Lawyers rally for legal aid

Lawyers stage rally to fight for legal aid funding

  • Nov. 30, 2011 4:00 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

Deep Cove man running 50 km every month through his 50th birthday year

Ultrarunner hopes Deep 50 Challenge will raise $5,000 for Help Fill A Dream

Oak Bay to host secondary suite open house on Thursday

Online secondary suite survey will run April 25 until May 10

Local author wins gold medal for new book Fat Cats

Former parks warden’s series welcomes new addition to the canon

Ancient microbes discovered off the Juan de Fuca Ridge potentially offers glimpse into alien life

The marine bacteria is dependent on hydrogen, a compound present almost everywhere

Saanich rental project wins silver by going ‘green’

The Verve rental housing project stands at the corner of Boleskine Road and Whittier Avenue

WATCH: Movie star and PACE alum Calum Worthy talks musical theatre and his career

“American Vandal” and “Austin and Ally” actor has been returning to the program for over 20 years

POLL: How often does your family use BC Ferries?

Navigating the lineups for BC Ferries is a way of life for… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of April 16

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

RCMP confirm witnesses say body found at Kelowna’s Gyro Beach

Police tape is blocking part of the beach and several RCMP officers are on scene.

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

A series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more

Most Read