Resolutions

OUR POLICIES FOR EQUAL JUSTICE

To further the task of updating CBA policy on equal justice, the Access to Justice Committee proposed four resolutions at a CBA Legal Conference in St John’s in August, 2014. All were passed.

The CBA’s history of resolution activity on legal aid and access to justice dates back over 50 years. See other resolutions that support our work.

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At its annual meeting in 1993, the CBA adopted a Charter of Public Legal Services, whose principles address the link between access to justice and legal representation. (Resolution 93-11-A)

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A resolution on criminal legal aid asks the federal government to conduct a comprehensive review of federal funding to its criminal legal aid program. The resolution notes increases in demand for services following changes to criminal legislation. The resolution points out that the crisis in legal aid funding is a systemic issue that jeopardizes the efficiency and effectiveness of the entire justice system. (Resolution 12-08-A)

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At the CBA Mid-Winter meeting in 2002, the Association condemned the evisceration of legal aid services in British Columbia. (Resolution 02-10-M)

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At the 2004 Mid-Winter meeting, a resolution was adopted calling on the federal government to designate a Minister responsible for access to justice on civil legal aid matters and to offer new funds to the provinces and territories for civil legal aid services. It notes that legal protections are increasingly limited for low and middle income people, particularly women and children, Aboriginals, minorities, people with disabilities and refugees. It underscored the crisis in access to justice for disadvantaged Canadians with respect to civil law matters, custody and support, housing, income, refugee situations and deportation. (Resolution 04-04-M)

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Members have frequently expressed their concerns about the failings of legal aid funding for civil law matters and about changes in the federal funding arrangement for civil legal aid. For example, this resolution was passed at the 1996 Annual Meeting:

Be it resolved that the CBA urge federal, provincial and territorial governments to establish and protect adequate funding for civil legal aid under the Canada Health and Social Transfer. (Resolution 96-07-A)

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At the annual meeting in 2004, a resolution authorized an expenditure of up to $500,000 to finance test case litigation. The litigation went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada on a procedural issue, but was unfortunately unsuccessful.

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At the 2005 meeting, CBA members urged all governments to work together to establish criteria for assessing financial eligibility for legal aid, to ensure access to justice for critical matters affecting all low income Canadians. (Resolution 05-01-M)

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Wording of resolution: Be it resolved that the CBA urge the enactment of federal legislation to establish access to legal representation as an essential service to be available uniformly across the country, to allocate and protect adequate funding for same, and to separate federal funding for civil legal aid from the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST) (Resolution 00-06-M)

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A lengthy resolution responded to the report Racial Equality in the Legal Profession and included a call for action to improve legal aid funding. It acknowledged the disproportionate impact under-funding has on clients from racialized communities. (Resolution 00-01-M)

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In 1992, the CBA adopted a Legal Aid Action Plan whose central theme reflects that an effective and fair legal aid system is a question of equality.

The objective of an effective and fair legal aid system is to provide and encourage equal access for all Canadians to the full range of essential legal services, of a consistently high quality through a plan adequately funded by federal and provincial governments and assured of independence in promoting the legal welfare of the those (sic) individuals who are unable to afford legal counsel. (Resolution 92-09-A)

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In 2002, the CBA endorsed a Legal Aid Strategy that would build coalitions and look for appropriate legal aid test cases. (Resolution 02-05-A)

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A resolution on legal insurance recognizes that legal insurance programs are much more popular in Quebec than elsewhere in Canada. It encourages legal insurance providers to communicate to CBA members, government leaders, and the public the potential of legal insurance to improve access to justice for the middle class. The resolution also asks insurance providers to do more to inform and safeguard consumers, including offering family law services at a reasonable cost. (Resolution 12-07-A)

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At the 2001 annual meeting, the CBA urged the federal government to make a recent $20 million boost to criminal and immigration legal aid permanent, and to provide an even greater increase in funding for civil legal aid in a manner that is transparent and accountable within the Department of Justice. (Resolution 01-04-A)

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The following resolutions – and many others considered and passed by CBA members over the years – speak to our membership’s concern with legal aid. We have an on-going interest in ensuring that Canada protects access to justice for all Canadians through properly funded legal aid plans for criminal and civil matters.

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Wording of resolution:  Be it resolved that the CBA adopt the following policy on Pro Bono legal services:

It is inherent in the professional responsibility of a legal practitioner to voluntarily contribute an identifiable part of time without charge or at substantially reduced rates:

  • to establish or preserve the rights of disadvantaged individuals;
  • to provide legal services to assist organizations who represent the interests of, or who work on behalf of, members of the community of limited means or other public interest organizations; or
  • for the improvement of laws or the legal system.

Each member of the legal profession should strive to contribute 50 hours or 3% of billings per year on a Pro Bono basis.

Take steps to encourage and promote this level of Pro Bono activity and to recognize Pro Bono efforts undertaken by members of the legal profession in Canada. (Resolution 98-01-A)

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At its 2001 Annual meeting, the CBA adopted a resolution to form a working group to report to Council on the status of the Pro Bono initiative and to find ways to coordinate, facilitate, and promote the Pro Bono work of its members. (Resolution 01-15-A)

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In August 2003, the CBA passed a resolution calling for a separate federal Access to Justice Transfer, carving specifically dedicated money for civil legal aid out of the Canada Social Transfer, as has been done for health services. (Resolution 03-02-A)

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At the 2007 annual meeting, a resolution on access to justice sought to reduce the cost burden of legal services by removing additional taxes on these services. The resolution also asked for fair compensation for legal aid lawyers and for appropriate facilities at justice institutions, such as detention facilities and penitentiaries, for lawyers willing to give their time without charge. (Resolution 07-01-A)

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Several resolutions concerning legal aid flowed from the 1993 Touchstones Report on Gender Equality which pointed out that the lack of adequate legal aid coverage for family law matters amounted to discrimination against women.

Be it resolved that the CBA vigorously pursue the implementation of measures that promote access to justice for women, in particular the establishment of a national civil legal aid tariff and the reinstatement of the Court Challenges Program. (Point 14.3, Resolution 95-06-A)

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Although Pro Bono work cannot replace adequate legal aid funding, a 1998 resolution recognizes the value of the contribution lawyers can make through their volunteer work and legal work at reduced rates and seeks to further promote a Pro Bono culture within the legal profession.