THE ADVOCATE 209
VOL. 77 PART 2 MARCH 2019
People are actually charged with the offence of “begging” in this province.
Last year the Allard School of Law Criminal Law Clinic represented a
man charged under the statute for standing on a centre-dividing median
and holding up a cardboard sign. Printed on the front of the sign were the
words “Spare change for food and necessities”. On the reverse the words
“Thank you” were printed. The police seized the sign. The charge was eventually
stayed. I doubt very much that it would have been stayed but for the
fact that this particular accused had legal representation.
And what happens if you are indigent and charged with theft, or ticketed
under a statute or by-law or for a vast array of other offenses including common
assault, uttering threats, mischief, criminal harassment, causing a disturbance,
etc.? To whom do you turn for legal help?
In the vast majority of cases, you will not qualify for traditional legal aid.
Duty counsel can help you at the intake stage. If your intention is to plead
not guilty, you might be one of those few cases where the Allard School of
Law Criminal Law Clinic will assist.
What if you are a single mother with two children who is facing a “renoviction”
notice? Where do you turn?
There are many groups who volunteer time to help people in legal distress.
We will be hearing from a number of them today. These groups perform
invaluable public service. They do so out of dedication, commitment
and kindness. But the question has to be asked: Why is this necessary? Why
is this necessary in this country, this vaunted liberal democracy, in 2018?
The question has to be asked: Why, despite repeated calls for it, is access
to justice not treated by our governments, provincial or federal, as an essential
The question has to be asked: Why have we not restored the 40 per cent
cutback of 2002 that resulted in the elimination of some 60 Legal Services
Society branch offices, many of which served persons in remote areas of the
province, including significant groups of Aboriginal peoples?
The question has to be asked: Why has there been no meaningful governmental
response to the 2014 Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada report concluding
that British Columbia’s legal aid system has failed to meet international
human rights obligations?
The question has to be asked: Why has there been no meaningful
response to the 2008 report of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination
of Discrimination against Women which stated: “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 low income women access to legal
representation and legal services”?