Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 34

Wednesday, October 4, 2006
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker


Status of Legal Aid Funding

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It concerns federal funding for legal aid.

We have seen the dismantling of the Law Commission of Canada under this government. Even more shocking, we have seen the destruction of the Court Challenges Program that had allowed minorities and other vulnerable groups to fight for their rights before our courts. I am sure honourable senators will agree that access to justice is of great concern to us all.

The Minister of Justice will soon be meeting with his provincial counterparts to discuss these and other issues. As the current federal-provincial-territorial cost-sharing agreement has been extended only as far as March 31, 2007, can the minister tell us if this minority government will commit to the stabilization of funding for legal aid?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I thank Senator Jaffer for her question. It is interesting that every program that the previous government bought into, or brought, in somehow or other must, by necessity, stay on our books forever.

As a result of the review of which I was a part, we did eliminate funding to the Law Commission of Canada, resulting in a saving of $4.2 million over two years. The rationale we used was that the study of the laws of Canada and the provision of advice on reforms can be carried out within government departments; through the Canadian Bar Association; through internal research and analysis; through federal, provincial or territorial working groups; and through our work in international associations. Within the portfolio of the Department of Justice, the Government of Canada spends well over $1.4 billion annually. This includes the Department of Justice, the Courts Administration Service, the Supreme Court of Canada, and various tribunals and commissions.


Senator Jaffer: Would the leader kindly answer my question as to whether the government will commit to stabilize funding to Legal Aid?

Senator LeBreton: My answer to the honourable senator was clear. The government spends $1.4 billion annually. It is my understanding that Legal Aid has been primarily the responsibility of provincial governments. The cuts, revisions and savings that the government announced will stand.