Lawyers rally for legal aid

Lawyers stage rally to fight for legal aid funding

  • Nov. 30, 2011 3:00 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

Saanich’s provisional police budget under fire

Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria question why budget requests are rising as crime drops

Victoria Guard Commander leads group of snowmen after ceremony cancelled

Lt.-Cmdr. Michael Irwin wasn’t going to let a bit of snow strip him of his duties

Number of adults living with parents has doubled since 1995

9 per cent of the adult population living with one or more parent

Beauty Day spreads ‘brightness’ at Our Place

Volunteer hairdressers, estheticians, even a tarot card reader took part in the Victoria event

VIDEO: Canada’s flag turns 54 today

The maple leaf design by George Stanley made its first appearance Feb. 15, 1965

Eight cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver outbreak

Coastal Health official say the cases stem from the French-language Ecole Jules Verne Secondary

Plecas won’t run in next election if B.C. legislature oversight reforms pass

B.C. Speaker and Abbotsford South MLA says he feels ‘great sympathy’ for Jody Wilson-Raybould

Workshop with ‘accent reduction’ training cancelled at UBC

The workshop was cancelled the same day as an email was sent out to international students

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell accused of sexual touching

Accuser went to police, interviewed by Britian’s Daily Telegraph

Man in Vancouver Island hotel shooting pleads guilty to second-degree murder

Brandon Tyler Woody, from Victoria, to be sentenced in late March in B.C. Supreme Court

Judge rules Abbotsford home must be sold after son tries to evict mom

Mom to get back down payment and initial expenses

Trump officially declares national emergency to build border wall

President plans to siphon billions from federal military construction and counterdrug efforts

Snow turns to slush, rain as it warms up across B.C.’s south coast

Some areas are already covered by more than half a metre of snow following three separate storms

Most Read