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News room/ De Facto union

Highlights 2014-2015


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 should be noted 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. 

The Commission des services juridiques applauds the government’s decision to maintain the increase of eligibility thresholds for legal aid. As of January 1, 2016, the threshold for gratuitous legal aid will be set at an amount corresponding to the income of a person working 35 hours per week at minimum wage. Thereafter, it will be kept at this level through an indexation clause. The eligibility threshold increase for gratuitous legal aid 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] 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 SARPA’s first year, 749 applications were processed. 

In addition, 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 servicesbeginning on October 10, 2013. During the most recently completed fiscal year, legal aid offices processed 2,746 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. 
Within the scope of this statute, the Commission des services juridiques has implemented various reporting mechanisms through which it will be able to determine whether the government targets have been met. 


THE COMMISSION DE RÉVISION PERMANENTE DES PROGRAMMES

The purpose of the Commission de révision permanente des programmes (CRPP), which was established on June 11, 2014, is to make it possible, with the cooperation of departments and organisms, to reposition and introduce ongoing evaluation processes aimed at refocusing the State’s action on priority programs and where needs are most pressing. 

In cooperation with the Ministère de la Justice, the Commission des services juridiques submitted a reference document to the CRRP. This document discussed the Commission’s internal challenges in connection with its mission, the changes in its clientele, its geographical outreach, the increase in its expenses, the administrative costs of the legal aid program, the budgetary challenges it faces, the full cost of providing its services, its situation (benchmarking) in relation to the other Canadian provinces and the evaluations which it has undergone since its creation. 


Moreover, in December 2014, the Commission des services juridiques appeared before the CRRP together with the Ministère de la Justice. 

ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE OF THE COMMISSION DES SERVICES JURIDIQUES


During the 2014-2015 fiscal year, Me Céline Giroux, the Vice-Chairman of the Commission des services juridiques retired and was replaced by Me Yvan Niquette, who previously held the position of Director General of the Community Legal Centre of the South Shore region. 

The Commission des services juridiques was also restructured in order to reduce the management-staff ratio. Consequently, the Department for the Management of Certain Services Other than Legal Aid and the Private Practice Fee Approval Department were merged, and the Human Resources Department became the Human Resources Management Service headed by the Commission’s Secretariat. 
It should be noted that four meetings of the Commissioners had to be cancelled due to a lack of quorum, which, according to law, is a minimum of seven members (including the Chairman and the Vice-Chairman). As at March 31, 2015, with the appointment of Me Niquette, the Commission des services juridiques had only seven voting members, given that three Commissioner positions were still vacant. 


INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION


On September 23, 2014, the Commission des services juridiques welcomed the President of the Chamber of the Poitiers Court of Appeal. The purpose of the visit was to discuss the practice of legal aid lawyers in regards to participatory justice and obtain information on the Homologation Assistance Service and the Service administratif de rajustement des pensions alimentaires pour enfants. 

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, in addition to the Commission des services juridiques hosting a French magistrate during the year, two representatives of the Commission des services juridiques were welcomed in France from May 11 to 16, 2014. 
Their stay included visits to two legal aid offices, a Maison de justice et du droit (legal advice centre) as well as two courthouses, and they participated in the activities of legal aid award committees. The mission gave rise to interesting discussions about the organization of legal aid offices, the processing of applications, decision-making by the legal aid award committees, financing of the legal aid system, the scope of coverage offered and financial eligibility. 


KEY DECISIONS MADE BY THE COMMISSIONERS


During the fiscal year, the Commissioners updated the Commission des services juridiques’ policy on the prevention of psychological harassment and discrimination in the workplace. 
The Commissioners also updated the language policy, which is based on the Québec’s government’s language policy. 

Moreover, the Commissioners adopted a new regulation establishing the standards of remuneration and the working conditions for non-legal management personnel. This regulation allowed all non-legal staff to become part of a new employment class following an independent study on the evaluation of various positions and functions within the legal aid network. 


ROBERT-SAUVÉ AWARD AND PRIX MÉRITE DE LA COMMISSION DES SERVICES JURIDIQUES


As permitted by the regulation respecting the Robert-Sauvé Award, the Commission des services juridiques decided not to confer the award this past year. 

In other respects, the Commission des services juridiques created a new award, the “Prix mérite de la Commission des services juridiques”. This award is a concrete way to recognize the quality of the work performed by a lawyer on staff and the quality of his or her involvement within the legal aid network. For the first year, the Commission des services juridiques conferred the merit award on Me Louis-Paul Allard, former Vice-Chairman of the Commission and, in particular, the creator of the television series “Justice pour tous” (of which some episodes can be viewed on our website under the “Legal Information” tab). 






















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© Commission des services juridiques Création: Diane Laurin - 2017