Rights-Based Legal Aid Report
Rights-Based Legal Aid: Rebuilding BC’s Broken System is a 2010 report examining the serious deterioration of legal aid services over the past 15 years, and particularly since deep cuts began in 2002.
The report from West Coast LEAF and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) concludes that it’s time for a complete overhaul of BC’s legal aid system.
- The number of legal aid cases approved for legal representation declined dramatically between 2001 and 2010; the number of family law cases approved for legal representation dropped from 15,526 to 6,270.
- Representation for poverty law – housing, welfare, disability pensions, debt – has been eliminated.
- BC is now the third lowest province in Canada in per capita spending on legal aid, and our system does not cover many family law issues that other provinces do.
Kasari Govender, study co-author and Legal Director at West Coast LEAF at the time, says, “We need to re-build the legal aid system with a rights-based approach: all citizens should have the right to legal representation in any case where human dignity is at stake. Legal Services Society has done a pretty good job of providing legal information, but in many cases without representation it’s almost impossible to enforce the rights that you have on paper.”
The study also recommends restoring LSS’s independence from government and funding a mix of specialized legal aid clinics, private lawyers paid through a tariff system, and staff lawyers in community-based non-profits.