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Alberta justice minister says province won’t ‘undermine’ Legal Aid review

Click to play video: 'Hiccups reported as Alberta defence lawyers refuse legal aid cases'
Hiccups reported as Alberta defence lawyers refuse legal aid cases
On the first day of escalated job action, criminal defence lawyers reported hiccups after they refused to take new legal aid cases. Breanna Karstens-Smith reports. – Sep 26, 2022

Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro says the province does not want to undermine a review of Legal Aid to satisfy criminal defence lawyers who have taken job action over the amount they’re compensated.

Organizations representing lawyers in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer and southern Alberta began job action Aug. 8 by refusing to accept certain bail and duty counsel files from legal aid.

The lawyers escalated Monday by withdrawing all services and refusing to take any new cases.

Read more: Defence lawyers to stop taking new legal aid files as dispute with Alberta continues

Shandro told reporters in Calgary that a review of the Legal Aid Alberta system will be completed next month and he’s not going to undermine it by taking action now.

Click to play video: 'Alberta defence lawyers stop taking new legal aid cases amid dispute with province'
Alberta defence lawyers stop taking new legal aid cases amid dispute with province

He said Legal Aid has enough money and his department is monitoring to make sure people who need the service have access to justice.

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Shandro says he’s sympathetic to the lawyers’ position and is willing to discuss future changes, but only after the review is complete.

“We’re willing to have conversations about whether there needs to be increases in the tariff or whether there needs to be changes to the financial eligibility guidelines, but I think that’s a next step after the review in October is completed,” Shandro said.

“We’ve heard the advocacy from the criminal defence bar that there needs to be changes to how they’re compensated. That’s the next step.”

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