CBA Alberta statement on the family lawyers' day of action

  • February 16, 2023

The Canadian Bar Association – Alberta Branch (CBA Alberta) has long advocated for additional supports for the family justice system.

A large percentage of Alberta’s population is impacted by family law issues at some point in their lives, and many experience inadequate or unequal access to the family justice system, especially Alberta’s most marginalized and vulnerable. Studies from the National Self-Represented Litigants Project show that in 2011 in Alberta, as much as 40% of hearings on family law matters included one or more self-represented litigants, and that number is almost certainly higher today. Many of these litigants are self-represented because they do not qualify for legal aid and cannot otherwise afford a lawyer.

Additionally, the family justice system in Alberta is complex, often with multiple points of contact within the court system. This makes the process difficult for litigants, especially those who are self-represented, to navigate. In turn, this complexity creates delays and backlogs that impact all Albertans accessing the justice system. A Unified Family Court system has long been called for to address these challenges.

Adequately funded legal aid is key to a properly functioning justice system, and without it, our justice system will continue to deteriorate. The legal aid services provided to lower-income Albertans ensure that those who need representation can access it, and that our courts run smoothly and efficiently as a result. While legal aid organizations have been systematically underfunded for years, research conducted by the CBA Alberta concluded that a modest increase in legal aid funding would result in a net cost savings to the government by allowing more Albertans to access legal aid services and reduce the number of unrepresented litigants in our court system, thereby reducing overall court costs. Public opinion polling conducted in early 2020 also determined that Albertans largely support such increases in funding, as well as the creation of a Unified Family Court.

As we approach the 2023 provincial election in May, the CBA Alberta will continue to work with stakeholders in the legal community and the government to advocate for increased funding for legal aid and supports for the family justice system. We expect to release our updated Agenda for Justice document in the coming months with more information on these priorities.

Amanda Lindberg
President, Canadian Bar Association – Alberta Branch