Defence lawyers suspend job action, will resume work in Legal Aid bail court
WINNIPEG -- The Criminal Defence Lawyers Association of Manitoba said it is suspending the job action it started Monday to draw attention to concerns with the Legal Aid system, including a 12-year freeze in the pay rate for Legal Aid services.
The association represents around 150 private defence lawyers, who take on 60 to 70 per cent of Legal Aid clients for a tariff that last went up in 2008.
On Monday the lawyers halted bail court services for those clients, but the association said Friday afternoon those services will resume.
“Our goal in taking job action was to draw attention to the plight of some of our society's most vulnerable members by highlighting the critical underfunding of the Legal Aid system, and the resulting disparity in the resourcing between the crown and defence,” the association said in a statement, adding that withholding services was a last-resort action.
The association said it also doesn’t believe it is appropriate for the government to directly manage the Legal Aid system, since it is also responsible for prosecuting crimes.
It said the current Manitoba government has suggested handing management of Legal Aid over to an arm’s-length board. Representatives of the defence lawyers met with Legal Aid managers to discuss potential changes Thursday, the association said, encouraging the government to speed up the process to transfer responsibility for management.
CTV News has reached out to the provincial government for comment but has yet to receive a response.