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Legal aid lawyers reach breaking point, request more funding from province

  • August 7, 2022

Legal aid has reached a breaking point and Alberta defense lawyers are looking to the province for more funding.

Alberta’s legal aid program has been underfunded for years, said Ian Savage, the president of the Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

“Every now and then we try and get the government’s attention to the crisis and they put some money towards it on a band-aid type solution,” he said.

According to Savage, in 2018, a four-year provincial funding agreement was put in place with Rachel Notley’s NDP government. However, that funding decreased starting in 2020.

In May of this year, the province gave Legal Aid Alberta the green light to modernize its lawyer-building framework. But lawyers are saying that if there’s no money, then there’s no sense in the project.

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“What legal aid has been given or not been given in terms of what it can work with to revamp the tariffs, as a whole, puts legal aid in a position where it can only do so much,” said Danielle Boisvert, a criminal defense lawyer in Edmonton and the president of the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association.

Legal Aid Alberta is trying to pay lawyers for longer trials, said Boisvert, but that means taking away money from smaller files which make up about 70 per cent of cases the defense lawyers take on.

“If you’re getting paid less on each file, what are you going to do if you’re going to keep working in this industry as a defense lawyer for legal aid? What you need to

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