VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Feb. 18, 2014) - The Canadian Bar Association BC Branch (CBABC) today welcomed the commitment made by the BC government to increase funding to legal aid, but warned that increased pressure on the Court Services Branch will impede access to justice for the citizens of BC.
The government, in its campaign platform, previously announced that it will be increasing the budget of the Legal Services Society (LSS) in 2014-15 by $2-million. Today's budget fulfills that promise and maintains that funding commitment for three years.
"Today's $2 million increase to the LSS budget meets the government's election promise. However, we hope this is a down payment on a more significant investment as the province's financial situation improves," said Dean Crawford, president of the CBABC.
"The case for additional funding for legal aid has been made by a number of justice system stakeholders, community partners and by government itself. BC's legal aid per capita is still nowhere near sufficient."
Crawford also said today's failure to maintain the budget of the Court Services Branch "will increase pressure on a system that is already unable to meet the demands on it."
"For example, the B.C. Supreme Court has more courtrooms in Vancouver than there are clerks available. This has meant that some trials do not proceed even though a judge is available. In other cases, court registry staff are being diverted to act as court clerks, which slows down the processing of court orders and impedes access to justice for all," added Crawford.
The Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services recognized the importance of a properly-funded Court Services Branch, and called on government to commit to long-term and stable funding of the Court Services Branch," noted Crawford. "It is disappointing that government chose not to follow the recommendation made by the committee."
"The urgency to fund the province's justice system has not subsided," said Crawford. "The case for additional funding has been made repeatedly by a number of justice system stakeholders, community partners and by government itself. The government now needs to further enhance funding of legal aid as its financial situation improves and stabilize funding of the Court Services Branch."
In 2013, the CBABC released a document called An Agenda for Justice, proposing investments in the justice system as resources become available, as well as almost two dozen no-cost and low-cost legislative law reforms designed to make life better for families, businesses, communities and the public. This platform document encourages the citizens of BC, and government to be part of the solution to solving the problems in our justice system. The full An Agenda for Justice document is available http://www.cbabc.org/CBAMediaLibrary/cba_bc/pdf/Initiatives/cbabc_an_agenda_for_justice.pdf.