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News room/ Highlights

Highlights 2008-2009


Key decisions made by the Commissioners

In October 2008, the Commissioners adopted a regulation respecting the ethics and standards of professional conduct of staff of the Commission des services juridiques entitled Règlement sur l’éthique et la déontologie du personnel de la Commission des services juridiques. The regulation complements the Code of ethics and standards of professional conduct of the administrators of the Commission des services juridiques. Both documents can be found on the Commission’s Web site.

In March 2009, the Commissioners adopted the Strategic Plan and the Sustainable Development Action Plan of the Commission des services juridiques for the 2009-2013 fiscal years.


Fourth increase of eligibility thresholds

On January 1, 2009 legal aid eligibility thresholds were increased for the fourth year in a row, following the adoption of the Regulation to amend the Regulation respecting legal aid, enacted by Order in Council 1277-2005 dated December 21, 2005. The regulation provides for annual increases until January 1, 2010, inclusively.

The regulation also provides for annual indexation of legal aid eligibility thresholds in keeping with the benefit increase rate granted under the Social Solidarity Program to persons with severe employment limitations.


Pay equity

On June 21, 2007, the Legal Aid Act was amended so that the Commission would be considered the employer of all regional centre employees for purposes of the Pay Equity Act. Thus, a single pay equity program will be established for all Commission and regional centre employees.

Representatives of the Commission and the regional centres, management and employees held several meetings during the year. The process involves four steps; two have been completed and the third had already been initiated as of March 31, 2009. The purpose of the discussions is to arrive at an agreement on pay equity in accordance with the Pay Equity Act.


Increase in legal aid applications

The year 2008-2009 saw a considerable increase in the number of legal aid applications. During the year, applications increased by 3% and the percentage of applications accepted by legal aid staff lawyers increased by 4.7%. These results suggest that the orientations adopted by the Commissioners in 2005-2006 and the efforts of the legal aid network to ensure a balance in the plan offerings are bearing fruit.


Undetermined applications

Tracking of the distribution of undetermined applications and the work carried out during the fiscal year made it possible to reduce the number of undetermined applications as at March 31, 2009. The results of the distribution of undetermined applications as at March 31, 2008 are presented in tables 1A and 7A of Section 12 on statistical data and client user profiles.


Information campaign

In the spring of 2008, the Commission’s Communications Department and the lawyers in the regional centres launched an information campaign on the legal aspects of de facto spouses entitled “Your de facto union — A Wise Choice?” As part of the campaign, the Commission and the regional centres provided the public with a practical checklist for spouses living in a de facto union. The campaign began with a series of press conferences held by network lawyers throughout the province and with media interviews.


Measures to counter double billing

In October 2008, the Commission des services juridiques adopted measures to remind legal aid users that, throughout the duration of a legal aid mandate, they should never have to pay additional fees to the lawyer representing them. The Commission des services juridiques designed posters to that effect and the legal aid offices distributed to each client with a lawyer in private practice acting under a legal aid mandate, a notice reminding such clients that they were not required to pay any sums directly to their lawyer. A press release was distributed as part of this initiative and management of the regional centres took steps to make their staff aware of the situation.


Robert-Sauvé Award

The 2008 Robert-Sauvé Award, Public-at-Large category, was given to Sister Marie-Claire Bazinet for her work with children and underprivileged families in the High Laurentians. The Legal Aid Network category of the award was given to Me Bernard Bergeron, director of the Drummondville legal aid bureau of the Regional legal aid centre of the Mauricie -- Bois-Francs region, for his involvement with disadvantaged persons facing criminal charges and mental health problems as well as for his work with troubled young adults.


Tariff of fees of advocates in private practice

The Regulation to ratify the Agreement between the Minister of Justice and the Barreau du Québec respecting the conditions of practice, the procedure for the settlement of disputes and the tariff of fees of advocates under the legal aid plan entered into on 4 April 2008 came into force on October 23, 2008 and, as of October 24, 2008, lawyers in private practice began receiving retroactive payments under the new tariff. As such, an amount of $2,895,288 in fees and an amount of $47,895 in disbursements were paid to 1,956 lawyers in private practice, with an average payment of $1,505 per lawyer.

As of February 12, 2009, the Coordination Committee created under the regulation and composed of representatives of the Minister of Justice, the Barreau du Québec and the Commission des services juridiques began to meet to discuss the application of the agreement.


Megatrials

The Commission des services juridiques manages account settlements resulting from court decisions ordering the Québec and federal governments to pay the professional fees of the lawyers of certain accused persons. This involves the payment of fees that are not necessarily covered under the legal aid system and are payable according to terms that differ noticeably from those set forth in the Regulation to ratify the Agreement between the Minister of Justice and the Barreau du Québec respecting the conditions of practice, the procedure for the settlement of disputes and the tariff of fees of advocates under the legal aid plan entered into on 4 April 2008. The Administrative Committee of the Commission des services juridiques adopted a procedure for the payment of special fees to lawyers at the request of the Québec and federal ministers of justice so as to establish a formal mechanism ensuring that payments made under the agreement are tracked and controlled.


Legal department of the Commission des services juridiques

The Commission des services juridiques established a legal department to represent it before the courts in certain disputes. This new responsibility is being handled by the lawyers in the Commission’s Research Department. 

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© Commission des services juridiques Création: Diane Laurin - 2017