The Alberta government is increasing support for legal aid to ensure low-income and vulnerable Albertans can access the justice system for years to come.
A $70-million increase over four years will allow Legal Aid Alberta, which manages the province’s legal aid program, to broaden access, improve services and meet future demand. Last year, over 60,000 Albertans accessed Legal Aid, with more than a third of those cases serving family matters. The funding will also make Alberta’s legal system more efficient by minimizing delays and reducing court backlogs.
“Legal aid helps people in some of the most trying periods of their lives. Whether it’s a parent fighting for child support, or a survivor of domestic violence fleeing an abusive partner, fairness before the courts shouldn’t depend on the size of a person’s bank account. That’s why we’ve increased funding for legal aid, to make sure it’s there when Albertans need it and that our justice system works for everyone.”
~Rachel Notley, Premier
The funding increase supports a new governance agreement with Legal Aid Alberta and the Law Society of Alberta. Under the agreement, Legal Aid Alberta will focus on streamlining application and referral processes and determining how best to provide clients with the right service at the right time. This includes making legal information and advice available at all first appearance bail hearings, and offering phone and in-person legal help for family law matters.
“A properly funded legal aid program is critical to a fair, effective and accessible justice system. We have negotiated a new legal aid governance agreement that provides this critical program with stable and predictable funding now and into the future. By reversing decades of underfunding in Alberta’s legal aid program, we are helping to ensure all Albertans can access legal services.”
~Kathleen Ganley, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General
“This new agreement provides a clear mandate and sustainable funding that enables us to increase access to justice for all Albertans, and the flexibility to contribute to a more efficient justice system. The renewed spirit of collaboration with our partners and stakeholders allows us to work more closely to innovate and improve our service, and ensure Albertans receive tremendous value for dollar.”
~John Panusa, president and CEO, Legal Aid Alberta
“The Law Society is in a unique position to see how many struggle to find legal help. This is why our collaboration with the government and Legal Aid Alberta was so important in developing a new Legal Aid Governance Agreement. We are proud of the innovative framework that will help Legal Aid deliver legal services in a way that improves the protection and representation of vulnerable and disadvantaged Albertans.”
~Don Cranston, QC, president, Law Society of Alberta
“This agreement represents marked and significant improvement to the legal aid plan in Alberta and creates needed funding stability. The Government of Alberta has listened to and addressed the concerns of crucial stakeholders in the legal aid system. Many Albertans will benefit from this new agreement and we are confident that this investment in legal aid will make a significant positive impact on the justice system in Alberta.”
~Daniel Chivers, president, Criminal Trial Lawyers Association
Recognizing that legal aid is a crucial part of the justice system, the government began negotiations on a new governance agreement in September 2017. A review of legal aid helped inform the new agreement, and included feedback from a wide range of justice system and legal community stakeholders. The previous governance agreement was set to expire in 2019.
- This funding boost means that the Alberta government has increased Legal Aid funding by 72 per cent since 2015.
- Legal Aid Alberta is receiving an additional $14.8 million for 2018-19. This increases the total operating grant to $104.1 million for 2018-19.
- By 2021-22, the total operating grant will be $110.4 million.
- The Alberta government, Legal Aid Alberta and the Law Society of Alberta are part of a tripartite agreement for providing essential legal aid services for low-income and vulnerable Albertans.