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We Are Here to Help: the changing culture of legal aid in Nova Scotia

Ab Currie, PhD

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The traditional legal aid model has focused on providing legal solutions to a series of problems that have been narrowly defined as “legal.” The reality, however, is that strictly legal problems are often embedded within a cluster of non-legal problems. Therefore, in order to effectively respond to the growing legal need in this country the legal aid model must reorient its approach to client service. This type of “culture shift” is something that the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters has advocated for in its 2013 white paper entitled “Access to Civil and Family Justice: A Roadmap for Change.”

In his recent piece on the changing culture of legal aid in Nova Scotia, CFCJ researcher Ab Currie highlights four service areas where the Nova Scotia Legal Aid program (NSLA) has responded to the National Action Committee’s call for change. The four service areas are as follows:

1)    Criminal legal aid in Halifax
2)    Family law services in Dartmouth
3)    Social justice program in Kentville
4)    Aboriginal justice program in the Province

As a means of illustrating this culture shift, Currie provides a “snapshot” picture into the lives of four individuals who have made important contributions to Nova Scotia’s changing legal aid landscape. While their stories may be different, the common thread between these four NSLA support workers is that they have all forged partnerships with community organizations to deliver legal aid service that is holistic, innovative, and collaborative.

To view the stories and contributions of these four NSLA staff to Nova Scotia’s pioneering legal aid program and Dr. Currie’s paper, click here.