Legal Services Society of BC shuts doors to legal aid

VANCOUVER, Nov. 3 /CNW/ - Earlier today, staff at the Legal Services Society were notified that the LawLINE, the Community Advocate Support Line, and all but one of the regional legal aid offices will shut down as of March 2010.

The Legal Services Society, a not-for-profit organization funded primarily by the Ministry of Attorney General, provides legal aid to tens of thousands of clients in British Columbia who otherwise could not afford counsel to resolve their legal issues. Regional offices spread throughout B.C. and innovative programs like the LawLINE, a toll-free legal aid information and advice line, help low-income residents with difficult legal issues.

The cuts that were announced earlier today will result in the elimination of nearly all community resources offered by the Legal Services Society outside the Lower Mainland. As a result, legal aid will become much harder to access in every region of the province.

"Essentially, the Legal Services Society is saying that low-income families, single mothers, and the elderly don't deserve representation" says Jodi Jensen, Executive Director for the Professional Employees Association, the union representing lawyers working for the Legal Services Society.

"Demand for legal aid has gone up substantially, and it will only continue to rise as more British Columbians find themselves requiring legal services without the resources to access justice."

Although severe cuts are being made to all legal programs, little to no cuts or staffing reductions are planned for the organization's senior management or human resources department.

"Basically, the budget shortfall to Legal Aid in BC is being made up on the backs of British Columbians who truly need legal assistance" tells Jensen.

Earlier this year, the Legal Services Society reduced services due to insufficient funding and a steep increase in demand. Today's announcement comes as the second round of deep cuts to legal aid in British Columbia in less than a year.

In April, the Professional Employees Association launched the umbrella campaign group Access to Justice which produced a short documentary film exposing the flaws of our justice system. The film can be viewed online at http://www.accesstojustice.ca.

SOURCE Professional Employees Association

For further information: For further information: Barinder Rasode, Labour Relations Officer, Professional Employees Association, (604) 581-6662 (office), (604) 880-1588 (cell)

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