Lawyers rally for legal aid

Lawyers stage rally to fight for legal aid funding

  • Nov. 30, 2011 5:00 p.m.

Victoria lawyer Paul Pearson

Enough is enough.

That’s the message lawyers in Victoria and throughout the province are sending the B.C. government about the toll that decades of cuts have taken on legal aid services.

Lawyers staged four rallies on Wednesday at courthouses in Victoria, Vancouver, Kamloops and Penticton to fight for funding that would allow more people to access free legal services.

“This is a desperate situation that calls for strong words and strong action on the part of lawyers,” said criminal defence lawyer Paul Pearson, who spoke out on the courthouse steps in Victoria.

The rallies are just the beginning.

Duty counsel lawyers, who assist people soon after arrest who can’t afford to hire a lawyer, will be withholding their services at courthouses between January and April.

The job action is meant to pressure the government to restore funding so that people won’t have to represent themselves in court, which is happening more often, said Pearson, a lawyer with Mulligan Tam Pearson, a Victoria firm.

Self representation slows down the judicial process and places a greater financial burden on clients-in-need, taxpayers and the court system, he said.

“It’s an absolute crisis in the courts right now.”

The Trial Lawyers Association of B.C., which has 1,400 member lawyers, is leading the protest in response to the $50 million it says have been cut from legal aid over two decades.

The solution lies in the $100 million a year the province takes from taxes paid on legal fees and puts into general revenue, rather than legal aid, said Bentley Doyle, the association’s director of communications.

But B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond said thousands of low-income people are being helped, and provincial initiatives, such as the Family Law Act, which became law earlier this month and will take 18 months to come into force, make a difference. The act strives to encourage mediation and cut down on court battles.

“In fact, despite the continued global economic uncertainty, we have maintained basic legal aid funding at $66.5 million this year,” Bond said in a statement to the News, but added the “government will need to exercise continued fiscal discipline and prudence in order to balance the budget by 2013-2014.”

Just Posted

It’s the first day of fall: seasonal events abound in Greater Victoria

Pumpkins, cider, Halloween and more coming to the region

Former runaway teen helps find missing youths through social media

Alex Meikle created the Facebook group Greater Victoria Missing & Runaway Teens

Candidate Corner: Cowichan-Malahat-Langford hopefuls talk environment and climate change

This is part one of a four-part series outlining candidates’ thoughts on key topics

Rain doesn’t dampen Sidney Sea Run

New organizers bring $6,000 of success to the charity run

Sidney to hear cycling story for the ages

72-year-old Bill Brooks cycled from the Arctic Ocean to the Salish Sea

VIDEO: Grizzly bears fight along northern B.C. highway in rare footage

Cari McGillivray posted the head-turning video, shot near Stewart, B.C., to social media

Hundreds of thousands stranded as travel agency collapses

British tour company Thomas Cook brought down by a variety of factors

B.C. police chief to speak to Liberal candidate after second ad appears featuring photo of officer

Jati Sidhu had said an ad with the same photo posted last Friday was ‘not appropriate’

Tour de Rock ride kicks off in the North Island

I would ride all day in the rain if it means raising money to help these kids”

Three B.C. moms to launch CBD-infused water

Three friends say benefits may include anxiety relief, pain management

B.C. students empowered to ‘shift the vote’ this election

B.C. Federation of Students launches ‘Our Time is Now’ campaign

Justice rules B.C. man gave statement of own free will

Defence wanted Vernon’s Curtis Sagmoen’s video interview with police deemed inadmissible

MEC and LUSH stores to close on Friday for global climate strikes

Retailers will be closed on Sept. 27 so that staff can march in demonstrations

Hybrid vessels part of B.C. Ferries’ plans to reduce emissions

Island Class vessels, coming by 2022, part of ferry corporation’s broader strategy

Most Read