Presenting the Council

Article diffused on January 14, 2015

Your Bar laid bare
By Luana Ann Church, lawyer

It is obvious that some myths persist about the composition of the Council of the Bar of Montreal. For some, it is the privilege of lawyers from large firms; for others, it is an assembly of acquaintances who have developed close ties over time. As the year begins, and on the threshold of the Council’s composition for 2015-2016, it seems like an opportune time to offer a brief overview of the Council, because being a Council member can be a different way to get involved in our legal community, gain experience in administration and, above all, get to know colleagues in different areas of practice and from different backgrounds who, without this volunteer opportunity, would probably never have crossed our professional path.

Montreal is unique (UNESCO City of Design, multicultural, bilingual…) and its Council is just as unique, within the limits of the legislative framework that applies to it. Each Council, in accordance with the General By-laws of the Bar of Montreal, is composed of 13 members, including four officers, namely the Bâtonnier, the First Councillor, the Treasurer and the Secretary who, traditionally, is the outgoing president of the Young Bar Association of Montreal. Of the other nine Councillors, at least one must be a representative of the Young Bar Association of Montreal. Montreal’s bilingual character is also taken into consideration in the composition of the Council, since the General By-laws stipulate that at least four members of the Council must be English-speaking.These members are chosen by the English-Speaking Section of the Bar of Montreal, after consultation with its members. According to a tradition dating back almost a hundred years, French-speaking and English-speaking Bâtonniers alternate, with a French-speaking Bâtonnier for two consecutive years, and then an English-speaking Bâtonnier for the third year. These members are elected on a date between April 20 and May 10 for a one- or two-year term, depending on the desired position. The Council traditionally meets every month, except during summer, in the Salle Maurice-Boileau of the Bar of Montreal and meetings usually last a few hours.

According to the General By-laws of the Bar of Montreal, the Council exercises the powers that are conferred upon it by the Act Respecting the Barreau du Québec and its regulations, and by the General By-laws.

In spite of recent changes concerning governance at the Barreau du Québec, section 38 of the Act Respecting the Barreau du Québec, dealing with the sections’ power to make by-laws, remains unchanged. Thus the mission of the Bar of Montreal, which is to protect the public by providing information and enhancing awareness of rights and by participating actively in the administration of justice, also remains unchanged.

To carry out its mission, the Bar of Montreal has a number of ways and means at its disposal, including the formation by the Council, at the beginning of its mandate, of some 40 committees to study a variety of topics, such as the administration of justice in civil, criminal and administrative matters, relations with members and the public, access to justice in the English language, and the image of lawyers. However, these committees only have the power to make recommendations to the Council and cannot bind it. It is up to the Council, after analysis, to decide whether or not to act on the various recommendations submitted to it by the committees. After analyzing the recommendations of the different committees, the Council may, on an ad hoc basis, intervene with the provincial Ministère de la Justice, the federal Department of Justice or the Barreau du Québec to assert a position it deems reflective of Montreal’s view of a given issue or topic.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the Council’s tasks:

  • Adopt the budget that will guide the future Council and determine the amount of the Section’s annual contribution.
  • Monitor developments in the financial position through the monthly financial statements.
  • Study grant applications submitted to it based on established criteria.
  • Award the Medal of the Bar of Montreal to persons who have made a remarkable contribution to the cause of justice, and the Merit of the Bar of Montreal to persons who have distinguished themselves by their exceptional contribution to the Bar of Montreal and its activities, following consultation with the Conference of former Bâtonniers.
  • Analyze applications for re-entry on the Roll of the Bar pursuant to section 70 of the Act Respecting the Barreau du Québec and make recommendations to the Barreau du Québec.

In addition to these various tasks, Council members are invited to a number of activities, including the Journée du Barreau, the monthly group swearing-in ceremony for new lawyers, the Salon VISEZ DROIT, the joint meeting with the Board of Directors of the Young Bar Association of Montreal and the joint meeting with the Conference of former Bâtonniers.

At the end of his or her term, the Bâtonnier presents a report on his or her term of office to members at the annual general meeting. This report, which is included with the annual report distributed at the meeting, is available to the public, since it is online. It also outlines the many achievements of the committees and the Council.

I was a member of the Council in 2013-2014 as a representative of the Young Bar Association of Montreal, and the experience I gained has been very enriching and has given me greater insight into the issues related to management of the Section’s affairs.

Are you ready to take the plunge? Nothing could be simpler. Just watch for your March newsletter, which will give all the relevant information.