Justice for All

BC government budget cuts forced the Legal Services Society to close 5 regional Legal Aid offices across BC, and the legal aid portion of the Justice Access Centre in Nanaimo. On March 26, members and community activists gathered at the Legal Services Society offices in Vancouver to protest the cuts and the 'hollowing out' of legal aid services in BC.


The BC Liberal government has mandated deep cuts to the legal aid system in BC yet again. In January, funding cuts forced LSS to reduce staff in the Lower Mainland by 38 positions and cut back core services and special projects, while demand for services rose dramatically. Those cuts followed the massive 40 percent cut to legal aid by the BC Liberal government in 2002-2005.

The effect of these cuts will be devastating for low-income people, particularly women and their children, who will be unable to access the justice system.

The most recent round of cuts include:

  • closing of five regional centres in Kelowna, Kamloops, Prince George, Victoria and Surrey and the legal aid portion of the Justice Access Centre in Nanaimo -- only the Terrace regional centre and the Vancouver office will remain open;
  • total layoffs: 58 (44 BCGEU members);
  • cuts to tariffs for family, immigration and criminal law;
  • stricter screening processes and eligibility requirements for clients;
  • closing of the family law clinic;
  • reductions in staff lawyers;
  • reductions in services for people who cannot access legal representation through LSS, including cuts to the staffing of the LawLINE, Community Advocate Support Line, and family and other duty counsel.

Public Hearings
The BCGEU, along with its allies in the Coalition for Public Legal Services is encouraging our members to attend public hearings on the state of legal aid in their communities this September and October. These public hearings are organized and hosted by the Public Commission on Legal Aid, and will provide important input for a report by the Public Commission that will be submitted to the government after the hearings are complete.

Legal aid services and staff have been eviscerated over the past eight years. The poor state of the legal aid system spurred the formation of both the Coalition and the Public Commission. Hopefully these hearings and the subsequent report will pressure the government to take action and restore funding and services to this vital public service.

If you are unable to attend a hearing but would still like to contribute your input, written submissions will be accepted until October 31.

 

HERE'S HOW YOU CAN HELP:

- History of Legal Aid funds (PDF)

- Government e-mail list (PDF)

- Draft letter to politicians (Word)

- Draft Letter to Editor (Word)

- Draft council resolution (Word)

CHECK BACK OFTEN FOR CAMPAIGN UPDATES AND ACTIONS

Legal Aid austerity creates ‘justice blackout’ for B.C.’s poorest

A decade of funding cuts, increased demand and policy restrictions has created a six week “justice blackout” for British Columbia’s poorest citizens in the coming year, the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union said today, citing a recent brief sent to legal aid lawyers from the Legal Services Society (LSS). Read more »

BCGEU calls on government to implement Legal Aid Commission recommendations

Make legal aid an essential public service, re-open regional offices and dramatically increase funding to meet public need

The report by the Public Commission on Legal Aid is a positive step toward restoring access to justice for low-income residents, the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) said today, as it called on the BC governm Read more »

‘Broken’ legal aid system needs major overhaul

Rights-based, fully funded system needed to ensure access to justice

A report on the state of B.C.’s legal aid system released today shows that government funding cuts and re-organization have severely eroded access to the justice system, and supports the union’s call for full restoration of legal aid funding, the B.C. Read more »

Basi-Virk receive $6 million in legal assistance while single mothers are denied legal aid: BCGEU

The B.C. Liberal government has misplaced priorities in granting $6 million in legal funding for convicted political staff while single mothers are denied assistance to gain custody of their children, the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union said today. Read more »

BCGEU agrees to Legal Services Society request for mediation in labour dispute

The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union announced today that it has agreed to a request from the Legal Service Society of B.C. for an application for mediation to resolve the impasse at the bargaining table. The Legal Services Society of B.C. will be filing the mediation application today. Read more »

More municipalities signal support for legal aid services

City councils in Victoria and Prince George recently voted in favour of motions calling on the government to improve funding for legal aid in B.C. Read more »

City of Vancouver supports BCGEU legal aid campaign

Vancouver City Council's support of a BCGEU motion calling on the BC Liberal government to restore funding for the beleaguered legal aid system demonstrates broad public support for this important service, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union said today. Read more »

BCGEU supports Kamloops Legal Aid lawyers

Members of the Kamloops Bar Association are withholding duty counsel services in Kamloops courtrooms starting today. The lawyers are protesting against massive service reductions by the BC Liberal government to the Legal Services Society of BC (LSS) and the impending closure of the legal aid centre in Kamloops. Read more »

Support growing to restore legal aid funding

With help from the public, informed politicians and concerned community groups, the BCGEU is calling on the government to restore funding to the legal aid system, to allow the regional centres to remain open, and to ensure that all British Columbians have proper access to justice. Read more »

Where did all the Legal Aid money go?

Tens of millions earmarked for legal aid services disappears into general revenue Read more »