|For immediate release||March 14, 2000|
Karl Warner, Q.C. speech — on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Legal Services Society of British Columbia
Check against delivery.
It is a pleasure to be here today to celebrate and host the twentieth anniversary of the Legal Services Society of British Columbia. On behalf of the Benchers of the Law Society of BC, allow me to wish each and every one of you who has been involved with LSS my heartfelt congratulations on a job very well done in what has been nothing short of extremely challenging times.
Over twenty years ago, the Law Society was responsible for delivering legal aid services to the BC public. We were a small and dedicated group back then, with the huge task of meeting the legal needs of the many people who couldn’t afford a lawyer yet who needed access to justice the most. We tried our best to help the poor, the mentally ill, the disenfranchised, the youth at risk – people from all walks of life – with their vast array of problems and legal challenges and there have been many success stories. But some citizens continued to go unrepresented in the courts in spite of our best efforts. It was then that we realized that more time and resources were required to fill the gap between rich and poor, from a legal perspective anyways, by working with the profession and the provincial government to establish a society to help society’s most vulnerable.
Thus, in 1979, the Legal Services Society was born.
Twenty years later, we are still working. The challenges continue to be enormous but in my opinion, they are not insurmountable. True, it can be said that people are still at risk and that the law is more complex. Furthermore, the Charter adds an additional layer of complexity to every legal issue we grapple with.
But together we have made great inroads in delivering legal aid to the people who need it most. The over 150 lawyers and full-time legal assistants, and the 1700 private bar lawyers who provide legal aid services, work tirelessly to bring justice to as many British Columbians as possible. They serve the public in all major communities throughout the province, and provide those services in several languages. From educating the public on legal issues to representing clients in court, the Legal Services Society is one of the most important community and service organizations in the province.
But there is still much work to do. The gap between rich and poor is widening; the working poor are being increasingly disenfranchised in ever more numbers; many potential legal aid clients are still dropping out of circulation or do not understand what their legal rights and options are. The Legal Services Society continues to dedicate its efforts to making sure that people do not fall through the cracks – but they cannot do it alone. All of us who have an interest in making sure justice is accessible to all British Columbians – lawyers, government, other partners in the justice system – must continue to play a role in whatever way possible. We must work together, we must give our time to LSS and ensure that the money and other resources so desperately needed are available to ensure that LSS continues its very important work.
Today, we are here to acknowledge that hard work and dedication of the Legal Services Society of BC. We congratulate and applaud you on your twentieth year of service and wish you continued and greater success in the many, many years to come.