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Meet Senator

Dennis Dawson

The Hon. Dennis  Dawson, B.A., M.B.A. Senator Dennis Dawson was elected as one of the youngest members of Parliament in Canadian history where he served his constituents of Louis-Hébert for three consecutive terms. He was appointed to the Senate on August 2, 2005, and represents the province of Quebec and the Senatorial Division of Lauzon.

Statements & Hansard

Civil Legal Aid

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Statement made on 04 November 2010 by Senator Catherine Callbeck

Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck:

Honourable senators, legal aid, both criminal and civil, was on the agenda at last month's federal, provincial and territorial meeting of justice ministers. Provincial and territorial ministers once again asked their federal counterpart to consider the strategic importance of civil legal aid. Once again, the Minister of Justice agreed only to take their concerns back to his federal colleagues. For the last few years, the federal minister has refused to engage in meaningful discussions with the provinces on this matter — legal aid — even though we face a crisis in the area.

As many will know, civil legal aid includes both family law, such as child support and custody issues, and poverty law, that is, people who have lost employment or need to obtain disability or income security benefits. This problem affects all of Canada's low-income population, which often includes women and children, people with disabilities, recent immigrants and Aboriginal peoples. There are all kinds of stories about people having to represent themselves in court because they cannot afford a lawyer and they cannot obtain legal aid.

Islander Daphne Dumont, a highly respected lawyer, advocate and 2009 recipient of the Governor General's Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case, spoke about the lack of legal aid at a recent reception held by the Lieutenant-Governor of Prince Edward Island. She noted that "the basic access to justice is lacking" and called funding for civil legal aid a "perpetual problem."

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin has said:

Providing legal aid to low-income Canadians is an essential public service. We need to think of it in the same way we think of health care or education. The well being of our justice system — and the public's confidence in it — depends on it.

Our current civil legal aid system is a tragedy waiting to happen. It threatens people's rights and undermines the rule of law. I urge the Minister of Justice to reconsider his stance on civil legal aid, and work with his provincial counterparts to create a national funding stream for this much-needed service.

Recent Statements from Liberal Senators

Business of the Senate

19 Jun, 2014 | By Senator Joan Fraser | Colleagues, I'm rising to speak on behalf of my leader, the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Cowan, who had to be in Halifax tonight on public business. I must tell you that when I called him to say we were going to be adjourning for the summer tonight, he was, I could tell, quite irritated, not because he wanted us all to go on working like galley slaves but because he had already written a speech that he wanted to give tomorrow morning.

Lighthouses as Irreplaceable Symbols of Maritime Heritage—Inquiry

19 Jun, 2014 | By Senator Jim Munson | Thank you, Your Honour, and my apologies to Senator Champagne.

Unequal Access to Justice—Inquiry

19 Jun, 2014 | By Senator Joan Fraser | Colleagues, I know that Senator Jaffer was preparing to close this debate but, before she did that, I just had to say how terribly important the subject she has raised is.

The Senate—Promoting and Defending Causes that Concern the Public Interest—Inquiry

19 Jun, 2014 | By Senator Jim Munson | Honourable senators, I am looking for a bit of love and empathy at this late hour because I do have a speech, but you have to understand that, in the interest of having dignified departures for our five senators this week, I gave up my time to make sure that we were able to celebrate the departures of Senator Buth, Senator Segal, Senator Callbeck, Senator Dallaire and Senator Champagne.

Study on Status of Canada's International Security and Defence Relations

19 Jun, 2014 | By Senator Grant Mitchell | So, you thought you weren't going to hear from me? Well, I fooled you! So there! I rise in support of this report by the Defence Committee recommending that Canada become involved in ballistic missile defence with NORAD. I congratulate Senator Lang and other members of the committee for what I think was great collaborative work, completely non-partisan, very extensive and detailed with intense research.
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