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Fitzgerald to give keynote at annual CBA meeting

|Written By Kirsten Mcmahon

Attendees at the Canadian Bar Association’s 2006 Canadian Legal Conference in St. John’s will be both informed and entertained, says outgoing CBA president Brian Tabor.

Great Big Sea will be entertaining conference goers at the opening night gala in St. John?s.

“What we’re trying to do is make this whole conference really an event for the legal professional in Canada,” he says of the gathering, which takes place Aug. 13 to 15. “We’re going to try and be thought-provoking with the speakers, we’re going to get you some good CLE, and we’re also going to persuade you to have some fun as we all strive for that life balance.”

Tabor says he is most looking forward to the guest speakers this year, in particular U.S. Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, who will deliver the keynote address on public corruption and the pursuit of justice at the opening plenary session on Aug. 13.

For the past four years, Fitzgerald, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, has played a key role in investigations involving terrorism financing, public corruption, corporate fraud, and violent crime.

“I’d like to hear what he has to say about his front-of-the-toboggan experience on some of the cases that he’s been engaged in,” Tabor says.

Other feature speakers include John Crosbie (who served for 28 years at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels of government), Brian Tobin (former premier of Newfoundland and federal fisheries minister), and General Rick Hillier (Chief of the Defence Staff).

As well, writer/actor Rick Mercer (This Hour Has 22 Minutes, The Rick Mercer Report) will be sure to amuse attendees at the closing lunch on Aug. 15.

Which, of course, fits in nicely to the entertainment portion of the conference, which Tabor says has been considerably ramped up this year.

“We’re constantly looking at the [conference]. It’s a constant review process as to ways to enhance and improve the offering,” he says. “We’ve got [St. John’s-based, Juno-nominated] Great Big Sea to anchor — pun intended — our opening night for the fun component.”

Incoming CBA president

J. Parker MacCarthy, of Nanaimo, B.C., says once again his family will be joining him at the annual conference.

“One of the great things that we’ve taken advantage of is the opportunity to see every region of Canada through making the CBA meetings part and parcel of our family vacations,” he says.

“I think just being involved in the CBA has made me a better Canadian, just in the sense of the understanding of our nation. I think it’s somewhat regrettable that people know so little about this country and about the different regions,” he says.

Great Big Sea will be entertaining conference goers at the opening night gala in St. John?s.

But the conference isn’t just about the golf tournament, day tours, at-home dinners, and law firm parties. This year’s CLE component offers more than 20 sessions on matters such as the active role of the Canadian legal community in international development, Charter issues such as freedom of religion, bilingual police services, and 20 years of equality rights under the Charter.

Sessions on sharing health information versus the right to privacy, and refugee selection in the 21st century, are also on the agenda.

The annual Canadian Corporate Counsel Association conference takes place at the same time. Incoming CCCA president Sandra Swystun, corporate counsel at Agricore United — the largest grain handling, crop input, and feed manufacturing company in Western Canada — says she’s looking forward to the annual meeting for both the substantive and social aspects of the national gathering.

“Our conference programs have become very strong and relevant,” she says of the more than 20 sessions offered at the CCCA conference this year. “I find it a pleasant challenge to have to pick and choose among the workshop options that our organizing committee designed.

“In addition, the annual conference always includes extraordinary networking opportunities and events,” she says.

The CCCA programs follow the theme Finding Safe Harbours: Charting Your Course with Best Practices. Keynote speakers include former Newfoundland Premier Brian Peckford; Newfoundland Chief Justice Clyde Wells; and Brad Gushue, skip of the Canadian men’s Olympic gold curling team.

This year also marks the first time that new federal Justice Minister Vic Toews will be addressing the CBA, on Aug. 14 at the conference’s annual dialogue with the Justice minister. With the many proposed amendments the Conservatives have made to the Criminal Code to get tough on crime, there’s little doubt there will be plenty of questions and commentary from the floor.

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin will address the CBA council on Aug. 12 and will hold a news conference immediately following her address.

This year, CBA council will be addressing such resolutions as whether the association should urge the federal and provincial governments to consider funding programs to lessen law school students’ debt, abolish taxes on legal services, pay fair compensation to legal aid lawyers, and modernize the Privacy Act.

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