B.C.’s legal-aid lawyers vote overwhelmingly for job action

B.C.’s legal-aid lawyers vote overwhelmingly for job action

in Mar 14, 2019


Low-income British Columbians in need of legal services could find themselves in trouble next month.

This, after the association that represents the province’s legal-aid lawyers voted overwhelmingly to begin job action on April 1.

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In a March 11-13 vote, 97 per cent of the 590-member Association of Legal Aid Lawyers (ALL) agreed to limiting or suspending legal-aid services.

According to the association, per-capital provincial spending has dropped from $25.22 in 1992/1993 to $14.99 in 2017/2018.

The association says if per-capita funding had kept up with inflation, it would actually be $39.72.

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“In real terms, this represents a 60 per cent decrease from 1992/1993 levels. British Columbia ranks 10th out of 12 provinces and territories in per-capita legal-aid funding,” said the group in a media release.

“As a result of these cuts, vulnerable and marginalized British Columbians are not receiving the legal help they need. Too many people facing difficult family, child-protection, immigration and criminal law problems are having to go to court alone.”

The association also argues legal-aid lawyers have had just one raise in 28 years, and that it is having a hard time retaining staff. In 1991, there were 1,500 legal-aid lawyers in B.C., a number that has shrunk to just 1,000, the association says.

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The Ministry of the Attorney General said it remains in discussions with the ALL.

In its 2018 budget, the NDP government added $26 million over three years to the Legal Services Society to expand the provision of legal-aid delivery.

The ministry calls that the largest expansion in funding since 2002, when the former BC Liberal government cut legal aid by 40 per cent.

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