ALBERTA

Alberta lawyers 'fed up', threaten job action over cuts to legal aid

07/18/2014 06:34 EDT | Updated 09/17/2014 05:59 EDT
EDMONTON - Alberta lawyers, still angered that legal aid is facing a funding crunch, are threatening job action.

They maintain another $8 million is needed to properly fund the system that provides legal services for those who can’t afford it.

Criminal Trial Lawyers Association president Shannon Prithipaul says they are talking about withdrawing their services.

She says she's tried to get answers from Justice Minister Jonathan Denis (DEN-NISS) and now will go to Premier Dave Hancock.

On Tuesday, Legal Aid said it was closing its offices in six Alberta communities, but said it had nothing to do lack of funding.

In April, Suzanne Polkosnik, president and CEO of Legal Aid Alberta, said the program needed another $8 million a year to continue meeting clients’ needs.

“They certainly pay other areas of what they want to do well," Prithipaul said Friday outside the Edmonton law courts as several of her colleagues looked on.

"Policing gets lots of monies. Fish and Wildlife got more than legal aid. For goodness sake, where are our priorities? Are they in fish or on the most important, most vulnerable people that can’t get access to justice at this point?"

Lawyer Denise Lightning recently resigned from legal aid's board of directors.

"I was frustrated,” she said. "I think you really have to look at what’s happening in this province economically and I think the people at legal aid have asked for what they need and I think they should be listened to.”

The province’s auditor general is in the midst of investigating the funding cuts. Prithipaul is worried that anyone who is on Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped and gets $1,588 a month from the government can’t qualify for legal aid because they’re above the cut-off criteria.

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