Saskatchewan: “Duty counsel lawyers understand the people in our communities who face a mix of legal and social problems”

Statement by Chief Judge Shannon Metivier, Provincial Court of Saskatchewan, on Duty Counsel Day

I would like to begin by acknowledging that I am speaking today from Regina, Saskatchewan, which is Treaty 4 Territory, and the traditional territory of the Cree-Saulteaux, Assiniboine, and the homeland of the Métis people. We pay our respect to the First Nations and Métis ancestors of this place and we reaffirm our relationship with one another.

The legal profession has a crucial role in protecting the legal rights of Canadians and nowhere in this truer in provincial court criminal and family proceedings where the personal stakes are often very high.

Unfortunately, a disproportionate number of people who appear in our courts are socio-economically disadvantaged Indigenous people and people with mental health and addictions issues who cannot afford legal services.

Without the services provided by Legal Aid Saskatchewan, many of the most vulnerable people in our community would not have access to legal assistance and by extension, the right to due process and a fair trial.

Of course, Legal Aid Saskatchewan and organizations like it across the country could not function without you – the members of our profession who have chosen a career focused on public service and social justice.

While all lawyers are trained in law school to analyze legal problems, duty counsel lawyers also understand the people in our communities who face a mix of legal and social problems, or who may perceive the law to be oppressive, rather than a positive force in their lives.

On behalf of the Provincial Court of Saskatchewan, I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to duty counsel in Saskatchewan and across Canada for their dedication to providing access to justice for all Canadians and who carry out their day-to-day work often under high pressure with patience, understanding, and tremendous passion.