Pro Bono Canada, new access to justice foundation introduced

REGINA, SK – Canada’s access to justice community will soon get its first look at Pro Bono Canada, a new charitable foundation created to promote and support the country’s organized pro bono movement.

The foundation is being featured Friday at the 5th National Pro Bono Conference during a plenary session chaired by The Honourable Robert Richards, Chief Justice of Saskatchewan, and featuring Pro Bono Canada Chair and former A ssociate Chief Justice of Ontario Dennis O’Connor and Lance Finch, who retired last year as British Columbia’s Chief Justice and is a current board member of Pro Bono Canada.

Federal statistics suggest that nearly half of Canadians have experienced at least one legal problem in the past three years, but only 12 per cent sought legal assistance. Pro Bono Canada is the country’s first national organization dedicated to promoting the role that pro bono plays in improving access to justice.

“Pro bono lawyers can be the last line of defence for people facing ruin if they cannot afford a lawyer and their problems do not attract government funding,” says O’Connor. “We need to support the organizations in Canada that make large-scale pro bono possible.”

There are currently five provincial pro bono organizations (in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec) dedicated to bridging the gap between lawyers who want to donate their services and low-income individuals needing legal assistance. Collectively these organizations serve more than 30,000 clients each year, despite inconsistent funding and low awareness in the legal community.

Pro Bono Canada was created to encourage and support provincial pro bono activities, and to raise funds to sustain the organizations. The foundation will have a transparent formula to distribute funds and is committed to capping its administrative spending at no more than five per cent of its revenues. The organization’s board is rounded out by Marie Deschamps, who sat on the Supreme Court of Canada until 2012.

The 5th National Pro Bono Conference, Justice4All, is presented by Pro Bono Law Saskatchewan, in partnership with Access Pro Bono of British Columbia, Pro Bono Law Ontario, Pro Bono Law Alberta, and Pro Bono Quebec. The conference runs September 24-26 in Regina. It will provide a national forum for the exchange of knowledge and ideas concerning pro bono legal service provision.

For further information and to schedule interviews:
Lynn Burns, Executive Director
Pro Bono Law Ontario
416-977-4448 ext. 225

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