Everyone should have access to justice but reality can be very different. Over the past 14 years, B.C has reduced its legal aid funding by 40%, leaving many individuals without the assistance they require. Although legal aid provides individuals with up to 25 hours of legal assistance this is far from sufficient for most women.
A 40% decrease in funding only leaves enough funding to protect women in high conflict circumstances such as domestic violence victims. Consequently, many women who are not able to obtain legal representation while their husbands can, lose their cases in court. Women are often forced to represent themselves and unable to obtain the same access to justice as someone who would have more resources. Mothers involved in divorce matters are particularly impacted by less funding if they are the primary caregivers for the child but can’t afford a lawyer. For this reason, many paralegals have argued for the chance to represent individuals who cannot afford representation.
Rise Women’s Legal Centre
The Rise Women’s Legal Centre is targeted towards women who require the kind of assistance noted above. Prior to its opening, the phone was already ringing with women seeking help. The lawyers involved were barely surprised as they understood the need for such a clinic. The clinic is situated in British Columbia and made up of multiple lawyers and law students. In Ontario, Paralegals are now permitted to practice family law with the assistance of a lawyer. The courts had declared a legal crisis when numerous individuals chose to self-represent in family law cases as they were unable to afford lawyers. Individuals were stuck in a limbo where they couldn’t afford legal representation but they also didn’t qualify for legal aid. As a result of self-representation, documents were misfiled and had to be corrected and resubmitted, legal procedures had to be explained in more detail and legal proceedings were delayed.
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