Defense lawyers will no longer provide legal aid in Alberta starting Monday
Four associations of defense lawyers organized marches and rallies near the courts to demand increased funding for Legal Aid Alberta (LAA), the legal aid program, and to review service eligibility criteria.
Alberta defense lawyers are returning to the charge in the dispute between them and the Department of Justice over the treatment of people accused of criminality and benefiting from the legal aid service. No case will be defended as part of this service from Monday, announced the representatives of four associations of defense lawyers.
The only exception will be cases for people whose bail is expiring and who are at risk of jail time.
The Calgary Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (CDLA ), the Edmonton Criminal Lawyers Association (CTLA), the Southern Alberta Defense Lawyers Association (SADL), and the Red Deer Criminal Lawyers Association (RDCDLA), which s added to the movement, held marches and rallies near courthouses on Friday.
They are calling on the province to increase funding for Legal Aid Alberta (LAA), the province's legal aid program, and to review the eligibility criteria for this service.
At the beginning of the month, the three associations which launched this protest movement had announced, during a first major demonstration, the suspension of cooperation with the legal aid department, but the decision had been left to the discretion of the law firms.
Friday's decision seems clearer and will be followed by the majority of defense lawyers, according to the organizers of the movement.
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In Edmonton, about 50 lawyers from the four bar associations held a rally, followed by a march near the courthouse, to announce their increased lobbying.
< p class="e-p">CTLA President Danielle Boisvert says there can't be justice without lawyers: Unrepresented people will end up in court not knowing what they owe do about their charges.
Danielle Boisvert is the President of the CTLA.
“Judges will not force [legal aid recipients] to move forward until they have adequate representation, legal advice based on a proper review of the police report, so they know what their chances are and what the best defense option is for them.
— Danielle Boisvert, President, CTLA
Our members are small business owners who employ many Albertans and support a vital segment of our economy. We are trained to provide a service that the Canadian Constitution requires and that the government must fund, says Danielle Boisvert.
Danielle Boisvert explains that the Ministry of Justice has not taken any action on the demands of its members since the first demonstration was held on September 2.
She believes that Minister Tyler Shandro is responsible for this deadlock situation. Unfortunately, Justice Minister Tyler Shandro has chosen to ignore the fact that the courts in Alberta cannot function properly when his government cuts legal aid to our most vulnerable citizens. and refuses to offer fair compensation to lawyers for their services, she said.
In Edmonton, about 50 lawyers from the four bar associations held a rally, followed by a march near the courthouse, to announce that they are increasing their pressure tactics.
Reacting to the protest, Attorney General Tyler Shandro announced that his department will initiate a review of attorneys' fees. A review of all the rates to which legal aid lawyers are entitled and a modernization of the service is necessary, as it has been too long since we have reviewed these rates, ensuring that & #x27;they all work together and that it's effective not only for the criminal defense bar, but also for clients, he said. In addition, the revision of the tariffs will only take place after a thorough examination. This revision will be carried out in October. We have said publicly that we are ready to consider it, the Minister added.
We will wait until next month when the review is done and, if there are ways to increase a rate, we are ready to consider it. But the next step is to wait for the modernization to be done and then consider whether to increase other benefits, he said.
In addition, Danielle Boisvert affirms that the direction of legal aid supports the claims of defense lawyers. In a letter seen by CBC, Legal Aid Alberta's board of directors, CEO and management team met on Tuesday and made the decision to support a tariff rate increase. registered attorneys, in accordance with Section 15.3 of the Governance Agreement, and the increase in the service eligibility threshold.
Shannon Gunn Emery, a criminal and family law attorney, says Alberta has the resources to ensure legal aid is adequately funded.
The LAA considers this revision to be important and has said so to the Minister in a letter.
There has been no increase in the rate of the Legal Aid Alberta since 2015, and any increases should be sensitive to increases in inflation over the past seven years, she says.
We received a letter from legal aid just recently, which says it is in favor of an increase in fees for lawyers and that it recognizes that the eligibility thresholds should be changed because things don't work, says criminal and family law attorney Shannon Gunn Emery.
There are too many people in Alberta who cannot access legal aid despite the fact that sometimes they face very serious charges, she laments.