Defense lawyers in Alberta say they will stop taking new legal aid files on Sept. 26 as an ongoing dispute with the provincial government over funding escalates.

The decision to take further employment action came after a meeting of defense lawyers’ associations in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer and southern Alberta on Wednesday.

On September 2, defense lawyers stopped taking new legal aid files for serious crimes like m*rder and s*xual assault while also walking out courthouses in Edmonton and Calgary.


“We haven’t had any meaningful conversations with (Justice Minister Tyler Schandro) yet, no meaningful commitments,” Kelsey Sattar, vice president of the Criminal Defense Lawyers Association in Calgary, told OlxPraca.

“We received a letter last week that basically said the same thing, that all the letters we’ve received to date have been the same political duplicity from Minister Shandro.”


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Read more: Alberta defense lawyers walk out of Edmonton, Calgary courts as part of latest job action


Earlier, Shandro said advocates’ arguments for increased funding were being reviewed, and any increase would come as part of the fall budget process.

More walkouts are planned in Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer on Friday to highlight the latest job action in growing tensions between defense lawyers and the province.

“We wrote back to him (Shandru) and explained, ‘Well, the problem is that the review you’re doing right now … it’s effectively useless. It’s a waste of taxpayer money because you have to buy new equipment.’ being asked to renovate the kitchen without budgeting for it,” Sattar told OlxPraca.

Click to play video: 'Calgary defense lawyer launches domestic violence charity for families'

Calgary defense lawyer launches domestic violence charity for families

Calgary defense lawyer launches domestic violence charity for families

“The response we got back from Minister Shandro last week basically said the same thing, that nothing is going to change until 2023 with the 2023 budget.”

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Shandro told lawyers’ organizations that it would be an evidence-based decision.

In a statement released to OlxPraca on Thursday night, Shandro said that “an increase in the legal aid tariff, which is the rate that criminal defense lawyers are paid for legal aid work, is part of the 2023 budget. will be considered.”

“Officials at Legal Aid Alberta and (Alberta) Justice have begun this work, and if there is evidence to support an increase in the rate paid to criminal defense lawyers, it will be included in the 2023 budget submission. will be done,” the statement said.

Shandro’s statement also noted that Legal Aid Alberta CEO John Pinosa “has publicly stated that they have all the necessary funding in place to ensure uninterrupted access to justice.”

I An op-ed published by Postmedia Earlier this month, Pinosa also said he is “working tirelessly to advocate for strategic financial investment in legal aid so that more people can access our services.”

Our message to the minister is really the same: the review you’re doing now won’t give you the evidence you need because you’re not considering two essential, central concepts that lead to a meaningful end. are necessary to give. Review,” Sattar said.

He noted that a budget increase for Legal Aid Alberta was approved by the then-NDP government in 2018, an acknowledgment of the chronic underfunding of the legal aid system. This planned funding increase was later blocked by the UCP, which won the 2019 election.

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Read more:

A group representing Alberta criminal defense lawyers to process further work on the legal aid system

“We’re now at a point where we’re essentially at a loss of $80 million compared to getting legal aid from the provincial government,” Sattar said.

A common scenario Sattar said he and his colleagues have heard about is the threshold at which Albertans qualify for legal aid.

“If a family of four has a household income of more than about $38,000, they would be told that they make enough money to pay for a lawyer privately,” he said.

“We reject more people for their finances than the province of Ontario. It’s shocking.”

Sattar said she recognizes that the legal aid system, and the people seeking help navigating it, are in crisis.

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“By taking the steps we’re taking now, what we’re effectively doing is removing those crutches from the system,” he said. “We’re not going to support him anymore.

“What he will do, we hope this government will – in no uncertain terms – is how serious the situation is.”

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