President’s Message

On November 25, 2021, the Vancouver Bar Association was excited to return to the Hotel Vancouver and hold its Annual General Meeting in a hybrid live/virtual format. It was the VBA’s first in-person event since March 2020. Despite the reduced capacity and lack of silent auction, it was enjoyed by all. Thank you to all virtual and in-person attendees for your continued support.

The team that planned this ambitious event, and overcame many challenges in making it happen, deserve special recognition. Many thanks to Samantha Chang, Niall Rand, Wendy Zhang, Shaun Foster, Priscilla Wingenbach, and Paul Kressock. We are also grateful to the Fairmont staff and management for delivering a first-class experience.

The VBA’s AGM would arguably be an ordinary annual general meeting if not for another hard-working group of individuals. They are, of course, the candidates running for election to the board of directors. The six positions elected annually are coveted and the competition for votes is part of what makes this AGM special. The candidates bring an excitement to the evening as they whirl around the ballroom meeting, greeting, handing out stickers, and bartering for votes.

We thank this year’s candidates and are excited to welcome Catherine Repel, Dalton Stark, Elise Kohno, Justin Abrioux, Leah Senevirante, and Sean Gallagher as the VBA’s newest members-at-large. We look forward to working with this enthusiastic and talented group over the next two years.

For six new members-at-large to join the board, six must step down. It is with deep gratitude that we see Pamela Lindsay, Vanessa Williams, Patrick Beechinor, Paul Kressock, Shaun Foster, and Niall Rand finish their terms. Their dedication and adaptability ensured the VBA survived through the most troublesome times of our institutional memory.

Beginning their second year as members-at-large are Heather Doi, Ryan Laity, Priscilla Wingenbach, Paula Krawus, Wendy Zhang, and Megan Young. Elected during the pandemic, this group is uniquely motivated to rebuild our membership, deliver our marquee events, and find creative new ways to fulfill our mandate in the coming year.

The AGM also brought changes to the leadership of the board of directors. Culminating five years’ service to the VBA, Andrea Fraser completed her term as past president. Andrea, often referred to as one of the brightest stars in the constellation of past presidents, guided us to a sustainable position in circumstances that prevented the VBA from hosting its traditional events. With the VBA safe, Samantha Chang defined her term as president by challenging the board to engage the membership and fulfill our mandate without in-person events. In the past year, we began health and wellness challenges, continued our Breakfast with the Bench summer series virtually, and expanded our CLE programming.

Though it is daunting to follow in their footsteps, I am inspired by Andrea and Sam’s adaptability and tenacity through two years of uncertainty. I am also inspired by the excitement and enthusiasm of the AGM attendees. Perhaps the evening’s atmosphere reflected the release of pent-up social energy, however, helping lawyers connect with their peers and colleagues from all sizes of firm, practice areas, and sides of the bar is undoubtedly what the VBA does best. I am proud of the ways we have expanded the services we provide our members, but safely hosting our traditional major events in 2022 is my top priority.

To that end, we are actively planning the Whistler Ski Race, the Judge’s Lunch, the Devil’s Advocate, the Dodgeball Tournament, and the Fall Festival. Our committee chairpeople are drafting budgets, securing venues, and identifying sponsors.  While in-person events are contingent on public health circumstances, our goal is to be ready and willing once it is safe to proceed.

The other major in-person event we are planning is the 2022 AGM. Last year’s hybrid event exceeded all expectations. However, the charity silent auction, which traditionally raises over $17,000 for Access Pro Bono and the Lawyer’s Assistance Program, was sorely missed. The auction has not been feasible for the last two years. Our 2022 goal is to bring it back bigger and better. It should be noted that last year’s AGM included some fundraising efforts. In addition to donating all proceeds from virtual ticket sales to Access Pro Bono, we held a 50/50 raffle. Thank you to everyone who purchased tickets in support of the worthy cause and helped to raise over $1,500. We are especially grateful to the winners for generously donating their prize money back to Access Pro Bono.

While we aim to resume in-person events, it is important to recognize the other services the VBA provides. More specifically, we wish to recognize partners that facilitate some of our longest running programs.

This summer will mark the 17th year of the VBA softball league. The league would not be possible without Jamie Gopaulsingh and we are incredibly grateful for his work. Since the league’s inception, Jaimie has secured the fields and insurance, collected waivers, coordinated captains, drafted schedules, and ensured the popular league remains fun and accessible to everyone in the legal community.

We are also excited to announce that a new sports program is underway. Last fall, Logan Rogers approached the board, proposing a drop-in basketball league. The VBA embraced this idea and Logan has worked diligently to secure a gym, draft waivers, create safety plans, obtain insurance, and integrate with our website. At the time of writing, funding for the first season is approved, and by the time you read this the league will be well underway.

The Inns of Court program, founded in 1984 by Former Chief Justice McEachern, is our longest running continuing education program. As anyone who has participated will agree, it is also the best learning experience available to ambitious junior litigators. While it has been held in abeyance since 2020, we are glad to announce its resumption. This is almost entirely thanks to Michael Libby, who has managed this program for the last 15 years. We are grateful to Michael and Chief Justice Hinkson for all their work on this program.

The VBA has proudly published the Advocate magazine since 1943 and in the last decade former VBA president and secretary/treasurer, Michael Bain, QC has been its editor and so much more. His passion for the Advocate is unmatched and we are proud to collaborate with him for the benefit of this important publication. We also greatly appreciate the opportunity to publish this update to our members and the broader legal community.

The VBA is fortunate to have these partners, who keep these programs running for the benefit of the legal community regardless of the current president or board of directors. In the same way, the VBA is supported by two people that make everything we do possible. Liene Larson, our business manager since 2020, runs our books, manages the database, administers the locker rentals, send the e-blasts, and answers your emails. We are grateful for all her invaluable work.

We also wish to recognize outgoing board member Shaun Foster. Before law, Shaun worked in information and technology and, by most lawyer’s standards, is a computer genius. During his board tenure Shaun modernized our database management. He also managed our website, which we previously contracted out at some expense. Although his two-year term is up, we are delighted that he has volunteered to continue managing our IT systems.

The last group of people that are essential to the VBA’s success are those with whom I work closest, incoming vice president, Niall Rand, and our secretary treasurer Zach Rogers. Without their support and passion, none of this year’s ambitions could ever come to fruition.

Niall continues his two years of service after being acclaimed our new vice president at the 2021 AGM. In addition to his ongoing support to the board, Niall is planning major updates to the barrister’s lounge in the Vancouver Courthouse. That space is maintained and operated by the VBA and, after a decade, is ready for updated furniture and amenities. Niall’s multi-phase project is sure to keep him busy for his three remaining years with the organization. It is my pleasure to work with Niall and we look forward to leading this year’s board.

Zach Rogers has been the secretary treasurer since November 2020 and is a former member-at-large, having served on the board from 2017 to 2019. The VBA benefits immensely from each year he chooses to dedicate his time to us. Zach works closely with Shaun and Liene to streamline and modernize our systems and expand the organization’s capacity to serve its members. Many thanks to Zach for his ongoing passion and ambition.

In some ways this VBA member update can be summarize quite simply. The 2021 AGM was not only a success, but gave me and this year’s board a shot of much needed optimism that things will return to normal this year. We are preparing for the best-case scenario, and only events out of our control will prevent us from resuming marquee in-person events. We are grateful to all the people who work with us for the benefit of our members. We are equally grateful for the continued support of our nearly 1,200 members and we look forward to seeing you throughout the year.