Strategy 5
Track 1

Transforming Indigenous Legal Aid Services

Illustration from Austin Harry

Transferring Indigenous legal aid services to BCFNJC and developing a legal aid model that will increase access to justice and culturally safe services for Indigenous accused.

The Challenge

Legal Aid BC is a provincial Crown Corporation created by the Legal Services Society (LSS) Act in 1979 to provide legal information, advice, and representation services. Currently, most Indigenous people only have access to the legal aid services provided through Legal Aid BC. For many years Indigenous people have advocated for the transformation of legal aid services in BC due to broad and systemic concerns around its administration and funding. There are also concerns related to the availability and accessibility of legal aid for Indigenous accused with evidence demonstrating these challenges are even more intense in rural areas where, in some regions, up to 90% of legal aid clients are Indigenous. The current status quo of legal aid is a factor contributing to overincarceration and raises critical questions about how fundamental civil and legal rights guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms may not be upheld for Indigenous accused.

The Solution

To achieve this transformation, BCFNJC will work in partnership with the BC and Legal Aid BC to transfer legal aid services for Indigenous people to BCFNJC. Through Strategy 5, BCNJC will develop and administer an innovative and holistic model of legal aid that reflects the need for better, more effective, more culturally informed legal counsel and legal aid services for Indigenous people dealing with the criminal justice system.

Line of Action

BCFNJC and BC will develop a workplan to transition legal aid services for Indigenous people in BC from LSS [Now Legal Aid BC] to an Indigenous controlled entity.
Status in-progress


Winter 2023
A preliminary research paper was prepared.

The paper explored legal aid’s history and current state, and a jurisdictional review of legal aid

Mar 2023
BCFNJC hired a Provincial Director of Legal Aid Services Transition.
Apr 2023
BCFNJC seconded a senior staff member at Legal Aid BC (LABC).

This team member developed and held weekly Mapping Meetings from May – August 2023. These Mapping Meetings mapped the journey of a legal aid client through the current legal aid process at LABC. This individual will provide advisory and consultation support in the development of a model for legal aid services delivery.

Summer 2023
Focused on data gathering and pre-engagement preparation

The Bundle A 2023/24 Workplan was drafted and approved by Council in July 2023. An Engagement Strategy was drafted and presented to the Bundle A Steering Committee in August 2023.

Nov 2023
BCFNJC hired a Researcher to conduct research, planning, engagement and model development
Fall 2023
Focused on conducting engagement

The engagement team planned and conducted 34 in-person engagement sessions with First Nations, individuals, community legal service providers, partnering organizations, and legal professionals over the course of 8 weeks. Locations for in-person engagement were selected based on proximity to the greatest number of First Nations, Métis Charted Communities, IJCs, First Nations Court, Circuit Courts, Parent Legal Centres, and other community service providers. Other considerations were taken into account as well, such as ensuring geographic diversity, e.g. visiting the North and Southeast where there are less services, but a definite need, Statistics Canada, and LABC statistics. Communities visited include Duncan, Nanaimo, Chilliwack, Merritt, Surrey, Vancouver, Cranbrook, Victoria, Prince Rupert, Terrace, Hazelton, Kelowna, Kamloops, Fort St. John, Prince George, Port Alberni, Campbell River, and Port Hardy. Four virtual engagement sessions were also conducted.

Dec 2023 - Feb 2024
Engagement Report

Over 800 unique pieces of feedback from the engagement sessions were analyzed and collated into an Engagement Report. The Engagement Report identifies themes and recommendations that will be used in the development of a model for legal services delivery.