Unequal access to justice is no laughing matter

  • June 13, 2019

OTTAWA – No one ever thinks it will happen to them. But in any given three-year period nearly half the population will experience a legal issue requiring legal advice. And when they do, quite a few will discover that Canada’s vaunted social safety net has unravelled in the places where legal aid should be.

As the country’s politicians gear up for this fall’s federal election, the Canadian Bar Association wants to put stable, sustainable legal aid funding on their radar – and on their agenda.

The CBA National President and all 13 CBA Branch Presidents have written to the major party leaders asking them what they’re prepared to do to correct this problem, and ensure that access to justice is available to everyone equally.

The CBA is also launching a #LegalAidMatters social media campaign to raise awareness of the issue. We’ll be featuring everyday working people whose lives have been derailed by their inability access legal advice, and will be telling their stories over the course of the summer and after the writ is dropped. Our characters are composites, but their situations are all too real.

“Anyone can be affected by a legal issue requiring a lawyer – harassment on the job, an illegal eviction, or child custody arrangements, for example. But in most provinces a person working full-time for minimum wage will be earning too much money to qualify for legal aid,” says CBA President Ray Adlington.

“Legal aid services are a patchwork across the country, and about the only constant is that it’s under-funded everywhere. This is despite the fact that there is a strong business case to be made for it. Studies have shown that for every dollar spent on legal aid, the government saves $6 in other kinds of social spending.”

Quick facts

  • 48.4% of Canadians over 18 –or 11.4 million people—will have at least one civil or family justice problem over any given three-year period.
  • Self-represented litigants who can’t afford legal assistance cause delays in the already overburdened courts
  • Everyday legal problems cost the state at least $800 million dollars annually and likely much more - including $248 million in additional social assistance payments, $450 million in employment insurance payments, and $101 million in additional health care costs.
  • Legal aid accounts for about 1% of government funding

Please contact Kim Covert at 613-237-2925, ext. 153, or at kimc@cba.org, to arrange an interview with the CBA President.

Related links


CBA public election page

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About the CBA

The CBA is dedicated to support for the rule of law, and improvement in the law and the administration of justice. Some 36,000 lawyers, notaries in Quebec, law teachers and law students from across Canada are members.