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News room/ Highlights

Highlights 2018-2019


WORKING CONDITIONS AND LABOUR RELATIONS

During fiscal 2018-2019, the Commission des services juridiques and the union representing its lawyers signed a new collective agreement which will be in effect until December 31, 2019. The same is true for all the regional centres comprising the legal aid network.

Moreover, once again this year, the Comité sur la cohérence (consistency committee) created by the Table des directeurs généraux (roundtable of directors general) gathered to pursue uniform methods, particularly as regards the hiring process.

Work on salary relativity continued during the past year, for the purpose of ensuring internal equity between the various employment classes for all of the network’s employees.

NEGOTIATION OF THE TARIFF OF FEES OF LAWYERS IN PRIVATE PRACTICE

The tariff of fees of lawyers in private practice expired on September 30, 2017. 

Negotiations began on December 19, 2017 between the negotiators appointed by the Ministère de la Justice and the Barreau du Québec and were still ongoing as of March 31, 2019. 

The Commission des services juridiques is advising the negotiator for the Ministère de la Justice du Québec and, for the first time, is present at the negotiating table. 


INDEXATION OF THE ELIGIBILITY THRESHOLDS AND SUMMARY OF THE SUCCESSIVE INCREASES

On May 31, 2018, pursuant to the Regulation to amend the Regulation respecting legal aid (O.C. 1280-2013, (2013) 145 G.O. II 5539, as amended by O.C. 385-2015, (2015) 147 G.O. II 1333), the eligibility thresholds for free legal aid were increased by 6.67%. This percentage is equal to the increase in the minimum wage on May 1, 2018. On January 1, 2016, the legal aid eligibility thresholds had been increased, with the minimum wage as a reference point. 

Thus a person who is single and works a 35-hour week at minimum wage, namely, $21,840 per year, will be eligible for legal aid at no cost. Moreover, legal aid services are free to a family of two adults and two children whose income is less than $35,814.

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). The contributory scheme offers a unique formula that allows individuals to be represented in court by a lawyer while knowing, in advance, the maximum amount of their legal fees and the costs that may be claimed from them. The contributory scheme allows an individual to receive legal services if his or her income, assets and liquidities match the eligibility scale in effect and if the individual pays a contribution ranging from $100 to $800, depending on the composition of the person’s family and the person’s financial situation. The eligibility scale for legal aid under the contributory scheme was also increased by 6.67%.

In summary, the enhanced financial 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.


The following tables show the changes in the eligibility thresholds since the increases began in 2005:

  • In 13 years, for a single person, the scale for free legal aid changed from $8,870 to $21,840, an increase of 146.2%.
  • In 13 years, for a single person, the scale for contributory legal aid changed from $12,640 to $30,506, an increase of 141.3%.

The Commission des services juridiques developed tools to evaluate the number of cases of applicants who, were it not for the increase in the financial eligibility thresholds for legal aid since January 1, 2014, would not have qualified for legal aid. For the 2018-2019 year, this number amounted to 22,390.


DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

In April 2018, the Government of Québec announced its plan to modernize the justice system, with investments totalling $500 million over 5 years. The primary objectives are to make justice more accessible to the public, reduce waiting times and increase the efficiency of Québec’s justice system. This modernization requires a digital transformation of practices and processes. Thus, the entire judicial process, from the submission of files and exhibits to the presentation of hearings and the drafting and distribution of decisions will be electronic.

Concurrently, the directors general of the legal aid network, backed by the Commission des services juridiques, created a digital transformation committee. A transformation will be required in order to receive, process, analyze, produce and present files electronically and in keeping with the project of the Ministère de la Justice. The digital transformation of the legal aid network will require a technological component, the optimization of existing processes to allow for a transition from a predominantly paper-based system to an electronic one, as well as a plan to manage the changes and provide training. To start off the process, the legal aid network is being assisted by the firm of Klynveld, Peat, Marwick et Goerdeler (KPMG).


DEALINGS WITH PARTNERS

On January 24, 2019, the Commission des services juridiques and Éducaloi entered into a partnership to manage and perpetuate the collaborative relationship that naturally unites them through their respective missions and the Act respecting legal aid and the provision of certain other legal services.

The agreement marks an organizational turning point for both entities, because the Commission des services juridiques will be providing a significant contribution to Éducaloi to ensure the development and distribution of informational content on its website targeted more specifically to the concerns of legal aid recipients. For its part, the partnership will allow the Commission to achieve its objective of promoting the development of programs aimed at informing those who qualify for legal aid about their rights and obligations.


INCREASE OF ELIGIBILITY THRESHOLDS FOR THE ÎLES-DE-LA-MADELEINE

Those living in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine now benefit from a 20% increase in the financial eligibility thresholds for legal aid services.
 
Indeed, the Regulation respecting legal aid was amended to add the Îles-de-la-Madeleine to the list of remote areas, thereby recognizing its insular nature and structural constraints.








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