Treasurers and Benchers of the Law Society of Upper Canada

Explanatory Notes on Benchers

Benchers

Benchers are governors of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the members of its board of directors. There are elected benchers, appointed benchers, and ex officio benchers.

  • Elected Benchers
    From 1797 until 1871 new benchers were appointed by sitting benchers and held the position for life unless they lost their places due to chronic non-attendance. An 1871 statute provided for 30 benchers to be elected by the Law Society’s membership in elections that were totake place every five years. The 1970 Law Society Act increased the number of elected benchers and made bencher elections more frequent. There are currently 40 benchers elected by the Society’s membership in elections that take place every four years.

Alphabetical List of Elected and Life Benchers

  • Treasurers
    The head of the Law Society, he or she presides over Convocation. From 1797 until 1871 treasurers were appointed by sitting benchers. Since 1871, the treasurer has been elected annually by benchers entitled to vote in Convocation. An election for treasureris held each year at the regular June meeting of Convocation. Most recent treasurers have held the position for two years.

Alphabetical List of Treasurers

Chronological List of Treasurers

  • Appointed Benchers
    Also referred to as “lay” benchers because they are not lawyers, they are appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council to represent the public interest. The first lay benchers were appointed in November 1974 and attended Convocation for the first time in January 1975.Initially four in number, 1998 legislation increased their number to eight.

Alphabetical List of Lay (Appointed) Benchers


Explanatory Notes on Ex Officio Benchers

Introduction

There are several categories of ex officio benchers: former Law Society treasurers, people who hold particular positions in government, and those who have held elected bencher positions for an extended time period. Each of these categories is explained separately below. Most exofficio benchers do not have the same voting rights at Convocation as elected benchers, but former treasurers and Attorneys General of Ontario do.

  • Former Treasurers
    From 1797 until 1871 all benchers held the position for life. The 1871 statute that provided for bencher elections established a separate category of ex officio benchers, but treasurers were not included in the category at that time. A 1900 statutory amendment stated thatevery person who had held the position of treasurer for seven consecutive years was to be an ex officio bencher. From 1964 to the present, every person who has held the office of treasurer has been an ex officio bencher. Former treasurers who have been appointed to thebench are members in abeyance, and therefore the ex officio status ceases to apply until they retire from the bench.

Alphabetical List of Treasurers

  • Political Appointees
    • Provincial/Colonial Attorneys General
      From the Law Society’s earliest days, the Attorney General of Upper Canada was expected to act as one of the governors of the Law Society. The 1797 colonial statute that established the Law Society provided that the Attorney General of Upper Canada be one of the Law Society’sbenchers. After Confederation, it was clarified that all persons who had held the office of Attorney General for the Province of Ontario, or of Attorney General for Upper Canada, were to be considered ex officio benchers for life. A change to the legislation in 1912 statedthat all Attorneys General of Ontario would be ex officio benchers “if and while continuing members of the Bar of Ontario.” The provision that former Attorneys General must be members of the Law Society in order to be ex officio benchers was dropped in1998.
    • Provincial/Colonial Solicitors General
      The 1797 Act provided that Solicitors General of Upper Canada were to be benchers of the Law Society. After Confederation, legislation stipulated that all members of the Bar of Ontario who at any time had held the office of Solicitor General for Upper Canada or the Provinceof Canada were to be ex officio benchers. That provision was dropped in 1912, after which only the provincial Attorneys General were to be ex officio benchers.
    • Federal Ministers of Justice and Attorneys General
      After Confederation, federal Ministers of Justice and Attorneys General became eligible for ex officio bencher status. Beginning in 1877, every person who held the position of Attorney General of Canada who was a member of the Bar of Ontario became an ex officio bencherfor life. In 1912 the same provisions were made for Ministers of Justice of Canada. From 1944 the federal Ministers have been ex officio benchers only if they are members of the Law Society and only so long as they hold the federal Cabinet appointment. Federal Ministersof Justice and Attorneys General who are lawyers from provinces other than Ontario are not given ex officio bencher status.
    • Federal Solicitors General
      In 1912 Solicitors General of Canada who were members of the Law Society of Upper Canada were added to the list of ex officio benchers and they held that office for life.
      Since 1944, Solicitors General for Canada have been ex officio benchers only if they are members of the Law Society and only so long as they hold the federal Cabinet appointment. Federal Solicitors General from provinces other than Ontario are not given ex officio bencher status.

    Alphabetical List of Political Office-Holders

  • Life Benchers
    The legislative changes of 1871 that established bencher elections did not include a provision for elected life benchers. The notion of elected life benchers arose in the 1912 Act respecting the Law Society of Upper Canada, and was undoubtedly intended to remove long-standingbenchers from candidacy in the bencher elections, which at that time took place every five years. The 1912 statute established that every person who had been elected a bencher at four quinquennial elections would hold the status of ex officio bencher. In 1964 that requirementwas altered to apply to every person who had been elected at three quinquennial elections and had served as a bencher for a total of 15 years. The 1970 Law Society Act made bencher elections more frequent (every four years rather than five) and changed the requirement for exofficio status to election at four elections, and service of a total of 16 years. These regulations are still in place.

 Alphabetical List of Elected and Life Benchers