Canadian Bar Association British Columbia Branch

February 21, 2012 18:53 ET

Government Perpetuates "Status Quo" Crisis in the Justice System

VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Feb. 21, 2012) - The Canadian Bar Association, British Columbia (CBABC), responding to the provincial budget released today, expressed disappointment that the Government decided to maintain "status quo" levels in the justice system and overlook public demand to restore funding to legal aid as an essential service. Underfunding legal aid affects families in crisis and results in clogged courts that slow all cases down, increasing the risk of serious criminal cases being dismissed because they take too long to get to trial.

"The CBABC acknowledges the government's previous allocation of $2.1 million in funding for family law legal aid which is continued in this budget," said Sharon Matthews, CBABC President. "However, this funding was provided to avoid further cuts to family law legal aid, and does not address the status quo crisis in legal aid."

"This province needs legal aid. Legal aid facilitates cases being resolved efficiently and eases the strain on public resources which fund the justice system." Matthews continued, "The CBABC has long advocated for a restoration of funding to legal aid as an essential service for families, children and the most vulnerable British Columbians."

In multiple jurisdictions around the world, an investment in legal aid has proven to provide a much larger savings than the dollars actually invested. The savings range from $1.60 to $2.25 per dollar invested, and some studies report much higher savings (see www.WeNeedLegalAid.com for links to the studies).

Ms. Matthews added, "We support the recently announced review of the justice system, but immediate funding is needed to clear the court backlogs, which have been created by past underfunding. The best reforms in the world, implemented many months from now, cannot fix today's legal crisis and will not be effective until the backlogs are cleared. BC is the 4th lowest funder of legal aid in the country, including all three territories. British Columbians have made it clear that the status quo is unacceptable, and immediate resources are needed to address the current crisis."

The Canadian Bar Association is the professional organization representing more than 38,000 lawyers, judges and law students in Canada, including 6,700 members in British Columbia.

Contact Information

  • Canadian Bar Association British Columbia Branch
    Maureen Cameron
    Director of Membership, Volunteers and Public Affairs
    604.687.3404
    mcameron@bccba.org
    www.cba.org/bc