RESTORE LEGAL AID
No One is Illegal-Vancouver is launching a campaign to oppose the imminent legal aid cuts by the provincial government. Out of the $83 million that the provincial government is cutting in social services, 40% is to come by eliminating legal services for marginalized communities
The Legal Services Society is an independent society that provides legal aid and community training. Refugee communities, already the most vulnerable and marginalized communities who have lived through indescribable horrors, will loose fundamental legal protection and will not be able to exercise equal rights under the law.
In the year 2003-2004, legal aid funding for immigration cases totalled $4.9 million. However, provincial Attorney General Geoffrey Plant has told LSS that funding for these cases is a federal responsibility. The LSS and Attorney General signed a Memorandum of Understanding on March 5, 2003 that all provincial funding for immigration and refugee cases will be $0 as of February 28 2004. In February 2004, an agreement between the provincial and federal governments has provided a token dismal $1.7 million, resulting in catastrophic effects including implementation of a profiling-based “merit-screening” process.
It is no coincidence that the government has directed the LSS that it will eliminate provincial funding while at the same time heightening the war at home against immigrants and refugees.
The consequences of the “war on terrorism” have led immigrant and refugee communities to experience one of the worst periods of xenophobic backlash. In particular, Arab, South Asian and Muslim communities have been under direct attack in forms of racial violence; racial profiling; mass incarceration in detention; and the increasing use of security certificates.
Given this increasing incarceration and deportation of refugee communities, the cuts to legal aid will only serve to perpetuate the process of criminalization and exploitation of vulnerable and oppressed peoples. We oppose the inhumane attempts to continuously marginalize immigrant and refugee groups and we stand with these communities as well as poor peoples, aboriginal communities, and womyn/ trans folk that are currently being targeted by the BC governments’ social cuts in the form of welfare cuts, legal aid cuts, cuts in funding to women centers.
We demand restoring of legal aid to $5 million to maintain adequate access to legal services and call for a repeal of any profiling-based pre- screening process.
Endorsed by: Rainbow Refugee Committee, Anti-Poverty Committee, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, Downtown East Side Residents Association, No One is Illegal Winnipeg, No One is Illegal Toronto, Palestine Community Center, South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy, South Asian Youth Alliance,
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