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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Legal aid for juveniles in Canada: a survey of the extent and use of legal aid services and professional opinion on current needs: 1960-1962 Karpoff, Jim

Abstract

If legal counsel is not available for juveniles brought before the Juvenile Court, or if provisions to make it available on request are not effective, the child may be denied his legal rights and civil liberties which may impede the rehabilitative and protective purpose of the Juvenile Court. The present study was designed to determine the prevalence of defence counsel in Juvenile Courts, and the extent of legal aid services for juveniles appearing both in delinquency and neglect proceedings in Canada. A distinction is made between legal aid services available to juveniles by statute, by provincial government departments, and by private organizations. Special attention is given to the legal aid services available to wards of Child Welfare Departments and Children's Aid Societies. Opinions of both lawyers and social workers were sought on whether legal aid should be made available in Juvenile Court, and on whether the use of social workers in court provide adequate legal safeguard to the juvenile's rights. In preliminary review, the literature is examined on the general philosophy, personnel and structure of the Juvenile Court, special emphasis being placed on the structure and functioning of Juvenile Courts in most parts of Canada today. The concept of legal aid is explored, and the social consequences of violations of children's and parents' civil rights and liberties are examined in relationship both to delinquency and to neglect proceedings. The detailed survey was conducted by questionnaires formulated for: (a) provincial Attorney General Departments, (b) law Societies, (c) provincial Child Welfare Departments, (d) selected Children's Aid Societies, (e) selected Juvenile Court Judges. Opinions were sought on needs, as well as facts on present provisions and the types of cases for which legal aid is given. It is clear from the evidence that legal aid is not available to juveniles in the majority of cases. Such limited legal aid services as are available, are seldom used. While the majority of Child Welfare Departments and Children's Aid Societies state that legal aid for their wards is available if needed, in practice, legal aid is seldom given. In Juvenile Courts, over 95 percent of the juveniles are not represented by counsel. A small majority of both social workers and lawyers favoured supplying legal aid in Juvenile Courts, but the prevalent view is that social workers provide sufficient legal safeguard to the child's rights. It is generally assumed that the Juvenile Court and its personnel are "acting in the best interests of the child" and automatically protect the child's legal rights. This study suggests, however, that skill in social diagnosis and planning should not be equated with competence in jurisprudence. The long-range effect of overlooking justice as an integral part of welfare is costly both to the child and the community. The existing confusion of both social workers and lawyers as to the legal structure and social nature of the Juvenile makes it highly desirable that a definitive appraisal of the court's total functioning be undertaken, with desirable modifications. It is questionnable whether the needs for legal aid can be met solely by private or voluntary agencies. A study should be undertaken to determine if a Public Defender system or a fee for service system, or some other method is most suitable to Canada.

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