National News

B.C.'s legal-aid lawyers plan protest

By The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - Lawyers who provide legal aid in British Columbia are once again threatening to withdraw their services and begin a long-term protest over government funding.

The association that represents B.C.'s trial lawyers says the provincial government charges a tax on legal services, generating more than $144 million annually.

But the Trial Lawyers Association of BC says the province's Legal Services Society must turn down two out of every three people who apply for legal aid.

As a result, the group says it will withdraw services from July 5 to Aug. 8 and resume action in early October, continuing indefinitely with similar protests for one week at the start of every month.

B.C.'s trial lawyers began similar job action in January 2012 but suspended their protest one year ago to get talks started with the province's new justice minister.

Last October, Attorney General Suzanne Anton announced child-protection cases would go ahead, even though legal-aid lawyers had raised concerns earlier that the government didn't have the money to pay them.

"The lawyers involved are withdrawing services now with the hope of causing great improvements to be made in the future for citizens in need of legal assistance," says association spokesman Chris Johnson in a news release.

"Things have been very bad for many years, and it's only gotten worse over time. Far too many citizens need help, yet two-thirds of them are denied legal aid when they apply for assistance. It's that bad."

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