The Columbia Journal
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Vancouver, British Columbia,
Canada V6B 3W8
Phone: 604-266-6552
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ISSN 1712-3763

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Volume Ten, Number One   January 2005

Women paying price of legal services cutbacks

CPP News

(Vancouver) As a result of legal aid cuts women are losing custody of their children, giving up valid legal rights to support, and being subjected to litigation harassment, according to a new report. It finds that women are paying a greater price for BC's deep cuts to legal services because it is primarily family and poverty law legal aid that have been affected. Women's need for legal services is overwhelmingly in these areas, not in criminal law (where almost no cuts were made).

Grinch"The impact of legal services cuts on women has been devastating," says Alison Brewin, author of Legal Aid Denied: Women and the Cuts to Legal Services in BC, released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and West Coast LEAF. Brewin is program director for West Coast LEAF. "Women are being put in totally unacceptable situations," she says. "Without legal aid they must spend endless days navigating a complex legal system - researching and preparing legal documents, appearing without a lawyer for highly charged divorce and custody cases, and agreeing to settlements that are not in their own or their children's interests."

In 2002 the provincial government announced a 40% cut to the Legal Services Society's (LSS) budget over three years. Full-time staff were slashed from 460 to 155 and the province replaced 42 offices and 14 area directors with seven offices and 22 local agents. The majority of the 40% cut occurred in family law legal aid, and through the complete elimination of provincial funding for poverty law (for example, for welfare and employment insurance matters) and immigration law. Women are twice as likely to access family law legal aid, whereas men are five times more likely to access criminal legal aid.

It Includes Everything

Records privatization deal a further "betrayal"

Jim Lipkovits

In an unusual about-face and  without the usual fanfare,  the Liberal government has quietly entered into an agreement which will allow British Columbians’ bank account and credit card numbers along with other financial records to be exposed to U.S. government scrutiny.

Following the contracting out of  BC Medical Services Plan records-keeping  to an American company, Campbell’s government has now contracted with another American-based company to privatize provincial revenue and tax services.  It means that British Columbians’ personal information – including a wide range of detailed financial records—will be exposed to potential scrutiny by the FBI and U.S. government agencies, warns the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union.

BCGEU president George Heyman slammed the government for ignoring the recent report and recommendations of B.C.’s Information and Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis on the issue of privatizing records management.

Justice Long Overdue

Security Certificate Detainees

Tom Sandborn

On October 20, six demonstrators were arrested at a sit-in at   the Toronto offices of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service.  The group of Toronto area residents was charged with failure to leave the premises when directed and engaging in a prohibited activity on private property. They were at CSIS to protest the imprisonment of five Muslim men being held under a little known legal artifact known as the Security Certificate, a curious legal loophole that allows refugees and landed immigrants suspected of security offenses to be held indefinitely without ever seeing the evidence against them.

In early December, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the constitutionality of the Security Certificate legislation, ruling against an appeal brought on behalf of security certificate prisoner Adil Charkaoui, who, like several of the other prisoners now being held under this draconian legislation, faces the prospect of government sponsored torture if he is sent back to his home country.  (Currently, the Security Certificate law is being used to hold the five Muslim prisoners who were the focus of the late October demonstration, Hassan Almrei, Mohammed Harkat, Mohammad Mahjoub, Mahmoud Jaballah and Adil Charkaoui, as well as notorious racist nutbar Ernst Zundel. It is expected that the Charkaoui case will be appealed to the Supreme Court. )  Also early in December, the refugee and immigrant rights group No One is Illegal held a Security Certificate protest in Vancouver outside Federal offices in downtown Vancouver, and the BC Civil Liberties Association weighed in on the issue, echoing concerns about due process and secret trials earlier voiced by Amnesty International and the Canadian Labour Congress, among many other civil society groups that have denounced the civil liberties and human rights abuses made possible by the contentious legislation.

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