VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Jan. 12, 2010) – In the face of new cuts to the already - limited options available to help people who need legal services, BC's lawyers association is calling for a full review of the way that legal aid is provided in the province.
"A flawed funding and delivery model has created a crisis of access to justice at a time when people most need help," said President James Bond. "The more comprehensive legal aid system which we once knew in this province is no longer recognizable as such. The volatility of its funding model has led to unrealistic limitations on who can access legal services for what needs, and increased reliance on "self-help" materials for people who have to go to court unrepresented."
The current funding model heavily relies on economy-sensitive sources of revenue. Frustration with cuts that have been announced as a result of reduced legal aid revenues has led to protests by community and legal groups, including a partial withdrawal of legal aid services by a group of lawyers in Kamloops.
"The level of frustration and anxiety being felt at the community level stems in large part from a sense of limited options for creating real change. The BCCBA is joining with a coalition of groups from across the province in calling for public hearings to bring together the public, community groups, justice system partners and the government, to hold a meaningful dialogue about the future of legal aid."
"I have spoken with the Attorney General about the need for a public review involving those most affected by lack of access to legal services. We know that MLAs hear from constituents about these issues, and that they are receiving the message that the current system isn't working. What is missing is any sense of optimism that we might be able to do something different and better. Through the public hearing process, we hope to engage everyone in the community, to re-imagine what legal aid can be in the future and to commit to work together to make it possible," said Mr. Bond.
The Canadian Bar Association is the professional organization representing more than 38,000 lawyers, judges and law students in Canada, including 6,500 members in British Columbia.