The Legal Services Society heard good news in BC Finance Minister Mike de Jong’s budget speech in February. Pilot projects that we have been running for the past three years will be able to continue for another three years with $2 million per year in provincial funding. It was also announced that there will be funding to expand those projects elsewhere, including a new Parents Legal Centre in Surrey, with another $2.8 million per year for three years.
The Parents Legal Centre was specifically recommended by Grand Chief Ed John in his report on Indigenous welfare in BC, which found value in the model’s culturally appropriate approach to assisting families facing the possible removal of their children by government. The other justice innovation projects include expanded versions of our successful criminal and family duty counsel programs and Family LawLINE.Of course, a budget speech in an election year is dependent on the government staying in power, but the announcement indicates to us that these projects are working to improve access to justice in the province.
LSS Board Chair Suzette Narbonne is a lawyer who knows first hand how important legal aid is to her clients. In some cases, it can change their lives. When she recently spoke to the Law Society of BC benchers, Suzette described the real-life story of “Jackie” — and how helping Jackie resolve her legal issues empowered her client to move on with her life. It also suggests the constraints of providing family law assistance when funding is limited for anything outside our constitutional obligation to provide criminal and child protection law services. The story is on the LSS website.In her benchers speech, Suzette also congratulated the Law Society for promoting Aboriginal cultural competency for lawyers and for the work of its Legal Aid Task Force. The full Law Society benchers speech is here.