No 'no sex please, we're lawyers' for Canadian Bar Association

WINNIPEG - Members of the Canadian Bar Association on Sunday voted against forbidding lawyers to have sex with clients.

The Bar Association's annual conference in Winnipeg debated two separate resolutions.

The first would have imposed a total ban on sexual relations between lawyers and clients.

The other, more moderate, proposal, would have prohibited lawyers from having affairs with "vulnerable" clients, such as those involved in immigration, criminal and family law disputes.

Lawyer Alan Stern, a member of the Bar Association's committee on professional issues, argued in favour of the so-called compromise resolution that banned lawyers from getting involved with vulnerable clients.

"It basically is a warning to lawyers to avoid taking advantage of vulnerable clients or exploiting them in a sexual relationship...and saying that if you do so, you may be subject to discipline," he said.

But an opponent of the resolution said that it was "possible that a lawyer may represent somebody and fall in love with him or her."

The organization, which represents 38,000 Canadian lawyers, conducted a heated and passionate debate on the issue.

In the end, both motions were defeated. Lawyers at the conference said that sex with vulnerable clients was already prohibited under general rules about acting in a client's best interests, and acting objectively.

"We could shoot ourselves in the foot pursuing something that makes us look like predators and our clients look like victims," argued another lawyer.

Separately, a resolution calling for a reserved seat for an aboriginal member on Canada's Supreme Court was dropped Saturday before any debate. Quebec has three such seats.

But also on Saturday, the congress passed a resolution calling on Ottawa to compensate every one of the 90,000 aboriginals who went through Canada's abusive residential school system.

Written by CBC News Online staff