July 07, 2014 - 2:58 PM
VANCOUVER - Legal aid lawyers who have withdrawn services donned their black robes to protest outside provincial court in Vancouver, saying the B.C. government is failing to meet the needs of the most vulnerable citizens.
Birgit Eder of the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. says about 95 per cent of people in family courts, and 40 per cent of people who are accused of criminal offences can't afford a lawyer and are denied legal aid.
Eder says self-representation leads to backlogs in the courts and people are forced to defend themselves against lawyers.
She says the province has spent roughly $56 million annually on legal aid funding for the past 23 years despite inflation and population growth and that the continued underfunding means two out of three people who apply for legal aid are refused help.
A tax on lawyers' fees generated nearly $150 million last year, and Eder says the government should keep its promise to funnel all the money toward legal aid.
Members of the Trial Lawyers Association are vowing to refuse all new cases until early August and say more action is planned for October unless the government increases funding.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2014