The Canadian Bar Association’s British Columbia branch has launched an offensive to build support for increased funding to the province’s legal aid program.
Sharon Matthews, president of the CBA-BC, says the campaign, which features Internet ads and a web site, will target the general public.
“We fully understand the fiscal pressure the government is under; we want to engage the government in a positive fashion to begin the process of catching up,” says Matthews.
“Our research shows that the more the public knows about the real costs of continuing to under-fund legal aid, the more supportive they are of legal aid. People understand that real justice can only be achieved through equal access and that it is our mothers, children, and grandparents who are being most negatively impacted by the status quo. Through our web site and online ad campaign we will have real people speaking of their personal experiences in the system.”
Matthews says legal aid under-funding is at least partly responsible for overloading the court system with self-represented litigants and jamming up the courts with cases that should be dealt with outside court.
“Aside from the costs to the system, this is one reason for delays that lead to more and more criminal cases being dismissed because they aren’t heard in a timely manner. This is bad for taxpayers and bad for public safety,” Matthews said.
She will be bringing her message to B.C.’s interior and island communities on a provincial tour beginning Monday.