B.C. LIBERALS REFUSE TO SUPPORT LEGAL AID SERVICES FOR B.C.’S MOST VULNERABLE - KROG
BC NDP - BCNDP.ca
VICTORIA - At a time when the demand for legal aid services is on the rise across the province, the LawLINE designed to help British Columbians access justice is losing its funding thanks to the inaction of the B.C. Liberals.
"Effective April 1, thanks to the B.C. Liberals, the LawLINE in B.C. will be gone," said Leonard Krog, the opposition Attorney General critic. "Whether it's a new immigrant trying to escape a violent relationship, an illiterate person facing bankruptcy or someone with a mental illness battling a predatory lender, the LawLINE has been there to help.
"The demise of legal aid in this province is a travesty and it's just one issue. The end of the LawLINE is compounded by cuts to advocate funds, such as the $60,000 shortfall at PovNet and the forced closure of legal aid offices across B.C. in regions such as Kamloops, Kelowna, Prince George, Victoria, Nanaimo, and Surrey."
On Wednesday, 63 advocates from various organizations across the province wrote a joint letter addressed to every government MLA demanding that the B.C. Liberals reinstate funding for basic legal services on Wednesday. "There is an entire population of low-income, disabled, and unemployed community members in British Columbia who are suffering daily because their access to justice is being obliterated," the advocates wrote.
"The impact these cuts will have on lower income people, particularly women, children and new immigrants will be devastating," said Krog. "Without regional offices, the LawLINE and legal aid, B.C.'s most marginalized will be forced to navigate within a complex legal system alone, prepare their own legal documents and potentially agree to settlements that are not in their best interests."
Krog says the cuts to legal aid handed down since 2002 are the ongoing legacy of the B.C. Liberals.
In 2002 the B.C. Liberals imposed a 40-per-cent cut to the Legal Services Society's budget over three years. The majority of the cuts occurred in family law legal aid, through the complete elimination of provincial funding for poverty law and immigration law.
"These cuts are short-sighted and will only further congest the courts, costing B.C. taxpayers more," said Krog. "The B.C. Liberals have consistently neglected the vital role legal aid serves. Their actions have severed access to civil legal aid services that should remain an economic, social and cultural right across B.C.
"It's time for the B.C. Liberals to stop undermining our justice system. The government has an obligation to recognize the impact these cuts will have on lower income and marginalized British Columbians, and to ensure their rights are protected."
Carole James and the New Democrats have been holding the B.C. Liberals accountable for breaking their word on the HST, and for backtracking on their election promises to protect health care, education, and other vital services.