Alberta justice minister says access to legal help approaching ’crisis point’

Legal experts, politicians and Canada’s top judge are saying it’s increasingly difficult for low- and middle-income Canadians to get access to the courts.

CALGARY — Legal experts, politicians and Canada’s top judge are saying it’s increasingly difficult for low- and middle-income Canadians to get access to the courts.

Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley, who was attending a Canadian Bar Association convention on Friday, told reporters there needs to be a review of the province’s legal aid since it appears to barely be getting the job done.

“We’re sort of rapidly moving toward a crisis point and we need to start considering what it is we can do to solve that,” Ganley said.

“It’s quite clear that the service being provided under the current scheme is inadequate, so in Alberta we’re just sort of barely covering people on AISH, which is the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped.”

Ganley said there are people who are above the threshold to qualify for legal aid who still can’t afford lawyers of their own.

“The middle class can’t afford legal services anymore. It’s a significant challenge,” she said.

“We can continue throwing money at the problem, but doesn’t seem to be a solution that has worked thus far.”

Alberta defence lawyers have been pushing for more money since six regional legal-aid offices were closed and staff laid off in Calgary, Whitecourt and Lethbridge last summer.

Ganley said a review is to be done, but it’s still too early to say when it will be conducted and what the parameters will be.

Access to legal services was also raised by the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Beverley McLachlin told convention delegates that the system is failing those in need.

“Legal-aid funding and coverage is not available for most people and problems, and the cost of legal services and length of proceedings is steadily increasing,” she said.

“Statistics show that people who get legal assistance in dealing with their legal problems are much more likely to achieve better results than those who do not.”

Michelle Hollins, outgoing president of the bar association, announced the group will be active in the federal election campaign in a non-partisan way.

“We need to put important issues such as … equal justice issues and our views on legislation on the radar of the parties and of the public. We cannot sit on the sidelines,” Hollins said.

It’s important to give a voice to the “thousands of Canadians who are left out of the justice system,” she said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Some workers at Sobeys in Rocky Mountain House have recently tested positive for COVID-19. (File photo)
Sobeys in Rocky Mountain House reports COVID-19 workers

10 positive tests since last Thursday

A woman walks through Toronto’s financial district on Monday, July 30, 2018. A new poll suggests most Canadians believe there’s still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in this country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Canadians, especially women, say gender equality not achieved in Canada: Poll

63 per cent said equality between men and women has not been achieved

FILE - In this March 3, 2021, file photo, anti-coup protesters run as one of them discharges a fire extinguisher to counter the impact of tear gas fired by riot policemen in Yangon, Myanmar. The escalation of violence in Myanmar as authorities crack down on protests against the Feb. 1 coup is adding to pressure for more sanctions against the junta, as countries struggle over how to best confront military leaders inured to global condemnation. (AP Photo/File)
Escalating violence raises pressure for Myanmar sanctions

More shootings were reported over the weekend

A moth-killing drone hovers over crops in a green house in Monster, Netherlands, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. A Dutch startup is using drones to kill moths in midair as a way of protecting valuable crops in greenhouses that are damaged by caterpillars. PATS Indoor Drone Solutions emerged from the work of a group of students looking for ways to kill mosquitos in their dorm rooms. The drones themselves are very basic, but they are steered by smart technology and special cameras that scan the airspace in greenhouses. When the cameras detect a moth, a drone is set on a collision course with the bug, destroying the bug with its rotors. (AP Photo/Mike Corder)
Drones vs hungry moths: Dutch use hi-tech to protect crops

Drones instantly kill the moths by flying into them

Health-care worker Jenne Saunders prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais de Congress site as Quebec begins mass vaccinations based on age across the province on March 1, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada set to receive more than 910,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines this week

Federal government looks for vaccine-makers to finalize delivery of eight million doses by March 31

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

Treena Mielke
Seasons changing: Hope around the corner with vaccines

The month of March is leaving its muddy footprint on the land… Continue reading

Hamilton Forge FC’s Giuliano Frano (8) heads the ball against CD Olimpia’s Jorge Benguche (9) during Scotiabank CONCACAF League 2019 second half soccer action in Hamilton, Ont., Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. Forge FC owner Bob Young says the Canadian Premier League champions will be playing the Canadian Championship final against Toronto FC at a disadvantage. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power
Forge FC owner upset at Canada Soccer’s timing of Canadian Championship final

Winner of Canadian Championship final earns a berth in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League

Team Wild Card Two skip Kevin Koe reacts to his shot as he plays Team Newfoundland and Labrador at the Brier in Calgary, Alta., on March 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Wild Card Two’s Koe beats Gushue 9-7 to hand defending champs first loss at the Brier

Gushue was a tad heavy with his final draw and Koe picked it out for the victory

(Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No regrets: Grammy-nominated DJ Jayda G on choosing beats over sciences career

TORONTO — House music producer Jayda G knows a thing or two… Continue reading

This image provided by Harpo Productions shows Prince Harry, left, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, speaking about expecting their second child during an interview with Oprah Winfrey. “Oprah with Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special” airs March 7 as a two-hour exclusive primetime special on the CBS Television Network. (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via AP)
UK royals absorb shock of revealing Harry, Meghan interview

Anti-monarchy group Republic said the interview gave a clearer picture of what the royal family is like

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan takes part in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa on December 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservatives to call top Sajjan, Trudeau aides to testify on Vance allegations

OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives plan to summon two senior Liberal aides… Continue reading

Elvira D'Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Several provinces were preparing to loosen COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday, as Canada’s… Continue reading

Mount Pearl Senior High in Mount Pearl, N.L., remains closed on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The provincial health authority says there were 185 cases at 22 schools, including 145 infections among staff and students of one high school in Mount Pearl that was an early epicentre of the outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
In Newfoundland and Labrador, three ingredients made for explosive COVID-19 outbreak

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — With her classes, three part-time jobs and a… Continue reading

Most Read