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Justice minister says province not willing to undermine Legal Aid Alberta review

Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro says the province does not want to undermine a review of Legal Aid to satisfy criminal defense lawyers who have taken job action over the amount they’re compensated.

Organizations representing lawyers in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer and southern Alberta began job action Aug. 8 by refusing to accept certain bail and duty counsel files from legal aid.

The lawyers escalated Monday by withdrawing all services and refusing to take any new cases.

Shandro told reporters in Calgary that a review of the Legal Aid Alberta system will be completed next month and he’s not going to undermine it by taking action now.

He said Legal Aid has enough money and his department is monitoring to make sure people who need the service have access to justice.

Shandro says he’s sympathetic to the lawyers’ position and is willing to discuss future changes, but only after the review is complete.

“We’re willing to have conversations about whether there needs to be increases in the tariff or whether there needs to be changes to the financial eligibility guidelines, but I think that’s a next step after the review in October is completed,” Shandro said.

“We’ve heard the advocacy from the criminal defense bar that there needs to be changes to how they’re compensated. That’s the next step.”

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