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204 V O L . 7 5 P A R T 2 M A R C H 2 0 1 7 THE ADVOCATE Doust Report and numerous other studies and reports have commented on the downstream effects of inadequate funding. It is enough to say that nothing good flows from the inadequate funding of legal aid, which inevitably results in a denial of access to justice. Conversely, access to proper legal advice provides for efficiency and costsavings. Again, the Doust Report speaks eloquently about these benefits. In a recent article in the Advocate, Anne Rowles and Connor Bildfell observed that legal aid in British Columbia is in an impoverished state. The irony of this comment is that this impoverishment is largely visited on those who are already impoverished. In other words, visited on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in our society. Disturbingly, the authors noted that the legal aid system in British Columbia has been singled out for adverse comment in recent years. In 2014 Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada published a report entitled “The Right to Legal Aid: How British Columbia’s Legal Aid System Fails to Meet International Human Rights Obligations.” If that isn’t bad enough the 2008 Report of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women states: The committee is concerned at reports that financial support for civil legal aid has diminished and that access to it has become increasingly restricted, in particular in British Columbia, consequently denying lowincome women access to legal representation and legal services. I guess the editors of The Economist missed these reports. I guess we all did. For the better part of three decades, legal aid funding in this province has been subjected to cutback after cutback. A form of malaise has set in and we have only ourselves to blame for this. If we continue in this vein, we do so at our peril, for we will not be honouring the social trust that underpins our society and binds us together. The ability of all members of society to access the law is critical to the rule of law—critical to democracy. In the end, it simply comes down to fairness, and fairness is the very lifeblood of democracy. t t t t t


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