Earlier this week, the Public Commission on Legal Aid in British Columbia released its report on the sad state of legal aid in the province.
Commissioner Leonard T. Doust makes 7 overarching findings:
- The legal aid system is failing needy individuals and families, the justice system, and our communities.
- Legal information is not an adequate substitute for legal assistance and representation.
- Timing of accessing legal aid is key.
- There is a broad consensus concerning the need for innovative, client-focused legal aid services.
- Steps must be taken to meet legal aid needs in rural communities.
- More people should be eligible for legal aid.
- Legal aid should be fully funded as an essential public service.
To remedy the situation, he presents a number of recommendations, including:
- Recognize legal aid as an essential public service.
- Develop a new approach to define core services and priorities.
- Modernize and expand financial eligibility.
- Establish regional legal aid centres and innovative service delivery.
- There must be greater collaboration between public and private legal aid service providers.
- Provide more support to legal aid providers.
For additional news coverage, you can read:
- Legal aid fails B.C.’s most vulnerable, commission concludes (Vancouver Sun, March 9, 2011)
- Attorney-general rejects claims that B.C. legal-aid is in crisis (Globe and Mail, March 8, 2011)
- B.C. not providing most basic legal aid needs: report (Legal Feeds – blog of Canadian Lawyer and Law Times, March 9, 2011)