We are focused on continuing to serve clients and to minimize service disruptions.
EDMONTON – Legal Aid Alberta is aware that as of September 1, criminal defence lawyers who have withdrawn their services are intending to decline new full representation certificates for serious offences and appeal certificates, in addition to stopping work as duty counsel.
We have said time and again that roster lawyers are integral to LAA. They are our closest partners. LAA does not control the rate of pay. This is solely in the control of the Ministry. We are doing everything within our control to modernize administrative processes for roster lawyers in recognition of the services they provide. Criminal defence lawyers who are participating in job action are not employees of LAA and do not represent all private sector roster lawyers who do legal aid work.
We know this is a concerning time for Albertans in the justice system who are already facing extremely difficult life circumstances. LAA is continuing to take all reasonable steps to minimize service disruptions and ensure Albertans who need legal aid are supported. We are adjusting operations accordingly to prioritize those who are in the most disadvantaged situations.
Driving four and a half hours to assist with a court case. Taking on two shifts in mental health court in one week. Working tirelessly to schedule duty counsel lawyers in courtrooms throughout Alberta.
These are just some of the ways our Legal Aid Alberta community is stepping up to ensure people can access legal aid during job action by some criminal defence lawyers, which began on August 8.
While the job action has brought its share of challenges, one thing has remained true: when Legal Aid Alberta meets a challenge, we do whatever it takes to meet the legal needs of our clients.
Soon LAA will be providing virtual duty counsel appearances in all Alberta courthouses to ensure as many docket courtrooms as possible can be covered by duty counsel.
Our lawyers are taking on extra files, added court appearances and last-minute road trips to rural courts. Roster lawyers who are not involved in job action are stepping up and taking on more work.
The Contact Centre continues to field more than 4,000 calls per week from Albertans in need of legal aid, taking on the important job of being the first point of contact for scared and confused individuals.
Behind the scenes, employees are working hard to find lawyers for disadvantaged Albertans, coming up with solutions at a moment’s notice.
Our teams are doing whatever it takes to keep the legal aid system functioning, and they are doing it with integrity and professionalism.
At this time, Albertans can continue accessing legal aid as they always have. We are committed to keeping the public informed if the situation changes.
Right now, more than 35,000 Albertans are receiving legal aid assistance. We are focused on continuing to serve clients and to minimize service disruptions as best we can.
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