Stop funding cuts to legal aid

Hon. Wally Oppal
Attorney General
PO Box 9044
STN PROV GOVT
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2

Hon. Rob Nicholson
Attorney General for Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

Dear Attorneys General,

RE: Funding Cuts to Legal Aid

I am writing to convey my utmost concerns about the BC government’s decision to cut funding to an already gravely underfunded and overburdened legal aid system. I respectfully urge the Province to reverse the decision. Already, the legal aid situation in BC is in crisis, and the current cuts compound it.

As the Member of Parliament for Vancouver East since 1997, I deal every day with society’s most vulnerable. Many lack the money, knowledge, language skills, education, and the confidence to tackle an already complicated legal system. They lack the resources to not only access the system, but also to navigate it should they be even granted access.

In my riding, the cuts will have a disproportionate impairment on social assistance recipients, immigrants, aboriginals, women, drug addicts, and the mentally ill. Without legal representation, both the provincial and federal government are condemning these people to severe psychological stress and anxiety at best, and outright miscarriages of justice at worst. Either way, there is deep suffering, and their twin curses of helplessness and hopelessness are exacerbated. Why bear the torch to an already scorched earth?
At the federal level, I fully support the Canadian Bar Association’s five-point platform on legal aid reform:
• Legal aid should be recognized as an essential public service, like health care.
• Public funding should be confirmed as necessary to ensure access to justice for low-income people.
• Public funding for legal aid must be increased.
• National standards for criminal and civil legal aid coverage and eligibility criteria are required.
• The federal government should revitalize its commitment to legal aid.

I know that you are not ignorant of the devastating impacts of cuts to legal aid. And I know that you are fully aware that the legal system is already too expensive for “ordinary” people. There must be justice for all, not a few. Therefore, I hope you both will agree that the cuts make no sense, and must be reversed and funding improved substantially. I would be happy to discuss this matter in more detail, if need be. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Libby Davies, MP (Vancouver East)

This Open Letter to Ministers & Public Officials was posted on February 10, 2009
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