July 28, 2009

Globe and Mail on the Legal Aid Strike: A Pox on Both Your Houses

In the wake of news that another 26 Ontario lawyers are boycotting legal aid work in protest of the dismal compensation for legal aid cases, an editorial in today's Globe and Mail condemns the Ontario government's failure to adequately compensate legal aid defence lawyers, "The Ontario government owes its lawyers recognition for the often gruelling work they do. More importantly, it owes all Ontarians what inequitable funding denies them: the right to a fair trial."

However, the editors have equally harsh words for the lawyers withholding their services in protest, "A boycott...is not the answer. It is unconscionable for these legal practitioners to leave their clients in the lurch. There are now hundreds of would-be clients without recourse to legal advice or representation."

The boycott has been gathering steam in the past months, as various Ontario lawyers' groups have joined the call for better compensation for legal aid cases. While its easy for the Globe and Mail to say "a pox on both your houses", the editors do not explain how exasperated lawyers should deal with this entrenched and long-standing problem, which because of the boycott has received extensive media attention for the first time in years. While the boycott may hurt those charged with criminal offenses in the short-term, the government's long-standing failure to act has put the entire legal aid system in jeopardy.

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