“Most of the problems that shift to the field of criminal law start with family law matters”, – said Oksana Kikot, Manager of the QALA Project, analysing the Canadian experience of the operation of the free legal aid system.
Who the clients of free legal aid in Canada are. How the institute of lawyers mentoring works, who can be mentors for lawyers. The Canadian experience shows that within the framework of any social programs, from humanitarian to content-related ones, there is a place for information on human rights. How access to justice centres be useful, how it can be applied in Ukraine. What category of cases entails excessive budget funds. All these and other questions are answered by director and manager of the QALA Project.
Larysa Denysenko: Speaking about the legal aid in Canada. Probably, let us start with criminal cases and then proceed with civil cases. Since when has the system been functioning, how successful is it and who are the clients?
Larissa Bezo: The center in Canada is there for almost 60 years. Starting with the criminal system, it is important to recall that Canada is a federation and that the distribution of responsibilities between the federal level of government and the provincial one has an impact on the provision of the service of free legal aid. In the criminal sphere, funds are invested in the federal government legislation, distributed to support this system. The policy associated with the provision of these services – all this is determined by the federal government in a dialogue with the provinces, but managed by the federal government. As far as civil and administrative cases are concerned, this is a matter for the provincial and territorial governments of Canada. And in this sphere, provincial governments can decide how they want to build this legal aid system. We often joke in Canada that we actually have 13 of these systems.
One of such interesting aspects is that within the framework of our project cooperation with the colleagues in Kyiv, the experience differs sufficiently among the provinces and this means that we have 13 such aspects where we can learn something interesting. In the sphere of administrative and civil cases, indeed, in each province these systems are built according to the provincial context, they develop very differently. Some of them have very limited funds, depending on the population in a certain province. For example, Ontario is already the largest system. As a rule, the government does not assume any responsibility for the implementation and provision of these services. They usually transfer these services either to government agencies or even involve independent organizations. It is very important for them to have a division between the government and the legal aid system.
When creating agencies responsible for implementation and creation of such system at the provincial level, usually, a supervisory board is also established. The composition of supervisory boards is very broad.
Larysa Denysenko: And why are the funds limited? Because the client base is getting smaller, or do private lawyers get involved taking on the function of legal protection?
Larissa Bezo: I cannot say that the number of citizens requiring such services is getting limited. This is due to the fact that state budgets become restricted. When we look at the legal aid system in Canada, there has been a tendency in the last few years to determine that the problems present in this system are this system’s problems. In Canada, after the events of 9.11 in New York, there is such an emphasis on terrorist acts, emphasis on situations that are being solved, for example, foreigners who become involved in such a case. The government deals with these cases, but these are litigations that may last for years, which concern not only Canada, but are also other countries. We need a huge number of lawyers to be involved in such cases, they are very expensive.
Oksana Kikot: I think it is necessary to add here that in Canada, they call civil and administrative cases “family law”. According to research, most of the problems faced by people, which further shift into the area of criminal law, arise in the area of family law.
Larissa Bezo: I would like to add that there is a tendency not to focus on the role of defence lawyers in the system; it is necessary to involve both psychologists and sociologists who will help solve the problems in public matters.
Larysa Denysenko: I would like to talk about information campaign. In Ukraine, this problems exists, and in general, it concerns not only people who are not fully aware and do not have access to information, but experienced ones as well. It is legal education and, generally, being aware of your legal status and a set of your legal rights and obligations. What information campaigns are being currently conducted in Canada in order to bring people closer to the spectrum of these opportunities, to explain whom they can resort to?
Larysa Bizo: Usually, in Canada, they try to spread this information. It means that an analysis is made which strategy to build in order to distribute this information to those who need it. For the poor living in the streets, brochures or stickers are distributed, or they just walk around and tell people where to go.
Larysa Denysenko: Oksana, this question is for you, how do you think it is possible to apply and spread the Canadian experience in the Ukrainian realities?
Oksana Kikot: I think we’ve already started this work. This will be the “gateway approach” when a person can come and get consultation on where to ask for services and advice.
Larysa Denysenko: Is it possible to make an average portrait of an legal aid system client in Canada?
Larissa Bezo: In most cases, the system deals with family issues. There are two or three typical portraits. The first situation is when a family is being dissolved, the second portrait involves emigrants, and the third one, the aborigines.
Larysa Denysenko: And in Ukraine? Internally displaced persons, ATO fighters, who else can be mentioned?
Oksana Kikot: For all of us the question now is, whom we will see on the first of July. A large number of people can be clients in civil and administrative cases. It is more than 7 million citizens of Ukraine. We thought it would be a large number of low-income citizens, people of retirement age. But these centers are secondary legal aid. For the first few months, we will only learn who our customers are.
Larysa Denysenko: And how can you describe the work of lawyers in Canada dealing with this category of cases?
Larissa Bezo: Lawyers in Canada are involved in this work in two ways. In some provinces there are in-house lawyers working on a regular basis. In addition, there are private lawyers who simply accept system certificates to provide such services.
This radio program was created with the financial support of the Government of Canada within the framework of the Quality and Accessible Legal Aid in Ukraine Project. Views expressed in this program are those of the program participants and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Quality and Accessible Legal Aid in Ukraine Project, the Canadian Bureau for International Education, or the Government of Canada.