Report calls for paradigm shift to Quebec’s legal aid system

An independent panel of experts is recommending sweeping reforms to Quebec’s administration of the legal aid system to simplify the process to seek legal aid and alleviate the administrative encumbrances faced by private sector lawyers who take on legal aid mandates.

The experts, while affirming Quebec’s decentralized legal aid model because it ensures the independence of staff counsel and “respects” regional diversity, are nevertheless calling for a “paradigm” shift that would be anchored by the introduction of a secure digital platform to help establish a province-wide one-stop shop to receive, process and manage legal aid applications.

“The working group notes that the system is cumbersome, rigid and that it leads to delays,” said the five-member independent group headed by former Court of Quebec Chief Justice Elizabeth Corte. “It is obvious to the members of the working group, as well as those who were consulted, that the legal aid regime is sorely lacking technological means to manage legal aid applications, its processing and its follow-up. This is unacceptable in a post-pandemic, quasi-digital society, at a time when the plan to modernize the justice system is being touted.”

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This story was originally published in The Lawyer’s Daily.

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