Group calls Alberta government’s Legal Aid funding ‘shameful’

EDMONTON – A group of mothers is calling on the provincial government to provide more assistance for Albertans who can’t afford legal representation in court.

Mothers In Support of Fair Trials – also known as “The MISFiTS” – stood outside the Alberta Legislature Saturday, protesting what they call the province’s lack of initiative in dealing with a Legal Aid shortage.

The group argues many people aren’t able to receive help from Legal Aid because of under-funding.

“People who are working full time at minimum wage make too much for legal aid,” says Shannon Prithipaul, MISFiTS member.

Read More: ‘Inadequate funding’ leads to 2nd resignation at Legal Aid Alberta in 3 months

The MISFiTS say the issue has been around for a long time, but the urgency of the situation has increased in recent years.

“This isn’t the way this should be in one of the richest provinces in the country. It’s shameful,” states Prithipaul.

Albertans who make more than $1,588 a month don’t qualify for Legal Aid. The MISFiTS would like that number to increase.

“The courts are being overburdened with un-represented people who go to court trying to represent themselves but they’re just not able, so they stand their like a deer in headlights.”

Read More: Legal-aid lawyers take action over funding

The group argues the lack of funding for Legal Aid has created a two-tier justice system.

“People who can afford it can get a lawyer and perhaps have defenses and defend their rights in court, and then people who don’t have money are just left out in the cold,” says Prithipaul.

In an act to highlight the need for more funding, the group also held a bake sale outside the Legislature, with the money going towards Legal Aid.

“We’re thinking next we may sell chocolates door-to-door if the government doesn’t step up, and hopefully they will before we get to selling wrapping paper,” said Prithipaul.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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