During the last Legislative Session, the Ontario Bar Association, with the support of its Sections, achieved some significant advocacy goals, some with very specific benefits to the entire profession.
The first was the OBA’s identification of four elements in Bill 49, the Ontario Immigration Actthat were of significant concern to Immigration Lawyers specifically and to the bar more broadly. With a written submission and an appearance to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy, the OBA was instrumental in achieving reform on all four of its areas of concern:
- There were provisions in the original bill that permitted warrantless inspections of law offices and threatened privilege. The OBA advocated for:
- the elimination of the warrantless inspection of law firms;
- explicit language to protection of privilege; and
- recognition that searches of law firms must be carefully tailored to respect privilege.
Result: The warrantless inspection of law firms has been eliminated, privilege explicitly protected in the bill and there was a recognition that search warrants executed on law firms would have to respect conditions in the warrant;
- Absolute liability penalties existed in the original bill. The defences of due diligence and honest and reasonable mistaken belief of fact were explicitly made unavailable. The OBA indicated that, in this context, absolute liability was contrary to principles of fundamental justice, inappropriate and would deter participation in the program.
Result: The absolute liability provisions of the bill have been eliminated and the defences of due diligence and honest, reasonable and mistaken belief will be available for the administrative penalties under the Act, if passed.
- The OBA made a recommendation to protect self-regulation. There was a provision in the bill that could have been interpreted to delineate who could practice law in Ontario. The OBA, as well as the Law Society, advocated for a clarification to ensure that decisions about who could practice law in Ontario would remain the purview of the independent regulator.
Result: Changes have been made to the bill to clarify that the question of who may practice in Ontario would be determined by the Law Society Act and applicable federal legislation.
- The bill originally provided an overly broad discretion for decision-makers to reject applications despite the fact that the application complied with the provisions of the legislative scheme. We suggested the discretion in this provision was so broad as to violate the rule of law.
Result: The provision will be amended to help ensure that decision makers act reasonably and we will continue to work with government to ensure that the factors to be considered by decision makers will be transparent to the profession and the public.
An amended Bill was reported back to the House for third reading.
The OBA, with the support of its Franchise Law Section also successfully advocated for changes to Bill 45, the Making Healthier Choices Act, which requires food service premises that are part of a chain to display caloric information about standard food items.
The Section was concerned that the Bill, as drafted, was overly broad and imposed liability on parties for matters that were not within their control. As such, the Bill would have had unintended consequences on the legal and commercial relationships for franchisors and franchisees. After carefully analyzing the bill and associated legislation, the OBA proposed specific language to government and the Standing Committee, which was adopted as the only substantive amendment to the bill.
These are important accomplishments for both the profession and public policy, demonstrating the impact of OBA members on the frontlines of Ontario’s justice system. They are one example of the important role the OBA can play in advocating on behalf of lawyers to stakeholders and organizations.
Visit oba.org/Advocacy to learn more about the OBA’s advocacy initiatives.