'It's problematic,' Bill C-75 to leave low-income people without access to legal help

Posted
August 2, 2018

Proposed changes to Canada's Criminal Code could have serious consequences for low-income, first-time offenders of less serious crimes, warns a community legal clinic in Windsor.

Bill C-75 is a bill tabled by the federal government in an attempt to speed up court proceedings.

One of the proposed amendments is raising the maximum jail time for summary conviction offences, from six months to two years less one day, which involve crimes like shoplifting and highway traffic offences.

And the people who will be caught as "collateral," said criminal defence lawyer Daniel Topp, are a group of low-income people who don't qualify for legal aid because "jail time is unlikely."

The only way for these people to get legal representation is through law students who volunteer at places like Legal Assistance of Windsor and Community Legal Aid, he said.

However, the changes would mean that any person facing a maximum possible jail time of over six months cannot access legal help from law students.

"It's problematic," he said. "If these students aren't allowed to help anymore, we're going to have a greater number of self-representing litigants in the system."

And the problem with self-representing litigants, he points, is many of them aren't familiar with the justice system and it could cause more delays.

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