By Kasari Govender, West Coast LEAF Executive Director

Today, I travelled to Victoria for the release of the provincial budget. When I left Vancouver this morning, I had budget priorities in mind. I emerged from budget lock-up with mixed feelings – there is some good news, alongside some glaring omissions.

The human rights of women and children will be enhanced by today’s child care announcement. Investing in child care is investing in women’s economic security and independence. A new universal child care system would have significant ripple effects for gender equality and for those fleeing abusive relationships.

In October 2017, West Coast LEAF joined with other legal organizations to call on the province to make much needed investments in the justice system. The overarching concern highlighted in our budget submissions was the need for a properly funded legal aid system. Without access to justice, legal protections are just words on paper.

The Province’s failure to adequately fund legal aid is disappointing. While we welcome the additional $5 million per year promised to Legal Services Society for legal aid services, only some of that money will be targeted to family law. This, and the additional funding for dispute resolution, falls far short of the needs in BC.

The safety, dignity, and well-being of women and children are at stake when legal aid services are deeply underfunded, as they are currently in British Columbia. To challenge the inadequacies of the family law legal aid system, West Coast LEAF and BCPIAC launched a constitutional challenge on behalf of Single Mothers’ Alliance and two individual women.

West Coast LEAF won’t stop advocating for improved access to justice in BC, as well as benefits and supports for low-income women and survivors of gender-based violence.