February 5 to 9 is Access to Justice Week in Alberta. Throughout our history, Legal Aid Alberta and the roster have joined forces to shape Alberta’s justice system in ways that improve access to justice for all Albertans.
Fifty years ago, in the summer of 1974, Legal Aid Alberta was pursuing an ambitious new program to deploy lawyers to criminal and youth courts to provide free legal counsel at their first appearance—Alberta’s first duty counsel. Standing in the way was the need for a strong proof-of-concept, since the project came with the enormous price tag of $1 million.
Enter a group of 37 roster lawyers based in Calgary, who began staffing duty counsel shifts in Banff and Siksika Nation as part of a pilot project. The pilot was a huge success and all the lawyers involved were unanimous in recommending that duty counsel be deployed across the province. Their efforts combined with Legal Aid Alberta’s advocacy led directly to a larger pilot program and then to the roll-out of a provincewide duty counsel program in October 1975.
Legal Aid Alberta’s 1,200 roster lawyers not only provide access to justice through a multitude of roles including serving as duty counsel and taking on certificates; you are also part of a partnership that has been working for more than fifty years to enhance the accessibility of our justice system through systemic reform, advocacy and new ideas. This Access to Justice Week, we acknowledge and celebrate the tremendous impact of the roster and we thank you for your work.
Do you have a matter which might require translation and interpretation services? Here are some important things to remember: