The CTLA continues to pursue four principle objectives.
First, the founders of the organization saw a need for ensuring the continuing education of defence counsel. This need is perhaps even more pressing today than it was then, as the numbers of defence counsel, and members of the public who are in need of their services, continue to rise. To achieve that objective, the CTLA offers “Short Snapper” seminars, an annual seminar with internationally renowned guest speakers and publishes an informative newsletter.
Second, defence counsel needed a forum in which they could raise concerns and discuss them with like-minded individuals. The CTLA offers monthly meetings with the members, as well as meetings with the other participants of the judicial system to ensure that our members’ concerns are recognized, discussed and addressed.
Third, it was recognized that an organization such as the CTLA could play a significant role in reforming the law and the judicial system when necessary. This political role of the CTLA manifests itself most clearly in the organization’s numerous interventions in serious cases. A few examples of cases in which the CTLA played an important role are listed below:
- R. v. De Trang 2002 ABQB 185
- R. v. Biniaris,  1 S.C.R. 381
- R. v. Molodowic,  1 S.C.R. 420
- R. v. Rain, 1994 CarswellAlta 263
- R. v. Biniaris,  1 S.C.R. 381
- Law Society of Alberta v. Krieger 2002 SCC 65
- Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Assn. v. Alberta (Solicitor General) 2004 ABQB 534
- R. v. J.L.A. 2009 ABCA 324
- Newton v. CTLA et al 2010 Alberta Court of Appeal 399
- R. v. Nasogaluak 2010 SCC 6
- R. v. Nixon, 2011 SCC 34
- CTLA v. Alberta (Solicitor General) 2004 ABQB 534
- CTLA v. Alkarout 2014 CanLII 10793
- Hearing Office Bail (Re) 2017 ABQB 74
Finally, the CTLA also endeavours to educate the public and the prevailing governments of the day on issues pertaining to criminal justice. There are often calls for stiffer penalties in criminal cases, as well as “reforms” which have the potential of eroding our civil and constitutional rights, and these must be resisted by a strong and united defence bar. In addition, the image society has of the defence lawyer does not always reflect the truly honourable character of our role in the Justice system. The CTLA ensures that the public hears a different perspective. While our organization recognizes society’s concerns about the prevalence of crime, the CTLA brings to the forefront the dangers and inefficacy of some of these more radical changes. The CTLA, along with the other participants in the legal community, wants to help protect, promote and improve the strong justice system which already enjoy in Canada. A recent example of this was the organization’s “Rowbotham” project in 2015 which saw CTLA volunteers make dozens of court applications on behalf of individuals who had been denied a defence lawyer by legal aid. These were essentially indigent individuals who clearly could not afford a lawyer, but due to years of government cut-backs no longer qualified for legal aid assistance. These unrepresented individuals were clogging the courts as judges were rightly reluctant to force them to proceed to trial by themselves. Our public advocacy efforts forced the Alberta government to recognize this manifest injustice and to significantly increase legal aid spending in 2015 and contributed ultimately to a new governance agreement for Legal Aid which significantly improved the legal aid system for Albertans.