The following is a brief timeline and backgrounder on the cuts to legal aid in BC culled from various press releases and news articles. See the links in the More Information section below for more details, especially the resources on the Access to Justice site.
- The BC government cut funding to the Legal Services Society – the provider of legal aid - by 40%;
- They closed 85% of the legal aid offices throughout BC;
- Reduction of 75% of staff;
- Eliminated all legal aid Poverty Law services;
- Eliminated all assistance for Human Rights complaints
- Cut family law by 60%.
- Minimal increases did not supported the demand for legal aid.
- LSS sought and received pilot project funding from non-government funding sources, but those were tightened up in the face of the economic meltdown of 2008.
- The Legal Services Society announced huge cuts to staff and services over the year.
- Elimination of 38 staff positions (16% reduction) in the Vancouver and Surrey offices, including all staff caseload lawyer positions (resulting, for example, in the closure of the LSS family law clinic) and 6 LawLINE lawyer positions;
- Reduction in LawLINE scope, resulting in coverage of fewer legal issues;
- Reduction of public legal information services due to decreased staffing (reduction in fieldworkers and publications staff);
- Family law: Family law services largely eliminated. Extended family services, which give lawyers extra time to complete difficult cases, reduced. Dispute resolution services, available to clients with significant family law problems but without safety concerns, entirely eliminated;
- Criminal law: Category One offences, such as breach of probation, petty theft and failure to appear, no longer covered for adults;
- Immigration and refugee law: Stricter merit screening introduced, restricting how many people will be eligible for legal aid coverage.
- LSS announced further cuts including the closing of five regional offices and the closing of LAWLine.
- Kamploops lawyers announced they were withdrawing services in opposition to legal aid cuts.
- The British Columbia branch of the Canadian Bar Association will hold a ‘People’s Commission’ on the sorry state of legal aid in the province.
- LAWLine - LSS's telephone legal advice service will be discontinued.
- The Society will close its regional centres in Kamloops, Prince George, Kelowna, Surrey and Victoria
- Elimination of all of LSS’s civil non-family legal aid advice services, including LawLINE (staffed with lawyers and paralegals offering free telephone legal advice to low income people across BC), the Community Advocate Support Line (staffed by a lawyer who provides legal supervision, advice, and support to advocates throughout BC), and all but one staff position at the Nanaimo Justice Access Centre
- Elimination of an additional 58 staff positions throughout BC, including all but five of the remaining LSS staff lawyer positions in BC.
- PovNet will no longer receive core funding from LSS