Lawyers say Alberta government’s failure to sign deal threatens legal aid services

Legal Aid Alberta has issued a statement in relation to the expiry of its governance and funding agreement with the Government of Alberta on June 30 and the consequences of this for its stakeholders.

Legal Aid Alberta, a non-profit organisation, has traditionally received funding through a governance agreement that involves the federal government, the provincial government, and funds generated from interest on lawyers’ trust accounts. This funding structure, overseen by the Law Society of Alberta, has ensured that vulnerable Albertans have access to legal services, allowing them to choose their own representation and ensuring the operation of an independent legal aid service.

Ryan Callioux, the board chair of Legal Aid Alberta, issued a statement on behalf of the organisation immediately prior to the expiry of its agreement with government, expressing concerns about the impact of the unsigned agreement on the organisation’s operations and its independence. He noted that the lack of a governance agreement compromises their ability to conduct business effectively and maintain their role in providing services to the most vulnerable members of society.

Justice Minister Mickey Amery and Alberta Justice have responded by stating that they are working to establish an interim grant agreement to maintain funding for Legal Aid Alberta while negotiations for a new agreement continue. However, concerns persist among legal professionals and organisations about the interim measures and the potential for a significant shift in how legal aid is administered, particularly the move to one-year grants controlled by the justice minister.

The legal community, including the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association and other regional legal associations, has expressed dismay at the situation, describing it as a potential catastrophe for the justice system. They warn that without a resolution, Legal Aid Alberta may soon be unable to accept new clients, exacerbating existing challenges in the justice system and disproportionately affecting marginalised groups.

Other commentary on this issue highlight the broader implications of this funding dispute on the administration of justice in Alberta, including potential impacts on family law, child welfare, and immigration matters.

Read the full story here. 

ICLR news and events.

Brought to you by ICLR.