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No more money for legal aid in B.C. budget

|Written By Michael McKiernan

The Canadian Bar Association’s British Columbia branch has hit out at the provincial government for its failure to increase financial support for the province’s legal aid system in yesterday’s budget.

CBA-BC president Kerry Simmons says access to justice in B.C. is so bad it’s ‘embarrassing.’

“After years of acknowledging a crisis in access to the justice system in this province, the government continues to respond with a budget that denies additional financial assistance to those who need it most,” said CBA-BC President Kerry Simmons in a statement. “Access to justice in B.C. has deteriorated to the point that our province is an embarrassing 10th out of 13 provinces and territories on legal aid funding spending per capita.”

According to budget documents, the Ministry of Justice will get a $28-million boost in spending, or a 2.5-per-cent increase in its overall budget. However, most of the new money goes towards funding policing and security programs, while court services and legal services will see a small cut.

The CBA-BC has been on a recent push to put justice issues at the heart of the province’s spring election, scheduled for May 14. Earlier this month, it launched its own platform, aimed at increasing “the effectiveness of B.C.’s justice system,” and improving the province’s laws.

Among other things, the 25-page report, entitled “An Agenda for Justice,” recommends an $18-million increase to the budget of the Legal Services Society over the next election cycle to bring per-capita legal aid spending in B.C. in line with the Canadian average. In the longer term, it says it will take $50 million to get legal aid spending in the province back up to pre-2002 levels, after accounting for inflation and population growth.

“What needs to happen is that the province must invest in the services that deliver justice to British Columbians,” said Simmons. “The Canadian Bar Association B.C. Branch will continue to advocate for restoration of funding for justice on behalf of families, communities and business in British Columbia.”

  • Brian
    No more money in the BC budget for legal aid for the poor!! Ha! So why aren't the lawyers asking how come the BC government continues to send the CMPA a handsome cheque every year so that BC doctors can get taxpayer funded lawyers. Of course that would mean offending the lawyers who pay themselves about $1000 per hour(cortesy the taxpayer) to defend rogue doctors. Better not do that. So to be clear - BC has no more money to fund lawyers for the poor but it has plently of money to pay for lawyers for affluent doctors.
  • Name
    If you're sued as a private Dr. the Canadian Medical Association (CMA)pays the legal fees. Dr's pay annual fees to the CMA. If you are a public employee and you are sued relative to your employment duties then yes the government would be paying the ridiculous legal fees of the big firms. Big firms need art collections don't you know!
  • Brian
    Fist - it is the CMPA that pays the legal fees of doctors. Yes, doctors pay about 15% of their annual CMPA fees. But provincial taxpayers pay the other 85%. The provinces (including BC) repeatedly say they must cut legal aid due fiscal restraint in these tough economic times. Meanwhile the provincial governments send a fat cheque each year to the CMPA so it can provide unlimited, free, highly-expensive, Cadillac lawyering to affluent doctors - on the backs of taxpayers - including the working poor who can't afford (medical negligence) lawyers but are forced to pay the legal fees of the doctors who may have negligently hurt them. Overfunding the CMPA on the backs of the poor and middle class undermines justice. Underfunding legal aid undermines justice. The wrong people (the most well-heeled) are collecting welfare on the backs of taxpayers while the poor are beung told to 'eat cake'. Too bad Charles Dickens wasn't alive today! He'd have a field day with this arvarice and buffoonery.

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