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Canada high court denies constitutional right to tax-free legal services

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Canada [official website] unanimously ruled [judgment] Friday that there exists no constitutional right to access legal services in Canada. The holding overturned two lower court decisions that had declared British Columbia's seven percent tax on legal fees unconstitutional because it made hiring a lawyer prohibitively expensive for low-income people. The case was originally brought against the BC provincial government by Dugald Christie [personal blog], a British Columbia lawyer and founder of the Western Canada Society to Access Justice [advocacy website]. Christie was hit by a car and killed last year while on a cross-Canada bicycling trip to draw attention to his cause.

British Columbia [government website] is the only Canadian province to tax legal fees. The tax was established in 1993 for the purpose of funding a program that provides legal services to low income people for no cost. The tax money is considered part of general revenue, however, and the high court said it was hard to tell how much of the money actually went to that purpose. Bloomberg has more.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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