| Contact us @  |   Aa  ⇧ Français         
 
News room/ De Facto union

Highlights 2015-2016


INCREASE OF ELIGIBILITY THRESHOLDS

On January 1, 2016, pursuant to the Regulation to amend the Regulation respecting legal aid (O.C. 1280-2013, (2013) 145 G.O. II 3610, as amended by O.C. 385-2015, (2015) 147 G.O. II 823), the eligibility thresholds for gratuitous legal aid were increased by 17.75%. Among other things, this historic increase allows a person who is single and works a 35-hour week at minimum wage to be eligible for legal aid at no cost.

A person with an annual income of $19,201 now has access to a lawyer, at no cost, within the framework of the legal aid system. For other categories of applicants, the thresholds have been increased by the same percentage, based on the composition of their family. For example, legal aid services will be free to a family of two adults and two children whose income is less than $31,485.

The Québec legal aid plan also includes a component for individuals whose income falls between the eligibility thresholds for free legal aid and the maximum thresholds requiring a contribution (contributory legal aid). In the majority of cases, the increase in the eligibility thresholds for free legal aid has reduced or eliminated the amount of the contribution required to have access to the services of a lawyer. For example, before the increase, a mother with two dependent children and employment income of $25,000 would have been required to pay $300 in order to be entitled to legal aid. As of January 1, 2016, she has been entitled to free legal aid.

In summary, the changes to the eligibility criteria for legal aid affect working people with modest incomes as well as seniors whose principal source of income is their Old Age Security benefits and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.


NEGOTIATION OF COLLECTIVE AGREEMENTS

Given that the collective agreements for lawyers and office employees expired on March 31, 2015, a single management negotiating committee was established for all of the negotiating tables (4 negotiating tables for office employees and one negotiating table for lawyers). Its purpose is to ensure uniformity and consistency in the working conditions offered to all of the unionized professionals and employees in the legal aid network, taking regional considerations into account.

The Vice-Chairman and the Secretary of the Commission des services juridiques are the committee’s spokespersons and are being assisted by the directors general of the Laurentides-Lanaudière, Montréal and Mauricie-Bois-Francs community legal centres.

One of the major issues in this round of negotiations with the office employees is their work schedule.


MANAGEMENT OF LEGAL AID ELIGIBILITY

Last year saw a consolidation of the management of legal aid eligibility. Previously, in September of 2014, the Commission des services juridiques and the regional centres had established a committee whose purpose is to ensure the consistent and uniform handling of legal aid applications throughout the network.

The policy regarding the handling of applications was modernized, the eligibility software program and user guide were updated and the Commission developed training webinars and established a documentation policy—these are but some examples of the collective resources made available to all professionals in the legal aid network.

All those involved, at all levels of the legal aid process, were sensitized—through the communication of expectations and the carrying out of verifications—to the importance of managing the legal aid system.


SERVICE ADMINISTRATIF DE RAJUSTEMENT DES PENSIONS ALIMENTAIRES POUR ENFANTS (SARPA) [CHILD SUPPORT RECALCULATION SERVICE] AND HOMOLOGATION ASSISTANCE SERVICE (HAS)

The Act to promote access to justice through the establishment of the Service administratif de rajustement des pensions alimentaires pour enfants (CQLR, c. A-2.02), which was assented to on June 15, 2012, created two new services that are offered and available to everyone in Québec.

Since April 1, 2014, the Commission des services juridiques has had the mandate to manage the Service administratif de rajustement des pensions alimentaires pour enfants (SARPA). During its second year of operation, 776 applications were processed and numerous telephone consultations were handled.

In addition, beginning on October 10, 2013, the Homologation Assistance Service (HAS) was added to the basket of services offered under the Act respecting legal aid and the provision of certain other legal services. During the most recently completed fiscal year, legal aid offices processed 3,306 applications.


AN ACT RESPECTING WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT AND CONTROL WITHIN GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS, PUBLIC SECTOR BODIES AND NETWORKS AND STATE-OWNED ENTERPRISES (AWMC)

On December 5, 2014, the Act respecting workforce management and control within government departments, public sector bodies and networks and state-owned enterprises (AWMC) (CQLR, c. G-1.011) came into force.

The statute provides for control measures in relation to the staffing level of public bodies for each period specified by the Conseil du trésor. It also establishes special measures for service contracts that a public body intends to enter into during the periods subject to workforce control measures, including making such service contracts subject to the authorization of the Chairman of the Commission des services juridiques and giving the Chair of the Conseil du trésor oversight powers.

For the second year in a row, within the scope of this statute, the Commission des services juridiques implemented various reporting mechanisms through which it will be able to determine whether the government targets have been met.


INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

In May 2015, on the occasion of the biennial convention of the Order of Belgian French-speaking and German-speaking Bar Associations, the Bar Association of Belgium invited the Chairman of the Commission des services juridiques to speak about Québec’s experience with legal aid and salaried lawyers.

The presentation once again highlighted the merits of the unique structure of Québec’s legal aid system as well as the quality and efficiency of the manner in which those who are economically disadvantaged are represented before the courts.


CHANGE OF INSURER

On March 1, 2016, after a 43-year business relationship and after holding a tender by invitation process, the Commission des services juridiques and the regional centres transferred the group insurance contract for all of the legal aid network’s employees from Desjardins Sécurité financière to SSQ Groupe financier. 

Picture of the section
© Commission des services juridiques Création: Diane Laurin - 2017