Many of you have heard the news that members of the Association of Legal Aid Lawyers have voted 97% in favour of withdrawing their services April 1, 2019. If this happens, we want you to know that LSS is committed to taking all reasonable steps to help people who need legal aid.
If lawyers stop accepting legal aid contracts, LSS will prioritize the most vulnerable people as follows:
o Situations where children have been, or may be, removed from a parent by the Ministry of Children and Family Development
o People requiring Family Protection Orders
o People needing an order to prevent the other parent from permanently relocating (moving) their child out of the province
o People who are being held in custody on criminal charges and waiting for a bail hearing to determine if they can be released from jail until they have to appear in court
LSS is taking every step to prepare in advance. LSS intake and local agent offices will still be accepting legal aid applications; however, people should expect longer wait times on the LSS Call Centre and Family LawLINE. Parents Legal Centres will also continue to provide child protection services.
What we know so far is there will be a significant impact on those appearing in court charged with a crime. While we expect some family duty counsel to still be available in many courthouses on family court days, the situation could change.
Immigration services will likely be affected. Though at this time, LSS expects to be able to cover immigration duty counsel for those in detention. We are working on alternatives for those needing to fill out refugee claim applications.
From what we know now (subject to change), contracted lawyers for the following services will be working during a withdrawal:
Duty counsel at First Nations Court, Drug Treatment Court, Downtown Community Court, and Circuit Courts
Expanded Criminal Duty Counsel in Port Coquitlam
Family advice lawyers at Family Justice/Justice Access Centres
Family LawLINE and Brydges Line
LSS will make efforts to find lawyers willing to take contracts to help vulnerable clients, and refer people we cannot help to other resources.
We will keep you informed as things change.