'We hope that local communities across B.C. will join Vancouver's lead.' - Darryl Walker.
Vancouver (8 Feb. 2010) - The city of Vancouver is supporting a campaign by the British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) calling on the Campbell government to restore funding for legal aid services.
"When B.C.'s biggest city strongly supports this vital public service, the provincial government should listen," says BCGEU president Darryl Walker. "Community leaders see first hand the effect of these service cuts, which hit low income earners and women the hardest."
After years of funding and service cuts - including a $2 million cut to the 2010 provincial grant - B.C.'s Liberal government directed the Legal Services Society to cut administrative costs by half. The society announced last November that it was planning to close five of its seven remaining regional offices, leaving only two to serve the entire province - in Vancouver and Terrace.
The number of cases processed by the society has been cut nearly in half in the past eight years - from 61,627 in 2001 to 32,680 in 2009.
"All British Columbians deserve access to a strong justice system - one that doesn't discriminate against people who can't afford costly legal services," says Walker. "By closing all but two regional centres and cutting back services, those who most need access to justice will have fewer options."
A March 2009 Ipsos-Reid poll, commissioned by the Legal Services Society of B.C., found that 94% of British Columbians support the legal aid system and 97% believe that everyone has a right to access the justice system. A clear majority - 54% - said they believe legal aid services are inadequately funded in B.C.
"We hope that local communities across B.C. will join Vancouver's lead in calling for the provincial government to restore funding to the legal aid system and keep these regional centres open," Walker says.
The BCGEU represents most legal aid workers at the Legal Services Society. The society is planning to cut 30% of staff in 2010 - 58 positions cut from a total of 198.
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