Mancini releases letters from 17 law firms, others, calling for funding to be restored to the Law Reform Commission

May 17, 2016

For Immediate Release

May 17, 2016

Halifax, NS – The NDP Caucus has obtained a number of letters from 17 major law firms from across the province, the Dean and Faculty of the Schulich School of Law, the Barristers Society, and others, addressed to Premier Stephen McNeil and the Minister of Justice, eloquently calling for the re-instatement of funding to the Law Reform Commission – but the letters have fallen on deaf ears.

In June 2015, the Liberals decided to cut funding for the Law Reform Commission beginning on April 1, 2016.  The Commission, established in 1991, reviews and updates legislation.  The Commission is non-partisan, independent of the government and its work is mostly done on a pro bono basis, as lawyers from across Nova Scotia volunteer their time in the interest of improving justice in our province.

The Liberals cut just over $180,000 from the Commission’s funding.  This money provided for administration and support staff for the Commission’s work.  The funding cut makes it likely the Commission will close its doors.

Today in Question Period, Marian Mancini, NDP Justice Critic, MLA for Dartmouth South and a former Legal Aid lawyer, will demand answers from Premier McNeil and the Minister of Justice over their mishandling of this file.

“Organizations representing all of Nova Scotia’s practicing lawyers have written to the Premier calling for this funding to be restored.  The Premier’s disrespect for our justice system is concerning.  You would be hard pressed to find any other issue that could unite the vast majority of Nova Scotia’s lawyers,” says Mancini. “We’ve also seen this disrespect with the changes to the mechanism for determining judges’ compensation, and the refusal of the Minister of Justice to act on cases where faulty hair-strand drug testing was used.”

Mancini concludes, “Stephen McNeil is going down Stephen Harper’s path by cutting funding for the Law Reform Commission.  The funding for the Commission must be restored immediately.”

Excerpts from the letters:

A letter signed by 17 law firms from Dartmouth, Truro, New Glasgow, Halifax and Kentville, including McInnis Cooper, Stewart McKelvey, Cox & Palmer, Boyne Clarke, Pink Larkin, and 12 other firms, says the Liberals failure on this file undermines the province’s economic goals:

“The Commission’s work is critical to ensure that the province’s laws are up to date and as effective as possible.  To fail at this is to undermine all of your government’s efforts to develop the province’s economy and to make this a better, more attractive place to live.  We have never before put our signatures to a joint letter like this…” (Emphasis added)

A letter from the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society states:

“As a general practice, the Society does not engage in lobbying.  That said, your government’s planned termination of funding for the Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia warrants an exception to our general practice.”

The letter from Camille Cameron, Dean at the Schulich School of Law explains that this cut undermines the rule of law:

“I am a lawyer and an academic who has spent a significant amount of my career (paid and volunteer) working in countries that do not yet enjoy the kind of rule of law that most Canadians take for granted.  One of the lessons I have learned is that engaging in robust and constructive law reform, and being seen to be engaging in it, are essential to strengthening and advancing the rule of law.”

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For more information please contact Kyle Buott at (902) 266-2068