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

New secondary school planned for north Langford

Province announces $18.6 million in funding for site

Change room thief nabbed by West Shore RCMP Bike Unit

Quick-thinking caller leads police to suspect after witnessing theft

Victoria Shamrocks win proves costly

Shamrocks lose Rhys Duch to a season-ending injury

Victoria fulfills period promise with free menstrual products

Tampons, pads and other products available at City Hall and downtown washrooms

PHOTOS: Car Free YYJ entertains the masses in Victoria

Third annual fair where cars are banned goes off without a hitch

WATCH: Barbers battle it out in Victoria

‘Barber Battle’ saw stylists and barbers from across North America go head-to-head

B.C. church’s Pride flag defaced for second time in 12 days

Delta’s Ladner United Church says it will continue to fly the flag for Pride month

Police probe report of shooting as Raptors rally continues

There were reports of a woman being injured at the event that celebrates the team’s NBA title win

Oil and gas sector cautious as deadline on Trans Mountain decision nears

Trudeau government expected to announce whether it will approve pipeline for second time on Tuesday

Skipping school costs a dozen B.C. students chance at a new car

Cowichan’s Jared Lammi showed up and won $5,000 cheque toward vehicle, but he can’t drive

Man suffers burns, dog dies in fire in Nanaimo

Structure burns down on Clifford Road property in Cedar

Province comes through with funding for Charleigh Fales

Lake Cowichan toddler only one in B.C. diagnosed with CLN2 Batten disease

People throwing food at a bear in Fernie alarms conservation groups

“Approaching and feeding bears contributes to habituation,” says conservation group

Feds announce $50M strategy to fight dementia

Emphasis is on prevention and and supporting caregivers

Most Read