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News room/ De Facto union

Highlights 2013-2014


Increase of Eligibility Thresholds

On January 1, 2014, pursuant to the Regulation to amend the Regulation respecting legal aid (O.C. 1280-2013, (2013) 145 G.O. II 3610), the legal aid eligibility thresholds were increased by 15.3% for the gratuitous scheme and by 10.5% for the contributory scheme. This increase brings the eligibility threshold for gratuitous legal aid to $16,306 and the maximum eligibility threshold for the contributory scheme to $26,309 for single individuals. It bears reminding that single individuals represent 73% of the legal aid clientele. A family composed of two spouses and two children, whose annual income is $26,737, will now be eligible for gratuitous legal aid.

As of June 1, 2015, eligibility thresholds will increase once again, with the minimum wage as a reference point. The same regulation provides that, thereafter, eligibility thresholds will be kept at this level through an indexation clause linking the thresholds to the minimum wage. Ultimately, the eligibility threshold increase for gratuitous legal aid will be 35.8%, which will facilitate access to justice for the portion of the population that works, but has limited income. The same is true for seniors living alone whose principal source of income is their Old Age Security benefits and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.


Service administratif de rajustement des pensions alimentaires pour enfants (SARPA) [Child Support Recalculation Service]

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.

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 beginning on October 10, 2013.

As of April 1, 2014, the Commission des services juridiques will have the mandate to manage the Service administratif de rajustement des pensions alimentaires pour enfants (SARPA).


The Lac-Mégantic Tragedy

The Lac-Mégantic tragedy, which occurred during the night of July 5 to 6, 2013, had a significant impact on our agency. The legal aid office in that municipality was destroyed in the fire and the Community Legal Centre of the Eastern Townships is still working on its reconstruction.

We would especially like to acknowledge the efforts of lawyers from the legal aid network who came to the assistance of the population of that area during the summer of 2013. The rapidity with which lawyers and staff members mobilized themselves is another example of the strength, collaboration and voluntarism that characterize legal aid.


International Cooperation

On August, 1, 2013, the Commission des services juridiques was host to a delegation of jurists from the People’s Republic of China. The purpose of the visit was to obtain information about Québec’s legal aid network and the Act respecting legal aid and the provision of certain other legal services.

On March 18, 2014, the Commission des services juridiques also had the honour of welcoming Christiane Taubira, the French Minister of Justice, and her delegation. The meeting provided an opportunity to discuss the differences between the French and Québec legal aid systems.

Within the scope of the project entitled “La gestion de l’aide juridique par des structures dédiées et rôle de l’accès au droit dans le développement de la justice participative” [managing legal aid through dedicated structures and the role of access to justice in the development of participatory justice], which was selected by the Commission permanente de coopération franco-québécoise, the Commission des services juridiques welcomed two French magistrates from September 9 to 13, 2013. Their stay included visits to the offices of the Commission des services juridiques, two legal aid offices, two courthouses, a municipal court and a number of organizations involved with access to justice.


Teleservices and Direct Deposit – Private Practice

Since March 31, 2013, the Commission des services juridiques has used direct deposits to pay the fees and disbursements of lawyers and notaries. Lawyers in private practice and notaries have cooperated with this initiative which fits within the Commission’s Sustainable Development Action Plan and the government’s sustainable development strategy. At present, all statements and payments are handled electronically.

It should be noted that, during the fiscal year, lawyers in private practice received retroactive payments pursuant to the signing of two agreements dealing with their tariff of fees.


Human Resources Department

During the month of October 2013, the Commission consolidated the various human resources functions within a single department. At the same time, a human resources director was hired to coordinate all of the department’s operations.

The human resources director also provides support to the directors general of the regional legal aid centres. In addition to holding monthly management meetings, the human resources department established labour relations committees in order to connect with the Commission’s lawyers and office personnel on topics of interest to both of these groups.


Change of External Auditors

During the 2013-2014 fiscal year, following a public call for tenders to select the external auditors, the Commission retained the services of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for a period of three years ending on June 20, 2016.


Additional Staff

The budget allocated for 2013-2014 included funds to increase staffing in order to meet the needs created by the addition of resources at the office of the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DCPP) and the addition of judges on the Criminal and Penal Division of the Court of Québec. The Commission identified its needs based on the particular circumstances of certain regional centres.

Thus, the needs analysis took into account the specific situation of those regional centres as well as the particular effects felt in the youth and criminal law system.


Key Decisions Made by the Commissioners

During the fiscal year, the Commissioners adopted a new strategic plan for 2013-2017.

This fourth Strategic Plan of the Commission des services juridiques was prepared in collaboration with the eleven regional legal aid centres and is designed to improve access to justice, the quality of the legal services offered to citizens and the organization’s performance.

The 2013-2017 Strategic Plan essentially adopts objectives that will allow the legal aid network to provide the public with quality, accessible legal services at the best possible cost.

The issues, orientations and objectives set out in the Strategic Plan of the Commission des services juridiques are consistent with the approach adopted by the Ministère de la Justice in its own strategic plan. In this vein, implementing measures to facilitate access to justice, meet new needs in the justice system and modernize the management framework are all orientations endorsed by the Commission des services juridiques and the eleven regional legal aid centres.


Robert-Sauvé Award

The Robert-Sauvé Award in the General Public category was conferred upon Ms. Isabelle Harvey for her work with women and children victims of conjugal and family violence. Ms. Harvey has been Executive Director of the women’s shelter La Passerelle for over twenty years. She established a service centre within this organization that allows children to enjoy the access rights they have with their parents if these rights are supervised or must be exercised elsewhere than in the home of one of the parents. Her expertise in matters of family and conjugal violence has made her an indispensable partner for groups in her region that fight against all forms of violence.

This year, the winner in the Legal Aid Network category was Me Dominique Trudel, for her commitment to troubled children and teens and for her involvement as a member of various boards of directors of organizations working with young people. This past January, Me Trudel, was appointed Director of the Youth Division of the Québec City Community legal centre, where she had practised law with skill and dedication for over thirty years. 

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© Commission des services juridiques Création: Diane Laurin - 2017