YELLOWKNIFE (December 16, 2014) – The new Legal Aid Act will come into force on December 28, 2014, providing a framework for the delivery of legal aid services for the people of the Northwest Territories.
“Legal aid provides advice and counsel for those in our most vulnerable populations”, said Minister of Justice David Ramsay. “The new Act underpins the delivery of those critical services, both for criminal and family law clients.”
Replacing the existing Legal Services Act and substituting a Legal Aid Commission for the current Legal Services Board, the new legislation provides a modernized governance and operational structure for the delivery of legal aid services using an integrated staff lawyer/private practitioner model.
Lou Sebert, the chairperson of the Legal Services Board, will become the first chairperson of the Legal Services Commission. Mr. Sebert has served in private practice in Fort Smith for over 30 years. “So much has changed in the legal aid system since the old Legal Services Act was enacted in 1979,” said Mr. Sebert. “In the beginning all services were provided by lawyers in private practice. Now, 35 years later, the bulk of legal aid work is performed by staff lawyers employed in one of our four clinics. What remains unchanged is a generous eligibility policy and an ongoing commitment to the provision of high quality legal services.”
New regulations that include a revised tariff of fees that private practitioners may charge for the provision of legal aid services will also come into force in conjunction with the Act. Those fees, which vary based on years of experience of counsel, were last adjusted in 2006.
The new Act also requires that a review be conducted every 10 years.
Senior Communications Advisor
Department of Justice
Chair, Legal Services Commission (name change effective Dec. 28, 2014)