The B.C. government and the Legal Services Society (LSS) have announced a tentative deal to fund legal aid. The deal avoids Monday’s scheduled job action that would have limited or suspended the provision of legal aid services.
As part of the deal the province is contributing $4 million and the LSS is putting in $3.9 million. The money will be used to increase payments to legal aid lawyers from April 28 to Oct. 31.
Legal aid is often used by low-income individuals for cases involving family, child protection, immigration and criminal law problems
“We recognize there is work to be done to improve the legal aid system both for British Columbians and the counsel that represent them in court,” Attorney General David Eby said.
“Legal aid lawyers provide services to some of the most vulnerable members of the province, and we will continue to work with LSS to address the historical underfunding of legal aid.”
The 624 members of the LSS voted in favour of accepting the government’s deal to support creating a legal aid funding model. The interim deal sees a 25 per cent increase in payment to legal aid lawyers during the six-month period.
The LSS says historically B.C.’s legal aid budget has not been properly funded, leading to people not getting the legal help they need.
“This interim agreement reflects the government and Minister Eby’s recognition of the history of underfunding of legal aid and the important work legal aid lawyers do to provide services to the most vulnerable people in the province,” a statement from negotiators Marilyn Sandford, Chris Johnson and Richard Fowler reads.
The LSS says B.C.’s legal aid lawyers have only had one pay raise in 28 years. In 2006, their hourly rate increased by approximately 10 per cent.