Provinces Call For Increased Federal Funding For Legal Aid



    Justice Ministers Stand Together

    OTTAWA, June 20 /CNW/ - Provincial justice ministers united on Parliament
Hill today to call on the federal government to increase federal funding for
legal aid services, Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant announced. A
Liberal, Conservative and a NDP provincial justice minister made the
tri-partisan case today for federal action.
    "We are joining together to ask the federal government to pay its fair
share as a partner in the justice system," said Bryant. "While legal aid is a
shared responsibility between the federal government and the provinces and
territories, the provinces continue to contribute a disproportionate amount
toward their legal aid systems. The McGuinty government, for example, has
increased provincial funding to Legal Aid Ontario significantly since taking
office, paying four times as much as the federal government."
    In October 2006, provincial and territorial justice ministers unanimously
agreed that current federal contributions to legal aid were not enough. They
once again asked the federal government to commit to critically needed
increases for legal aid and for new funding for civil legal aid that would
include family law and domestic violence cases.
    While the provinces continue to increase funding to legal aid, the level
of federal support has remained virtually unchanged since 2003/04. The last
time the federal government was a 50/50 partner was 1990/91. The federal
government, in its 2007 Budget, indicated that criminal legal aid funding
would be maintained at current levels for the next five years.
    "The Saskatchewan Legal Aid Commission also gets four times more funding
from the province than from the federal government," said Saskatchewan Justice
Minister Frank Quennell. "Not only has the federal government refused to
recognize the current need for legal aid funding, they must recognize that
their changes to Canada's criminal justice system are costly. They must be
willing to invest to meet both the current and increased demands for legal
aid."
    "We're asking the federal government to step up to the plate," said Nova
Scotia Minister of Justice Murray Scott. "The provinces strive to provide
legal assistance for family law clients who are often women and children. But
we can only do so much. We are asking the federal government to commit to
funding for civil legal aid."
    "Legal aid is fundamental in terms of access to our justice system and it
greatly impacts the most vulnerable in our society," said Newfoundland and
Labrador Minister of Justice Tom Osborne. "In Newfoundland and Labrador, the
lack of sustained funding makes the process of building a legal aid delivery
system that is capable of meeting the needs of our citizens difficult. And we,
as a provincial government, are committed to providing equal access to family
law related services to all citizens of our province."
    "Without additional federal resources, provinces and territories are
concerned about whether we can maintain current levels of civil legal aid
service," said Québec Attorney General Jacques P. Dupuis. "We would like a
federal commitment on legal aid funding now."
    "Legal aid is an important part of ensuring access to justice for all
Canadians," said Alberta Attorney General Ron Stevens. "Increased federal
legal aid funding is necessary if the provinces and territories are to
continue to enable that access for those in need."
    "Family and civil legal aid services are being eroded because we have to
address rising criminal legal aid demands on a flat-lined federal budget,"
said Manitoba Attorney General Dave Chomiak. "We must ensure access to justice
for low-income Canadians who need and deserve legal aid services."
    "The Canadian Bar Association believes that legal aid is the key to the
courthouse door," said Canadian Bar Association President-elect Bernard Amyot.
"For those without the economic means, that key is beyond their reach. All of
us - regardless of means - must be assured of effective and equal access to
the judicial system when our fundamental interests are at stake."
    Legal aid protects constitutional and legal rights and ensures fair and
equal treatment for people with low incomes facing criminal charges. The
provinces and territories fund legal aid for parents with low incomes involved
in child protection proceedings or seeking custody, access or financial
support for themselves or their children.
    "The provinces and territories are in critical need of new, dedicated and
specific funding for civil legal aid," said Bryant. "Federal funding would
mean more family law clients would get the legal services they deserve. The
provinces and territories stand united in calling for increased federal
funding for legal aid services."

    
    Disponible en français

                      www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca
    




For further information:

For further information: Greg Crone, Ontario Ministry of the Attorney
General, Minister's Office, (416) 326-1785; Brendan Crawley, Ontario Ministry
of the Attorney General, Communications Branch, (416) 326-2210; Debi McEwen,
ABC, Director, Communications & Public Education, Saskatchewan Justice,
Saskatchewan Corrections and Public Safety, (306) 787-6043; Cathy MacIsaac,
Communications Director, Department of Justice, Nova Scotia, (902) 424-3313;
Melony O'Neill, Communications, Executive Council, Government of Newfoundland
and Labrador, (709) 729-0557; Philippe Archambault, Office of the Attorney
General of Québec, (514) 402-4128; Heather Massel, Alberta Justice
Communications, (780) 427-8530; David Leibl, Office of the Attorney General of
Manitoba, (204) 945-1494

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