APB was formed as a result of the 2010 merger of the Western Canada Society to Access Justice and Pro Bono Law of British Columbia. The merger brought together BC's two leading pro bono organizations with the objective of delivering a full spectrum of pro bono services for low-income clients.

History of the Western Canada Society to Access Justice (1990 to 2010)

The Western Canada Society to Access Justice (“Access Justice”) was incorporated in August of 1990 and was originally known as the Lower Mainland Society to Assist Research of Trials (START), comprised mainly of senior litigation lawyers.  Its founder and champion for many years until his untimely death in 2006 was Dugald Christie.

Access Justice had a history of research and provided a number of working papers on the length of court proceedings and other legal access issues. It was a leader in issues such as advocating for the abolition of PST and GST on legal bills. From 1999 onwards, one of the Society’s main thrusts was the development of pro bono clinics across western Canada.  Dugald Christie had originated the clinic model while working with the Salvation Army’s Pro Bono Program, and later went on to establish clinics throughout BC.

For individuals who are interested in more detail about the origins of Access Justice and Mr. Christie’s work, there are several printed and web-based resources including a commemorative issue of the UBC Law Review (Volume 40, Number 2; October 2007) and various annual reports for the organization.  These materials are available through the APB office.

History of Pro Bono Law of British Columbia (2002 to 2010)

Pro Bono Law of BC (PBLBC) arose from a joint initiative of the Canadian Bar Association (BC Branch) and the Law Society of BC to promote pro bono legal services in BC.  A series of reports and a community forum in October 2001 culminated in the incorporation of PBLBC in April 2002.  It’s original mandate, as supported by Law Foundation of BC funding, was to engage in community development, lawyer recruitment, and development of a pro bono website.

PBLBC began its program delivery initiatives with its Supreme Court Civil Duty Counsel Project, with a Court of Appeal pro bono project in cooperation with the Salvation Army, and through support of the Vancouver Self-Help Information Centre.  Roster programs were then added for representation services in selected case areas, including for judicial review, for cases in the Federal Court of Canada, and for solicitors’ services for non-for-profit organizations.  PBLBC also developed various supportive resources such as the Community Partnership Manual.

For individuals who are interested in more detail about the establishment of PBLBC, there are a number of reports and other resources available including the 2002 report entitled “Pro Bono Publico - lawyers serving the public good in British Columbia”.  This report is available online and other materials of interest are available through the APB office.    

History of the Merger (2008 to 2010)

The growth of the organized pro bono movement in BC during the early 2000s was accompanied by a growing expectation within the profession that there was an obligation to ensure service delivery was provided as efficiently as possible.  Various informal meetings between the two organizations led to a collaborative research project in early 2008 focused on the possibility of merger.  Later in the year, the two organizations met under the sponsorship of the Law Foundation of British Columbia and a commitment in principle was agreed to by the respective boards of directors.  During the early part of 2009, the two organizations began the groundwork for the merger and in October 2009 moved to a joint office at our current location.  The merger was formalized in April 2010 with the incorporation of the new society, and its registration as a charitable entity.