Legislative changes broaden LSS mandate

Recent changes to the Legal Services Society Act have broadened the Legal Services Society’s mandate, while ensuring low-income people will still have priority for legal aid.

“We’re very pleased with these changes,” says Executive Director Mark Benton, adding that LSS can now be more flexible in providing services to people in need.

Benton said LSS was involved in drafting the amendments and, “while they don’t go as far as the pre-2002 LSS mandate, in particular with respect to providing civil law services, they still pave the way for some exciting work ahead as we move forward with legal aid renewal.”

The amendments included removing “low-income” from the society’s objects in s. 9 (1) of the act and adding to the principles in s. 9 (2) that the society’s priority is to identify and assess the legal needs of low income people in BC.

As reported in the May 2007 Benchers’ Bulletin, legal aid renewal is a new strategic priority that will guide LSS as it works toward ensuring it offers more client-centred services in a broad social context. This work will include providing lawyers with broader resources and support so they can take a more integrated approach to helping clients reach lasting and valued solutions to their legal problems.

Benton said the changes also mean the society can expand its current role in justice reform initiatives, such as the ­Nanaimo Family Justice Services Centre, and will help LSS fill some important service gaps.

“For example, now we can do much more for people who fall just outside our financial eligibility guidelines. Before, we were restricted in the help we could offer them, and it left some very deserving people in quite dire situations with no legal recourse.”

The amendments, contained in Bill 33 (Attorney General Statutes Amendment Act, 2007), were introduced and passed in the spring sitting of the BC legislature.