"...The first two decades of Charter litigation testify to a certain timidity – both on the part of litigants and the courts – to tackle head on the claims emerging from the right to be free from want." (Louise Arbour)

Legal Aid Challenges

CURA researcher Gwen Brodsky was co-counsel in test case litigation brought forward by the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) to challenge British Columbia’s legal aid plan with the goal of establishing a constitutional right to civil legal aid in Canada. Constitutional protection of legal aid has emerged as a critical issue with many provinces limiting legal aid services by either narrowing the types of cases they cover or through adjusting eligibility criteria.  Constitutional guarantees could help ensure critical social rights interests are protected by publicly funded legal services for people who would otherwise be unable to access justice.

A central issue in this case as in other areas of CURA research was the question of whether the CBA had standing to bring this case forward.  CURA research supported the CBA’s argument that it is unreasonable for the courts to insist that people with low incomes, who are denied legal aid, be required to initiate their own individual constitutional challenge. Unfortunately, the courts did not adopt the positions advanced by the CBA in their challenge.  CURA researchers are continuing to explore these issues.

Statement of Claim by the Canadian Bar Association

Canadian Bar Association v BC Attorney General

British Columbia Supreme Court (2007 BCSC 182)

British Columbia Court of Appeal (2008 BCCA 92)

Melina Buckley, Moving Forward on Legal Aid  (2010)