Eight new legal clinics will open around B.C. as part of a $2 million investment to improve access to justice, Attorney General David Eby said Nov. 4.
"Accessing the justice system in Canada can be costly and complex," Eby said. "Previous governments chose to cut funding for both legal aid and poverty law. We are committed to reversing that history of neglect and ensuring that all British Columbians can find legal help when they need it."
Each clinic will receive up to $250,000 to hire lawyers and legal staff. Lawyers will offer legal advice on issues including poverty, housing, immigration and disability and to act as counsel in legal proceedings at no cost to clients.
Establishment of clinics was among 25 recommendations in lawyer Jamie Maclaren’s review of legal aid released earlier this year. He said a mixed delivery model including contract – or tariff – lawyers providing legal aid combined with a clinic model and staff model would allow for distribution of legal aid cases based on which group is best suited to the task.
“My report recommends the development of community legal clinics providing family law and poverty law services, specialty clinics, indigenous justice centres, an experimental criminal law office and a major case team of lawyers and paralegals specializing in long and complex criminal cases,” Maclaren said. “Rebalancing the current mixed model to introduce mutually assistive competition between model types should lead to system cost savings and better client service.”
The first clinic will be in Vancouver through the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre. It will support renters with issues related to tenancy and housing. Locations for other clinics are being finalized.
Grants are to be awarded through the Law Foundation of B.C., a non-profit organization mandated to fund legal education, legal research, legal aid, law reform and law libraries for the benefit of British Columbians. The foundation will provide the new legal clinics with coaching, tools and support.
Eby said the clinics would increase access to legal help as part of the NDP government's strategy to reduce poverty.
"This investment allows several existing legal advocacy offices to become legal clinics, staffed with experienced lawyers who will offer guidance and support to the most vulnerable members of the communities they serve."
Foundation executive director Josh Paterson said the clinics perform important work supporting marginalized British Columbians.