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at least to the degree necessary to provide certain essential services.26 Similarly,
as Chief Justice McLachlin stated in a 2002 public address, “Providing
legal aid to low-income Canadians is an essential public service. We need to
think of it in the same way we think of health care or education. The wellbeing
of our justice system—and of the public’s confidence in it—depends
on it.”27 In the words of the secret barrister, proper legal aid funding should
be treated as “the baseline cost of a civilized society that prizes the value of
justice done properly.”28 Better funding for legal aid is thus necessary, but
not sufficient, to foster meaningful access to justice.
In sum, as the secret barrister posits, legal aid is not just conducive to a
just society, it is essential to a just society. Part of what makes the secret barrister’s
discussion of the topic so compelling is the means through which it
is addressed: storytelling. Maybe it is time for legal professionals and the
clients they serve to take a page out of The Secret Barrister and tell their stories—
in whatever forum they can—illustrating the importance of legal aid
to the lives of everyday British Columbians. Maybe then we will see a real
shift in the way we think about—and fund—legal aid.
1. The Secret Barrister at 13.
2. Ibid at 16.
3. Ibid at 80.
4. Ibid at 326.
5. Ibid at 220.
6. Ibid at 343.
7. Ibid at 330.
8. Hannah Summers, “All MPs to Be Sent Secret Barrister
Book after Campaign”, The Guardian (1 April
2018), online: <www.theguardian.com/law/2018/
9. The Secret Barrister at 199.
10. Ibid at 199.
11. Canada, House of Commons, Standing Committee
on Justice and Human Rights, Access to Justice – Part
2: Legal Aid, 42nd Parl, 1st Sess (October 2017) at
7, online: <www.ourcommons.ca/Content/Commit
12. The Secret Barrister at 200.
13. Law Society of British Columbia, Legal Aid Task
Force, A Vision for Publicly Funded Legal Aid in
British Columbia, (approved by the benchers on 3
March 2017) at para 16 A Vision for Publicly
Funded Legal Aid, online: <www.lawsociety.bc.ca/
14. The Secret Barrister at 219.
15. A Vision for Publicly Funded Legal Aid, supra note
13 at para 7.
16. Alison Brewin & Kasari Govender, Rights-Based
Legal Aid: Rebuilding BC’s Broken System (Vancouver:
West Coast LEAF and the Canadian Centre for
Policy Alternatives, 2010) at 4, online: <www.policyalternatives.
17. A Vision for Publicly Funded Legal Aid, supra note
13 at 25.
18. Ibid at para 36.
19. Legal Services Society, “Provincial Budget Delivers
Welcome News” (22 February 2018), online:
20. See ibid.
21. Clare Hennig, “Legal Aid Funding in B.C. Budget
Doesn’t Cover Demand for services, CBA Says”,
CBC News (21 February 2018), online: <www.
22. Brewin & Govender, supra note 16 at 10.
23. Ibid at 4.
24. West Coast LEAF’s Written Submissions to the Ministry
of Social Development and Poverty Reduction
on the BC Poverty Reduction Strategy (27 March,
2018), online: </www.westcoastleaf.org/wp-con
25. Hennig, supra note 21.
26. A Vision for Publicly Funded Legal Aid, supra note
13 at 22.
27. (2002) 29:1 Man LJ 281.
28. The Secret Barrister at 219.