Legal Aid lawyers have fired a blistering broadside at Alberta’s justice minister after desperate pleas for more funding were ignored in last month’s provincial budget.

A withering 2,300-word missive, sent to Kathleen Ganley late Monday, slams Alberta’s NDP government for paying lip service to the critical legal pillar, but keeping it on a starvation diet that’s been ongoing for years.

“Like a shackled and starving foster child locked in a filthy closet for years, the Legal Aid program is a neglected and degraded shadow of its true potential and is robbing poor and disadvantaged Albertans of their futures,” reads the letter authored by Ian Savage, president of the Calgary-based Criminal Defence Lawyers Association

“Your government knows exactly what is going on with its starving hidden child, but prefers to feed and care for its more attractive and socially appealing bigger brothers and
sisters: the police, the prosecution service, and the jails.

“We have one thing to say about this: shame on you and shame on your so-called social democratic government.”

Savage said there had been positive signs that the government was finally heeding their appeals for a desperately needed funding boost, with a 20 per cent increase to Legal Aid funding in their first two terms, along with another 10 per cent funding hike last fall. They also agreed to begin a review of the service.

But the Calgary lawyer said the review has essentially sputtered out an immediate $60 million is needed to augment the service’s $89-million annual budget to ensure those unable to afford legal representation are not left to navigate the justice system on their own.

“The straw that broke the camel’s back is the slap in the face of last month’s budget, with zero new dollars to Legal Aid when $60 million is required,” Savage told Postmedia, noting they need an immediate 40 per …read more

Source:: Calgary Herald


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