Child Representation in Alberta: Role and Responsibilities of Counsel for the Child in Family Proceedings


  • Nicholas Bala Professor, Faculty of Law, Queen's University



There has been an increase in the number of family law cases in Alberta where counsel is appointed to represent a child, but there is a lack of guidance and there is controversy about the role and responsibilities of counsel for the child. In other jurisdictions government agencies, the courts, the legislature or the law society have provided clear direction, though taking different approaches to resolving the controversies about counselfor the child. This article reviews the different roles adopted by counsel appointed to represent a child in afamily proceeding: the child advocate, the best interests guardian and the friend ofthe court. It is argued that in Alberta there is no single role that is appropriatefor alt cases. While the child's wishes should always be placed before the court, counsel should only advocate based on those wishes if the child has capacity to instruct counsel. This article offers detailed suggestions for the professional responsibilities of counsel for the child, and concludes by making recommendationsfor action by the Law Society ofAlberta and Government of the Province if these bodies are to meet their responsibilities to children.