As I mentioned at the Annual General Meeting last May, I have opted to use the “Word from the Bâtonnier” column to keep our members informed of the Council’s progress regarding its goal of building a Bar for the future, a Bar that is generous-hearted and inclusive for all its members, a Bar enriched by the diversity of today’s Greater Montreal.

For nearly 100 years—since 1922 to be specific—the members of the Bar of Montreal have followed a tradition whereby every three years the elected bâtonnier is alternately an Anglophone (or non-Francophone). Since that time, the tradition of alternating has worked very well.

I must confess that four years ago, before sitting on the Council of the Bar of Montreal, I was unaware of this tradition. Nor did I know that 4 of the 13 positions on the Council were reserved for non-Francophones to mirror the Montreal reality, a reality which, with its large multicultural community, differs from that of other sections of the Bar.

I was informed that, in a predominantly French text, bâtonniers could slip in a few English sentences or paragraphs for members who might be more at ease in that language. In recent years, bâtonniers have more or less followed this tradition as they saw fit. For my part, I chose to address members using approximately two-thirds French and one-third English.

At no time was I seeking to sidestep the law or spark a debate on the language issue. That said, in response to a colleague’s request and to comments received since, the Council met, and after examining the facts and our traditions, it was decided that the “Word from the Bâtonnier” would be written in French from now on, with an English version posted online. In fact, although we were comfortable with the earlier practice, given the important agenda we have adopted to accomplish a mandate that we hope will be highly positive, we chose to put an end to the controversy in order to devote our energies to achieving our goals.

I wish to add that for nine years, I served as a member of the Board of Directors of the CBC/Radio-Canada, where I was an ardent defender of the interests of both Francophones outside Quebec and Anglophones within Quebec. In this context, what saddens me about this controversy is the negative image it conveys. Those who know me also know that my most ardent wish is to bring people together, certainly not to divide them. It was in fact for this very reason that I chose to serve my term as Bâtonnier under the theme of inclusion. I also wish to say that I have greatly appreciated the many testimonials received in the last few days.

Convinced that sound governance requires transparency, I intend to make regular use of the “Word from the Bâtonnier” to keep members informed of the activities carried out by the Bar of Montreal on their behalf.

In closing, and on a happier note, I invite you to read the following article about Mtre Richard Pound, recipient of the Medal of The Bar of Montreal. This eminent colleague, through his impressive career of service to the community, provides an excellent example of what makes us so proud to belong to the profession. I invite you to congratulate him in person on the Journée du Barreau, to be held on September 7.

Cordially,

BRIAN R. MITCHELL, Bâtonnier


August 22, 2017