REGINA - Legal Aid Saskatchewan will mark October 27 as Duty Counsel Day. Initiated by Canada’s legal aid associations, this is a day to create awareness of Duty Counsel — legal aid lawyers who give free, on-the-spot legal advice in family, criminal and immigration cases for people living in Canada.
Canada is globally recognized and revered for providing its citizens with free access to health care. Most people don’t know that Canada also provides guaranteed access to free legal counsel to anyone summoned to appear in court charged with a crime.
Getting into legal trouble is rarely planned and deeply overwhelming.
When faced with a court date, many Canadians have no idea where to turn, whether it’s a troubled teenager, someone accused of a criminal offence after a car crash, or an individual with mental illness who’s caught up in the justice system. Legal problems can happen to anyone.
Walk into most courthouses in Canada and you will find legal aid duty counsel lawyers – there to ensure that all people in Canada can exercise their fundamental right to access justice. They are often the first point of contact for someone who goes to court charged with a crime and provide the clarity and advice Canadians need to make informed decisions about their legal situation.
There are hundreds of duty counsels lawyers in courtrooms across Canada, employed by non-profit legal aid societies. Their presence is as essential to our democracy as doctors are to hospitals.
The idea of a national event to recognize duty counsel lawyers and the service they provide began in January 2021, where representatives form each legal aid program in Canada started brainstorming.
The result is an exciting virtual event to take place October 27 at 3:00 p.m. (Saskatchewan time).
The emcee is former Governor General of Canada, Adrienne Clarkson, and the program will feature VIP speakers from across the country, including Saskatchewan’s Justice Minister Gordon Wyant and Saskatchewan Provincial Court Chief Judge Shannon Metivier.
While we are excited to recognize duty counsel across the country, Legal Aid Saskatchewan is particularly looking forward to honouring the duty counsels who are available across the province. Part of the national broadcast includes a panel discussion with front line duty counsel lawyers, one of which is Legal Director Deanna Harris from the Yorkton Area Office.
While this is the first celebration of its kind, we plan to make it an annual day of recognition. Please visit www.knowdutycounsel.ca for more information.