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Government of Canada Remains Committed to Increasing Accessibility to Justice System

Department of Justice Canada lawyers support access to justice through pro bono legal services

CALGARY, ALBERTA -- (Marketwired) -- 02/28/14 -- Department of Justice Canada

Today, Justice Minister Peter MacKay announced that the Department of Justice has adopted a new Policy on Pro Bono Legal Services by Justice Lawyers. The policy was developed in response to a widespread desire among Justice lawyers to participate in pro bono legal services as a way to directly give back to their communities. The Minister made the announcement while delivering the William A. Howard Memorial Lecture at the University of Calgary.

Justice lawyers can now volunteer their personal time at specified pro bono clinics that offer free legal services to Canadians living with limited means. The Department is proud to support its lawyers in their personal goals and professional obligation to increase access to justice for Canadians who might otherwise not be able to afford legal advice.

The Department of Justice is also grateful for the support provided by the law societies and the pro bono clinic operators who participated in the pilot initiative and thanks them for aiding Justice lawyers in the delivery of pro bono legal services to Canadians.

The new pro bono policy is an important part of the Department's work to promote a fair and accessible system of justice. In supporting federal Crown lawyers efforts to volunteer for pro bono legal services, the Department is supporting all Canadians and increasing accessibility to justice.

Quick Facts

--  Justice developed its policy on pro bono legal services from its lawyers
    by supporting their volunteer efforts at three pilot pro bono clinics,
    in three different cities and in three different areas of law.
--  The pilot projects took place in Vancouver, Edmonton, and Ottawa.
--  The three pilots are now included under the new policy as approved pro
    bono activities for Justice lawyers.
--  Justice is seeking to increase the number of pro bono activities
    approved under the policy.

Quotes

"Accessibility to justice has become increasingly important in the complex society we live in today. Through this initiative and policy, many Justice Canada lawyers here in Alberta and across the country, can now volunteer their considerable legal skills and knowledge in providing pro bono legal services to Canadians. I welcome the efforts of provincial law societies across the country, notably the Law Society of Alberta, who have embraced such pro bono initiatives. I also commend our lawyers for making such an important contribution to their communities and their neighbours, and for making access to justice a reality for many Canadians and in so doing, ensuring more voices have the opportunity to be heard in our justice system."

Peter MacKay
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Related Products

--  Backgrounder: Policy for Pro Bono Services by Department of Justice
    Lawyers
--  Access Pro Bono B.C.: http://accessprobono.ca
--  Edmonton Community Legal Centre: http://www.eclc.ca
--  Law Help Ontario Ottawa Court House: http://www.lawhelpontario.org

Follow Department of Justice Canada on Twitter (@JusticeCanadaEn), join us on Facebook or visit our YouTube channel.

Backgrounder

Policy for Pro Bono Services by Department of Justice Lawyers

As of December 2013, the Department of Justice Canada has adopted a policy for pro bono legal services by departmental lawyers. The policy enables Justice lawyers to pursue their personal goals and professional obligation to give back directly to their communities by volunteering in pro bono legal activities.

Beginning in May 2012, Justice and its lawyers participated in a one-year pilot initiative where lawyers could volunteer at selected pro bono clinics. The pilot clinics were located in Vancouver, Edmonton and Ottawa. During the pilot period, more than 115 Justice lawyers volunteered over 900 pro bono legal service hours, working with over 360 Canadians who might not otherwise have had access to legal advice.

Pro bono legal services that took place during the pilot period continue as approved activities under the new policy. The Department will be seeking out new activities to add to the roster. Current projects include:

--  The Wills Clinic operated by Access Pro Bono B.C. and located at the
    Justice Access Centre located at the Vancouver, British Columbia,
    Courthouse. Trained pro bono lawyers and articling students draft and
    execute simple wills, representation agreements, and powers of attorney
    for seniors living with low incomes and people who have terminal
    illnesses.

--  The Edmonton Community Legal Centre, which provides a variety of pro
    bono legal information and advice to people living with low incomes.
    Justice lawyers volunteering at the centre are limited to providing pro
    bono legal advice on landlord and tenant matters.

--  The Law Help Ontario Ottawa Court House, which provides pro bono legal
    help to unrepresented people living with limited means and suing or
    being sued in civil court. Department of Justice lawyers volunteering at
    the clinic are limited to providing pro bono legal advice to non-family
    civil litigants in Small Claims Court and the Ontario Superior Court.

Additional information on the projects can be found at:

--  Access Pro Bono B.C.: http://accessprobono.ca
--  Edmonton Community Legal Centre: http://www.eclc.ca
--  Law Help Ontario Ottawa Court House: http://www.lawhelpontario.org

Until recently, many challenges prevented the Department from adopting a pro bono policy. For one, pro bono practice insurance was unavailable to Crown lawyers. For another, it was impossible for Justice lawyers to carry out conflict-of-interests searches on all the legal cases involving the Government of Canada. During the pilot projects, the areas of law in which federal lawyers could volunteer were carefully selected in order to minimize the risk of conflict of interests with the work of the Department and its lawyers.

This policy will enable Justice lawyers to make a valuable contribution to their communities. The Department extends thanks to the law societies and the pro bono clinic operators who participated in the pilot initiative for nurturing Justice lawyers in the delivery of pro bono legal services to Canadians.

Contacts:
Paloma Aguilar
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Justice
613-992-4621

Media Relations Office
Department of Justice
613-957-4207

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