A number of BC legal organizations recently announced their joint efforts to establish The Public Commission on Legal Aid. The Public Commission is a joint initiative of the Canadian Bar Association – BC Branch, the Law Society of BC, the Law Foundation of BC, the BC Crown Counsel Association, the Vancouver Bar Association and the Victoria Bar Association. The Public Commission will be led by Leonard Doust, Q.C., a well-respected senior member of the legal profession in the province.
The goal of the Public Commission is to engage the people of British Columbia on the issue of legal aid by conducting a series of hearings across the province from September through October 2010. The Public Commission will convene meetings and invite submission from interested parties, including residents, community organization representatives, and justice system stakeholders. Details of hearing dates and communities will be released in coming weeks, as will a dedicated website with further information on the Public Commission. The completion of the hearings will be followed by preparation and delivery of a comprehensive written report to the BC and federal governments.
CBABC President James Bond stated several reasons underlying the formation of the Public Commission:
- insufficient legal aid services are available for British Columbians who need them;
- funding cut several years ago has not been restored, and government funding has largely remained static;
- economic factors have adversely affect other funding sources, while demand for legal aid services has increased;
- and government must hear that British Columbians consider legal aid a priority before difficulties facing legal aid programs will change.