After announcing that they might have to withdraw services, Legal Aid Alberta has been given some good news from the Provincial Government.

The Governance Agreement, which expired on June 30th has been extended to Sept. 5th to allow for negotiations for a new framework.

According to a media release from Legal Aid Alberta, the extension will also ensure that Legal Aid Alberta remains independent from the government, which helps to ensure the Rule of Law is upheld and the rights of disadvantaged Alberta are protected.

"The parties expect that negotiations will be productive, therefore, with an extension of the Governance Agreement in place, Legal Aid Certificates will continue to be issued," explained Legal Aid Alberta in the media release.

"We look forward to good faith negotiations and establishing a long-term Governance Agreement that ensures independent legal advice and assistance for vulnerable and disadvantaged Albertans in the justice system," said the Board Chair for Legal Aid Alberta, Ryan Callioux.

Legal Aid Alberta announced last week that there was the possibility they were shutting down as soon as July 9th.

They claimed that the Province had ceased communicating with them during negotiations for a new Governance Agreement.

That agreement was between the Provincial government, Legal Aid Alberta, and the Law Society of Alberta, and helped to ensure that there is a sound practice of law in Alberta.

Legal Aid Alberta said they only received the government's side of the negotiations on June 27th, with the cutoff being July 1st.

The new agreement saw the removal of the Law Society of Alberta from the agreement, and Legal Aid felt it was heavily skewed in favour of the Provincial Government.

Justice Minister Mick Amery, though, felt differently.

"Over the last nine years, Legal Aid Alberta's grant funding from the Alberta Government has almost doubled, growing from $66 million in Budget 2015 to $110 million in Budget 2024, with expenditures projected to be over $138 million this year," he said in a statement last week. "Obviously, this funding growth is unsustainable."

His statement, though, didn't address Legal Aid Alberta's claim that the Justice Ministry had stopped communicating with them.

Legal Aid Alberta has helped provide affordable legal services to those who need it since 1973, and Minister Amery stated in a release on Feb. 14th, 2024, that Legal Aid is helpful.

"Legal aid helps people in some of the most trying periods of their lives. Whether it’s a parent fighting for child support or a survivor of domestic violence fleeing an abusive partner, fairness before the courts shouldn’t depend on the size of a person’s bank account. Increasing the financial eligibility guidelines will allow more Albertans to qualify for legal aid and get the help they need when they need it," Amery said.

It was on that day that the Provincial Government increased the qualifying income threshold for Legal Aid, helping to ensure that Albertans have access to Legal Aid services.

But, if Legal Aid in Alberta were to go away, that could potentially interfere with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that protects trial fairness.

While there is no right to legal aid in Canada, a lack of access to legal aid can interfere with trial fairness if the accused cannot afford a lawyer.

To learn more about what services Legal Aid Alberta provides, click here.