VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - Commissioner Leonard Doust, QC today released the findings of the Public Commission on Legal Aid, detailing nine key recommendations for improving British Columbia's legal aid system. Canadian Bar Association BC Branch President Stephen McPhee welcomed the Public Commission’s report, saying "The public clearly believes that the issue of access to legal services is one that governments, lawyers, judges and communities are expected to work together to fix. The people of BC have loudly and passionately made the case that access to legal services is essential. We know that an investment in legal aid and the justice system saves money in health and social services down the road, and what we now know as a result of the Commission’s work is that taxpayers expect their leaders to make that investment a priority – particularly in tough economic times."
The Commission’s innovative approach – traveling to 11 communities to hear first-hand input from the public – has resulted in a true made-in-BC plan for recognizing legal aid as the fourth foundation of social and economic strength, along with health, social services and education.
The specific recommendations of the Commission are summarized as follows:
Legal aid must be recognized as an essential public service
New approaches must be developed to define core services and priorities
Financial eligibility guidelines must be modernized and expanded
Regional legal aid centres and innovative service delivery must be developed
Ongoing public engagement and political dialogue are necessary
Long-term, stable funding must be established
The legal aid system must be proactive, dynamic, and strategic
There must be greater collaboration between public and private legal aid service providers
More support must be provided to legal aid providers
“I recommend that every British Columbian read the full Commission report. Each recommendation is grounded in the experience, perceptions and wisdom of those who are most intimately familiar with and use essential legal services in BC today,” said President McPhee. “It is important for all of us to consider our role in ensuring that the Commission’s important work is recognized and supported. In the Commission’s report, we have a blueprint for making a real difference in the lives of the people of BC. Families, individuals, lawyers, judges, governments, legal aid providers and community support groups are being called upon to work together to deliver on a uniquely people-driven vision for the future of legal aid in BC.”
“On behalf of the CBA and members of the legal profession across BC, I thank Commissioner Len Doust, QC for his incredible commitment to the Commission, traveling around the province, hearing and reviewing hundreds of submissions, and ensuring that the people of BC were given a strong voice in his report. His deep dedication to honouring the views and aspirations of individual citizens has resulted in a report unlike any other in Canada, and we are very grateful for his contribution to creating a foundation for change in legal aid in BC.”
For more information about the CBABC contact:
Director of Membership & Public Affairs
Tel: (604) 687-3404
The Canadian Bar Association is the professional organization representing more than 38,000 lawyers, judges and law students in Canada, including 6,500 members in British Columbia.
View interview of CBABC President Stephen McPhee on Fairchild Television. Note: Interview is in Cantonese.