Canadian Conference Report
After some discussion regarding the possibility of holding the JRCLS Annual Canadian Conference every other year, the decision was made to continue forward annually. All who attended were grateful for that decision. The 4th Annual Conference was held on October 23-24, 2015 at the picturesque Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Alberta, which is nestled in the majestic Canadian Rockies.
The conference opened with a short networking reception on Friday night, which gave those attending a chance to renew old acquaintances and make new ones. The event was well attended with many members being accompanied by their spouses.
The keynote address was offered by Dean James R. Rasband of the J. Reuben Clark Law School who focused his remarks on the meaning of the first line of the Law Society’s mission statement: “We affirm the strength brought to the law by a lawyer’s personal religious conviction.” Dean Rasband reaffirmed that a lawyer’s personal religious convictions can actually strengthen the law despite the secular world’s assertions that religious convictions have no place in the public arena. He emphasized that our personal religious convictions help us to better understand the purpose and potential of law. Dean Rasband stated, “As lawyers we have been trained to speak the language of public reason. As such, we have both an opportunity and an obligation to be translators of our values into public discourse.” He encouraged us to use our legal training to protect our personal religious beliefs by becoming more conversant in the language of public reason.
On Saturday, Dean Rasband presented Quality Chapter Awards to the Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge Chapters of the JRCLS. Following this business, Nolan D. Steed, Q.C. Executive Director, Legal Policy and Ministerial Services Branch, Alberta Justice and Solicitor General opened our Saturday morning session. His topic emphasized the power that a single individual can have in shaping law reform within a country.
He provided various examples of relatively unknown individuals who had a significant effect on the history of the world as well as on the development of law and policy right close to home in Canada. Mr. Steed stated: “It is not only elected representatives and judges who play a part in forming the laws of our country. Lawyers can and should play a part in influencing the laws that govern society.” He then challenged the attendees to be more active in the shaping of law within their jurisdictions.
We next heard from Honourable Madam Justice Andrea B. Moen, Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta and a practicing Christian, who used the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent decision in Bhasin v. Hrynew (2014 SCC 71), to discuss the broader implications of honesty within the practice of law. Madam Justice Moen had originally decided this case in civil court where she imported a duty of good faith into contract law. This decision was ultimately upheld by the SCC where a duty of honesty in the performance of contract was found within the common law. Because the Court did not specifically define what constituted “honesty” in the performance of a contract, Madam Justice Moen challenged us to take an active role in shaping the definition of honesty in future contract based cases as well as in the very practice of our profession.
Our concluding speaker was David A. Channer, Regional Legal Counsel, for the church. Mr. Channer discussed how the Office of General Counsel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is organized throughout the world. He addressed several legal issues that currently affect the Church and how differing legal systems deal with such issues. Among other topics, he touched upon common law, statutory law, tribal law, and the development of legal norms in economically developing countries.
With another conference come and gone, steps are already underway for next year’s conference. We wish to extend a sincere expression of gratitude for all of the wonderful speakers who gave of their time to share messages of inspiration to our members. There was much to take away from this conference that has, most definitely, inspired those in attendance to become more active in all aspects of religious liberty and promoting the values we, as members of the church, treasure.
By Mark Holthe, Lethbridge Chapter Chair
Posted: November 16, 2015