Lawyers vote to withdraw their legal aid services

Lawyers vote to withdraw their legal aid services

Defence attorneys will no longer provide certain legal aid services for two weeks in August.

Members of three defense attorney groups will refuse to provide certain services to Alberta's Legal Aid program for two weeks in August in protest of Legal Aid Alberta's chronic underfunding.

Calgary Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (CDLA), Edmonton Criminal Lawyers Association (CTLA) and Southern Criminal Defense Lawyers Association Alberta (SADLA) held a vote on the matter on Wednesday. At least 100 members attended, according to CDLA president Ian Savage, who did not, however, detail the results of the vote.

From August 8 to August 19, these attorneys will deny all cases involving bail, court advice, plaintiff advice, and cross-examination of a plaintiff.

If the bar associations do not reach a satisfactory funding agreement with the government, they will continue these withdrawals of service for two weeks in September.

It's a short-term sacrifice of a crumbling legal system in hopes of drawing the government's attention to the plight of defense attorneys, Savage explained.

Defense lawyers are pushing for an increase in legal aid fees which they say are lower than those in other provinces.

Earlier this week, Justice Minister Joseph Dow's press secretary said the government was open to a budget discussion, but only in 2023.

On behalf of all Albertans, defense attorneys refuse to wait, the three associations wrote in a statement.

They have also indicated that they were withdrawing from the committee set up to modernize the fee structure of the legal aid program. This work is a waste of taxpayers' money behind a facade of consultation, it reads.

Minister of Justice Tyler Shandro is due to meet with the three associations on Monday.

With information from Mrinali Anchan

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