History of the Law Foundation of Saskatchewan
As early as June, 1966, the concept of productively using the interest on the sums in lawyers' mixed trust accounts had been discussed in Saskatchewan.
A resolution at the Law Society's annual meeting proposed by E.D. Bayda, Q.C. was approved by a one-vote majority:
"Be it resolved that the Benchers of the Law Society be requested to set up a committee to consider provisions (including, if necessary, any amendments to The Legal Profession Act), for payment of interest by chartered banks on trust accounts of solicitors, such interest to be paid to the Law Society of Saskatchewan for deposit in the indemnity fund or for such other use as the Law Society may from time to time designate."
The idea of tapping into interest on trust accounts was indeed one whose time had come. Rather than an indemnity fund, however, there was virtually universal acceptance of the use of the money for legally related charitable purposes. Australia adopted the first law foundation legislation in 1967, with British Columbia first off the mark in Canada in 1969. Saskatchewan adopted its legislation as of July 1, 1971, when it became compulsory for interest earned on mixed trust accounts to be paid to the entity created as The Law Foundation of Saskatchewan for the purposes of establishing and maintaining a fund for legal education, legal research, legal aid, law libraries, and law reform.
The first members of the Foundation were Donald K. MacPherson, Q.C., David Wright, Q.C., G. Edward Noble, Q.C., and Dean of Law Roger Carter, Q,C. (appointed by the Law Society), and David Wooff, Wes Bolstad and Kenneth Lysyk, G. Wicijowski, F.C.A. (appointed by the Minister of Justice). The first meeting of the Foundation was November 23, 1973, at which time almost $180,000 had been earned in interest. H. Robert Arscott, F.C.A., was named Secretary of the Foundation at that meeting.
In its 38 years, the Foundation has received about $62 million in interest on general trust accounts, with additional investment interest of $10.1 million. To date, in 2011, it had granted $58.6 million, with major grantees being:
Interest rates have fluctuated widely over the years, from a prime rate high of 22-3/4% in 1981 to a low in 2009 of 2-1/4%. (The interest rates paid by the financial institutions are of course less than the prime lending rate, with the current typical rate of interest being 2 to 2-1/2% under the prime rate.) The average interest rate is presently 1/4%.
As a result, on June 3, 1982, the Foundation established a “grant stabilization reserve” to protect its grantees from swings in income. This reserve now stands at $6,600,000.