The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is endorsing the findings and recommendations of the recent legal aid report prepared by Len Doust, Q.C. for the Public commission on Legal Aid in B.C. The report, funded by several legal organizations in British Columbia, found B.C. lagging behind other provincial jurisdictions and that our legal aid system is “failing the most disadvantaged members of our community.”
“With an unambiguous finding that our legal aid system is failing, leaving families and individuals without representation risking injustice and backlogs in our court system, the province must act” said Robert Holmes, Q.C., President of the BCCLA. “Access to our courts through adequate legal aid funding is not a luxury or a “nice to have‟, it‟s an essential part of any fair and just society.”
The report was released this month and highlights concerns about the limited availability of legal aid funding for family law matters, civil litigation defence, mental health detentions, refugee hearings, and, increasingly, criminal law matters. Holmes noted that the Chief Justice on Canada‟s Supreme Court has been clear in her arguments in favour of legal aid funding: “Providing legal aid to low-income Canadians is an essential public service. We need to think of it in the same way we think of health care or education. The well-being of our justice system — and the public’s confidence in it — depends on it,” said Chief Justice McLachlin.
“It is those most at risk in our society, those living on the margins, who are threatened by inadequate legal aid funding,” said Holmes. “A justice system that is only available to the wealthy is a justice system that is not deserving of its name.”
David Eby, Executive Director, (778) 865-7997
Robert Holmes, President, (604) 838-6856