Access to justice for all British Columbians is a priority for B.C.’s government.
Over 20% – more than $100 million – of the Ministry of Justice budget goes to legal aid services that provide access to justice for British Columbians on a broad range of justice programs and services.
Budget 2017 adds $2.8 million to the Legal Services Society to expand the Parents’ Legal Centre to Surrey and extend other pilots.
Investments in Justice Access Centres, Family Justice Centres, and the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program focus on mediation and collaboration that take matters out of court and supports low-income clients resolve their justice issues without a lawyer.
- The B.C. government invests over $30 million annually in Justice Access Centres, Family Justice Centres, and the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program, which support families and individuals resolves disputes through mediation and collaboration.
- Last year, 55,483 British Columbians received help navigating their legal options at Justice Access Centres and Family Justice Centres.
- With locations in Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo, Justice Access Centres help clients with family and civil law issues, including separation or divorce, income security, employment, housing, and debt.
- Available in 21 locations across the province, Family Justice Centres offer trained mediators to support British Columbians in resolving their separation and divorce issues and disputes.
- Services are available in English, Mandarin/Cantonese, Tagalog, Punjabi.
- All meetings with a family justice counsellor are free and confidential.
- Clients are provided with services and resources such as:
- self-help and information services
- dispute resolution and mediation options
- limited legal advice
- community resources and agencies
- free publications
- courses and presentations
- These programs and services are over and above the $77.6 million the Ministry of Justice transfers to the Legal Services Society (LSS) to deliver traditional legal aid services.
- LSS provides lawyers and legal aid services to individuals who meet a certain low-income threshold.
- LSS services include :
- Immigration duty counsel for people in detention at the Canada Border Services Agency’s enforcement centre in Vancouver.
- Brydges Line – province-wide toll free telephone advice service for those who have been arrested or detained.
- In addition, LSS’s innovative pilot projects promote early, out-of-court resolution:
- Parent’s Legal Centres – counsel and a legal advocate to assist parents resolve child protection issues in collaborative processes, where appropriate.
- Expanded Criminal Duty Counsel – Located at the Port Coquitlam courthouse, expanded criminal duty counsel supports early resolution in less complex criminal cases by aiding qualified clients until resolution or the setting of a trial date by the same duty counsel.
- Expanded Family Duty Counsel – A full-time lawyer and administrative assistant co-ordinate duty counsel and legal advice services at the Victoria Justice Access Centre to provide clients with continuity of advice and assist with coaching to help people resolve matters earlier. This service is also available at Vancouver’s JAC.
- Expanded Family LawLINE – Family lawyers provide legal advice to clients across the province over the phone and by email. Service expansion includes increased hours, enhanced use of technology and allows clients greater continuity of service.
Ministry of JusticeGovernment Communications and Public Engagement