Lack of funding prompts B.C.’s legal-aid lawyers to plan service withdrawal

Association of Legal Aid Lawyers voted for job action to limit or suspend legal aid starting April 1

British Columbia’s legal-aid lawyers have voted overwhelmingly to start withdrawing their services next month over lack of funding.

The Association of Legal Aid Lawyers says 97 per cent of 590 members voted for job action to limit or suspend legal aid starting April 1.

A news release from the association says the only pay increase legal-aid lawyers have received in 28 years was in 2006 when their hourly rate was boosted by 10 per cent.

The lawyers group also says the average spent per person on legal aid in 1993 was $25.22 and, accounting for inflation, should now amount to about $40.

Instead, data shows 2018 per-capita spending on legal aid has fallen to just under $15, ranking B.C. 10th out of 12 provinces and territories.

Legal-aid lawyers say the funding cut requires immediate government attention.

READ MORE: B.C. legal aid lawyers say province must boost funding or they’ll strike

“As a result of these cuts, vulnerable and marginalized British Columbians are not receiving the legal help they need. Too many people facing difficult family, child protection, immigration and criminal law problems are having to go to court alone,” says the release.

The near-unanimous vote underscores that “lawyers cannot continue doing this extremely difficult work under current conditions.”

The association calls the result “an overwhelming endorsement” from B.C.’s family, criminal, child protection and immigration legal-aid lawyers.

The Canadian Press

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