Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia

Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia

September 12, 2013 18:43 ET

Justice at Stake for Citizens of Average Means

Supreme Court of Canada will Determine Whether Exemptions to Paying Fees for Court Hearings Should Extend Beyond the Poor

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Sept. 12, 2013) - Today, the Supreme Court of Canada announced it will hear an appeal originating from a BC-based custody battle in which a mother (Montserrat Vilardell) applied for relief from government-imposed hearing fees. The matter has been in legal limbo since the original trial and subsequent appeal in British Columbia. The announcement out of Ottawa today means Canada's high court will make an ultimate ruling on the matter.

The Trial Lawyers Association of BC (TLABC) and other organizations intervened at the original trial, whereby court hearing fees were ruled unconstitutional because they amounted to an unreasonable barrier on a citizen's ability to access the justice system. TLABC intervened again after the Attorney General of BC appealed the decision made by the trial judge. The BC Court of Appeal did not uphold the Supreme Court of BC's decision to strike down the hearing fee structure as unconstitutional, but instead ruled that the exemption needs to be broadened to cover those who could not meet their everyday expenses if required to pay court fees.

"This case points to a fundamental problem," said TLABC President Dennis Hori. "Justice does not exist when a citizen cannot afford to access the court system. Our association has continued to fight for all citizens on this important matter, because hearing fees are a barrier to justice in British Columbia - not only for the poor, but also the middle class."

TLABC's efforts continue to be led, on a pro bono basis, by senior counsel Darrell Roberts QC. "We are very proud to have Mr. Roberts working on TLABC's behalf," affirmed Hori. "He is a longtime member of our association and was named an honorary lifetime member just a few years ago. And it wasn't all that long ago that he was before the Supreme Court of Canada on another public-interest matter, i.e. trying to get the provincial tax on legal fees expunged."

Contact Information

  • Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia
    Bentley Doyle
    604-682-5343 / 1-888-558-5222
    bentley@tlabc.org