Lawyers rally for legal aid

Lawyers stage rally to fight for legal aid funding

  • Nov. 30, 2011 12:00 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

Forestry watchdog warned B.C. government about Bamfield Road in 2008

Ombusman’s specific concerns re-surface in wake of fatal bus crash

Victoria puppy dies after consuming poisonous mushrooms

A chocolate lab turned in to the Victoria Humane Society died Thursday morning

Mobile palliative care team launches for downtown Victoria’s homeless population

UVic, Cool Aid, Victoria Hospice and Island Health team up for end-of-life care services

UVic announces review into circumstances of fatal bus crash

Upcoming student trip on the same route not cancelled

VIDEO: Trudeau asks Canada to look to current, not past, actions on race

Liberal leader says he never spoke about the racist photo because he was embarrassed

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of September 17

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Should the province step in to upgrade the road to Bamfield?

The death of two University of Victoria students on a bus bound… Continue reading

Teens charged in stabbing death of B.C. man in mall parking lot

Two youths, aged 15 and 16, charged in Aug. 16 killing of South Surrey’s Paul Prestbakmo

B.C. Premier John Horgan worried about ‘rise of racism’

Asked to comment on Justin Trudeau’s ‘blackface’ incidents

Human case of West Nile virus reported on Vancouver Island

B.C. Centre for Disease Control confirmed case reported in August

Photos surface of Conservative candidate at B.C. event with people in blackface

The controversial “Black Peter” character has been a feature at Sinterklaas celebrations

B.C. Liberal leader says private sector development will help housing affordability

Andrew Wilkenson spoke in Kelowna during a real estate conference

Legislature gifts, clothing, travel need better control, B.C. auditor says

Audit follows suspensions of managers by Speaker Darryl Plecas

Most Read