OTTAWA – With today’s official start of the October federal election campaign, politicians of all stripes are on the campaign trail touting the message that a vote for their parties will improve the lives of Canadians. The Canadian Bar Association believes that this is an excellent opportunity for the parties to show how they would take leadership on the issue of legal aid.
There are huge regional disparities in the availability of legal assistance in Canada. The one common thread through the provinces and territories is that many who need legal advice won’t be eligible for legal aid.
“Legal aid programs have never been adequately funded, but with government cutbacks over more than two decades they’ve been available to fewer and fewer people who need them for day-to-day legal issues like child custody, wrongful firing or sexual harassment on the job,” says CBA President Vivene Salmon.
“Studies have shown that money spent on helping people with these issues saves governments a lot more in other social spending areas. When we ask governments to commit to stable, sustainable legal aid funding, we’re asking them not just to directly help the people of this country, but also showing them a way to help their bottom lines over the long term.”
Canadians deserve equal access to justice. Too many people do not have equal protection under and before the law.
The CBA has asked to meet with the main political parties to discuss where they stand on the issue of sustainable, stable legal aid funding. It has also created a letter-writing tool so that people may let the candidates in their ridings know this will be a deciding factor on election day.
- Cost-benefit research suggests that $1 spent on legal aid saves about $6 on other social services.
- Everyday legal problems cost the state at least $800 million a year in increased demands on other areas of social spending, such as social assistance and health care.
- Many of those who can’t afford a lawyer and aren’t eligible for legal aid will represent themselves, which puts additional burdens and causes more delays in an already-strained judicial system.
- Lawyers do what they can by contributing pro bono hours or making other cost-reduction measures, but a sustainable system cannot be built on this alone.
CBA letter-writing tool
The Canadian Bar Association
About the CBA
The CBA is dedicated to support for the rule of law, and improvement in the law and the administration of justice. Some 36,000 lawyers, notaries in Quebec, law teachers and law students from across Canada are members.