Regional offices will be closed in Kelowna, Kamloops, Prince George, Victoria and Surrey next year. The Justice Access Centre in Nanaimo will also be shut down.
Vancouver (5 Nov. 2009) - The B.C. Legal Services Society has been targeted for another round of cuts by the Gordon Campbell Liberal government - the second attack on its budget this year.
The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) says the cuts will have a serious impact on public access to the justice system.
The government plans to close regional offices in Kelowna, Kamloops, Prince George, Victoria and Surrey next year and shut down the Justice Access Centre in Nanaimo. Only the Terrace regional office will remain open.
The society plans to lay off up to 54 employees and cut many civil law projects, including the LawLINE and the Community Advocate Support Line.
"These cuts will further reduce the ability of low-income people to access the legal system and will create a greater inequity between the richest and poorest citizens," says BCGEU president Darryl Walker. "Rural communities are losing a valuable resource with the closure of the regional offices and the knowledgeable staff that help ordinary people navigate the legal system."
Earlier in January this year, the B.C. government's funding cuts forced the Legal Services Society to reduce staff in the Lower Mainland by 38 positions and cut back core services and special projects, while demand for its services rose dramatically.
The cuts follow the massive 40% cut to legal aid services by the B.C. Liberals in their first term of office from 2002 to 2005.
In addition to the planned cuts, the government has informed the society that they will no longer be able to use accumulated surpluses to cover funding shortfalls. Nor will it be permitted to any longer incur a deficit, meaning that additional service cuts may be necessary in the future.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE