Continued From Page 1
says, adding trying to organize such a
protest for the criminal defence Bar on a
province-wide basis is difficult.
But, said Benton, finding lawyers willing
to step in was not easy.
“I think that’s an indication of the general
dissatisfaction,” he said. “If this withdrawal
were any larger we wouldn’t be able to con-
tinue to provide duty counsel services.”
Benton explained the situation is only
for front-end duty counsel dealing with
criminal first appearances, bails, early
pleas or adjournments.
But, he added, Abbotsford is in a unique
situation as not only does it serve the local
community, it also serves the area’s correction system and deals with the issues coming from those facilities.
“We’re hoping we’ll be able to maintain
service without a glitch,” Benton said, “but it
won’t be as seamless as usual.”
Other issues Snowdon sees as problems
are a shortage of judges and court time.
She says there are empty courtrooms in
Abbotsford while there are substantial
waitlists in Chilliwack.
“Cases are being dismissed due to
unreasonable delay all over the province,” she said.
Lakshman agreed, saying the reality in
cities such as Surrey is that lawyers can
tell clients they can get off charges due to
“There’s no point in putting new officers
on the street or building new prisons with-
out looking after the middle,” Lakshman
said. “It’s extremely disrespectful to the
work the police are doing.”
And, he added, “if you have unrepre-
sented people coming to court, it just
slows the system down.
“It’s a catastrophe really,” Lakshman said.
And it’s not the first time in recent
months Canada has seen such an action.
In the fall of 2009, disgruntled Ontario
criminal lawyers threatened a province-wide legal aid boycott unless the government moved quickly to fix the chronically
It began that June with Toronto criminal
lawyers declining new legal aid retainers for
high-profile homicide and “guns and gangs”
charges and escalated over the summer
months to a broad, co-ordinated job action,
with defense counsel in the Ontario cities of
Barrie, Kingston, Sudbury, Hamilton, Lon-
don, Thunder Bay and the north-west region
also refusing to take on any such new cases.
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