Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/5/2008 (3067 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Many of the shrill crime-and-punishment activists in our community likely sneer whenever private lawyers complain about the fees paid to them under the provincial legal aid program. The province recently boosted those rates by 40 per cent but for many types of cases, the pay is still ridiculously low. It is like this all over the country.What tough-on-crime advocates forget, however, is that low legal aid fees create a constitutional crisis in the justice system in that it denies the accused a right to a fair trial. This unfairness is created by the fact that lawyers working FOR government get paid many, many times more than lawyers working for defendants.The Canadian Press
that lawyers representing the accused in national-security cases are being paid about $90 per hour to represent four Arab-Canadian men scheduled for deportation. However, the federal government pays private lawyers $275 an hour to help them review and assess evidence in the same case.This injustice is played out daily across the country. Lawyers representing accused get a pittance, while contract lawyers acting as special prosecutors get six-figure retainers and fees that add up to a rate that is many, many times more than the lawyers they are opposing.Perhaps to ensure a level playing field, the provincial and federal governments should start paying special prosecutors and contract counsel the same rates as legal aid lawyers. The inability of government to find a lawyer to work for those rates might finally convince them to start funding the court system in a way that is fair commensurate with the importance of the work done on both sides of a court case.-30-