( eia.org ) – Some Ontario lawyers are protesting a new shift in the province’s Legal Aid system that could have a significant impact on cases involving long-term foster care, non-custodial parents and parents of children with disabilities. The province is reducing the amount of time a person needing legal aid must wait before applying, from 120 days to 60 days.
One lawyer who has been involved in a number of court cases involving such issues told eNews Park Ridge that the length of time delays for people facing legal aid applications has already become an issue. “People have been dying in court waiting for days or weeks to get a lawyer to represent them,” he said.
“The real concern now is that when the threshold of waiting time is changed, the severity of legal advice needs will also be changed. Until now, people were generally entitled to advice on the legal issues in their case. However, this new legal aid reform would allow a lawyer to advise them solely on whether or not they were “guilty.” Thus lawyers would not be obliged to give advice on how to deal with such areas as temporary custody, other children or contact orders.”
The lawyer added that they had no reason to believe that the 90-day wait for urgent cases would be rolled back under the new system.
Ontario’s highest court is currently considering a request from hundreds of lawyers and organizations for the province to intervene in the case against the new reforms, arguing that the province should adopt earlier reform measures or abandon its plan.
“I don’t expect the Ontario Court of Appeal to make any changes,” said Rob Smart of the Criminal Lawyers Association. ” But it is going to send a signal to all public servants and politicians that there will be a strong reaction against any change in the threshold. I think the government knows this.”
The legal community wants a reduction of the wait time for legal aid applications to just 20 days.
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