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 of the time, with the objective of delivering a full spectrum of pro bono services for people and non-profit organizations of limited means.
Western Canada Society to Access Justice (1990 to 2010)
Access Justice was founded by Dugald Christie in 1990 and was originally known as the Lower Mainland Society to Assist Research of Trials, comprised mainly of senior litigation lawyers. Dugald served as the organization's tireless leader until his untimely death in 2006.
Access Justice had a history of research, and provided a number of working papers on the length of court proceedings and other access to justice issues. Among other campaigns, it advocated for the abolition of PST and GST on legal bills. From 1999 onward, the organization’s main thrust was the development of pro bono advice clinics across western Canada. Dugald introduced the clinic model to BC while working with the Salvation Army.
For anyone interested in more detail about the origins of Access Justice and Dugald’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 our office.
Pro Bono Law of BC (2002 to 2010)
Pro Bono Law of BC arose as a joint initiative of the Canadian Bar Association (BC Branch) and the Law Society of BC. A series of reports and a community forum in October 2001 culminated in the incorporation of PBLBC in April 2002. Its original mandate, as supported by Law Foundation of BC funding, was to engage in community development, lawyer recruitment, and the development of a pro bono community website.
PBLBC began its service delivery initiatives in 2005 with two court-based programs in Vancouver. It then started its Roster Program for legal representation in selected case areas, including judicial review, the Federal Court of Canada, and non-profit and charity law. PBLBC also developed supportive text resources like the Community Partnership Manual.
For anyone interested in more detail about the establishment of PBLBC, there are a number of reports and resources available, including a 2002 report entitled “Pro Bono Publico - lawyers serving the public good in British Columbia”. The report is also available through our office.
The Merger (2008 to 2010)
The growth of BC's organized pro bono movement in the austerity-minded 2000s was accompanied by a growing expectation of service cost-efficiency. In 2008, Access Justice and PBLBC engaged in a collaborative research project focused on the possibility of a corporate merger. Later in the year, the two organizations met under the sponsorship of the Law Foundation of BC, agreed to merge their operations under a new society name. The two organizations moved to a joint office on Beatty Street in late 2009. The merger was formalized in April 2010 with the incorporation of the Access Pro Bono Society of BC, and its registration as a charitable entity.