalmagazine.ca/LawMatters. I have been passionate about our branch publication since long before my time on the CBA Alberta Executive Committee and am impressed with the direction it has taken in the last several years under the leadership of our current editors. I want to thank our editors and the entire Editorial Committee for their efforts in transitioning Law Matters to a fully digital publication and look forward to seeing the results of these efforts as we move to the new platform.
We are nearing the end of election season at CBA Alberta, with the elections for our vacant Board Directors and Secretary positions closing on June 1. All eligible voting members of CBA Alberta will have received an electronic ballot through Simply Voting in your email inbox in early May. If you have not already done so, I encourage you to submit your votes for your candidates of choice. I could not be more pleased by the strong and diverse group of members running for the Board Directors and Secretary positions this year and know we will be well-served by the successful candidates. You can familiarize yourself with the group of candidates on our website at www.cba-alberta.org/Election.
The Agenda for Justice & Advocacy Committee has recently finalized our new Public Statement and Submissions Policy, which governs submissions made to public bodies or statements made to the media by members on behalf of CBA Alberta. Advocacy is an important part of the work that we do, and it is becoming increasingly common for the provincial government to reach out to CBA Alberta for public policy consultations. We often rely on the subject matter experts in our Sections to provide feedback for such requests and appreciate the assistance of our Sections and members in coordinating this feedback. I encourage our members to review this policy on our website.
In closing, I want to extend my best wishes to our members, their staff and colleagues, and their families for your continued good health. While we all may feel disconnected from our colleagues as we continue to physically distance and work from home, the value of the community that we foster at CBA Alberta becomes more important than ever. For however long this "new normal" lasts, we are committed to continuing to build and strengthen this community and find new ways for our members to engage.
Ola Malik is the President of the Canadian Bar Association - Alberta Branch. He is a lawyer in the Law and Legislative Service Department at the City of Calgary where he practices regulatory law, conducts Charter litigation and provices a broad range of in-house advice. Ola serves on the boards of various organizations including Calgary Legal Guidance and the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Association.