NDP Justice Critic Gerry Rogers (MHA, St. John’s Centre) is appalled by the latest damage caused by the Liberal government’s shortsighted approach to budgeting.
After months of warning it might be forced to take the step if government didn’t increase funding, the province’s Legal Aid Commission has announced the closure of the Family and Child Office, which put teams of lawyers, paralegals and social workers to help families dealing with Child Protection Services.
“By insisting on looking only at today’s bottom line, government is causing immeasurable future damage – and probably increased future costs,” said Rogers, who is also the NDP Critic for Child, Youth and Family Services. “We will see further delays in problem resolution, children will be separated from their families and be in care for longer periods. Once again, the most vulnerable in our society are paying for Muskrat Falls.”
With worsening economic conditions, caseloads at Legal Aid have seen a huge increase – more than 12 per cent over the last year. With no increase in funding, says Rogers, it is inevitable that the province will see a decreased access to justice among those who can’t afford to pay for private lawyers.
“The government is allowing foundational pillars of our society to crumble all in the name of a cost-cutting exercise,” said Rogers. She says the Justice Minister has a responsibility to ensure that all people in Newfoundland and Labrador have access to justice.
“This is the same type of thinking that led the Tories to close the Family Violence Intervention Court. It took a lot of lobbying and work to get that back for the people of the province. We cannot allow our most vulnerable children and their families to fall further behind,” she said.