Legal aid eligibility questioned

More people may now qualify for legal aid since the Legal Services Society (LSS) has accounted for a cost of living increase.

  • Sep. 13, 2011 2:00 p.m.

More people may now qualify for legal aid since the Legal Services Society (LSS) has accounted for a cost of living increase.

Effective Sept. 1, LSS improved its financial eligibility guidelines for legal representation and advice services with a 2.4 per cent cost of living increase.

“People can continue to be eligible for legal aid,” said LSS executive director Mark Benton. “We don’t want to refuse people for legal aid… simply because inflation has cut into the value of the amount of money they make.”

Executive director for Island J.A.D.E Society Sian Thomson said that the cost of living increase is not enough.

She pointed out that Legal Aid was “essentially obliterated” in 2003 when poverty law matters, life welfare appeals, tenancy issues, and human rights complaints were not covered anymore, and said that the increase only helps those who were already covered.

“Other than the provision of some ‘self help’ services to those who have access to them, are literate, and sophisticated enough to represent themselves if there are no advocates in their communities, a 2.4 per cent increase does nothing for them, it only helps those who have issues already covered,” said Thomson.

Benton noted legal aid is “restrictive,” but said that the increase is valuable.

“It’s important, because these days as legal aid has become increasingly restrictive and we’re actually doing something that makes sure that people aren’t arbitrarily cut off legal aid,” said Benton.

LSS is also providing additional funding to 24 social service organizations throughout the province that will offer free legal information in their communities, but no new ones in Campbell River.

Campbell River does have one legal aid office, Doug Marion, Barrister & Solicitor.

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