by Emma Wilson Peter A. Allard School of Law J.D. Candidate
Are you familiar with LSLAP? Maybe you’ve seen some of our students in court, or maybe you know someone who has used our legal services. The Law Students’ Legal Advice Program (LSLAP) is a student-run non-profit society dedicated to providing legal advice and representation to low-income people in the Metro Vancouver area.
LSLAP was started in 1969 by a small group of law students at the University of British Columbia. In 1978, we incorporated as the Greater Vancouver Law Students’ Legal Advice Society. We now have an independent Board of Directors and two paid supervising lawyers, but for the most part, LSLAP is still student-run and student-driven.
It can be very difficult for low-income earners to afford a lawyer, and even more difficult to represent themselves in a legal proceeding. LSLAP exists in order to bridge the gap between the services offered by publicly-funded legal aid and the many legal matters in which low-income people find themselves unrepresented.
We are happy to take on cases for people dealing with issues including but not limited to:
The increase in number of self-represented litigants has created need for justice reform. The cost and time associated with bringing an action to court has urged the BC Government to re-examine the justice system and to take a closer look at needs and requirements of people looking to resolve disputes.
A BC Judges report (p. 19) in 2010 showed that 90% of Small Claims parties are self-represented; it can take up to 16 months (p. 27) for a small claims case to be heard. At the higher court level, less than 3% (p. 90) of BC Supreme Court civil cases ever make it to trial. These barriers form ongoing frustrations for the public trying to navigate a daunting court system on their own with limited resources.
Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) is an online platform that allows parties in a dispute the chance to come together online either in real time or at each party’s convenience to negotiate, reach an agreement and avoid going to court. Other jurisdictions, such as the UK Judiciary, have examined ODR. BC is also looking at merging modern technology with the traditional court system to resolve disputes.
The government established the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) in 2012 with the idea to increase access to justice. As as a new part of BC’s justice system, they are building from the ground up and expect to have it working later this year. The concept envisions an online dispute platform that can be accessed by the parties 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Primary focus will be on small claims matters and strata property disputes. The CRT builds on lessons gleaned from a number of pilot projects tested previously in BC.
In 2011 the BC Ministry of Justice started testing ODR, with initial focus on tenancy and consumer disputes. Participation was voluntary. The case volumes were low but results proved encouraging in terms of resolution and user satisfaction.
Legal Services Society’s upcoming MyLawBC may give future consideration to the ODR platform: “The MyLawBC platform…could be expanded to include online mediation and arbitration services.”
A future blog post will give a glimpse into how ODR is utilized by Consumer Protection BC and Small Claims BC. We tested their dispute resolution tools and will walk you through the processes. To be continued…
We recently launched a survey to study users’ needs onClicklaw Wikibooks, our collaboratively developed, plain language legal publications that are made available on the same open-source platform used for Wikipedia. Clicklaw Wikibooks provide information in a variety of formats, from browser-based reading, to PDF, to EPUB, or even print-on-demand, which is available to all users and is also used to print titles for CLBC‘s LawMatters program.
After selecting one of the titles on the site, users are promptedby a pop-up window, which asks them to answer a survey once they are finished browsing. At the end of their session, they are presented with a short survey about their visit, with a chance to enter a monthly draw for a $100 prepaid Visa Gift Card.
To prevent being asked to fill out the survey again on repeat visits, a cookie will be stored on the user’s computer after they have completed the survey. This cookie can be deleted or cleared by the user to view the survey again. Multiple entries will not be counted.
The contest is open to Canadian residents, though staff and contractors of Courthouse Libraries BC or Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family will not be eligible to enter. Depending on the type of survey the user is prompted with, they may be asked to enter a follow-up survey by email for additional chances to win.
TRAC provides information on residential tenancy law to tenants and advocates across British Columbia. Our services include a Tenant Infoline, legal education workshops, multilingual publications and a website/socialmedia. We work with all levels of government, other community organizations and the general public to promote the legal protection of tenants and the availability of affordable rental housing in BC.
Recently, we also launched our new website! The design is modern and clean, and our content has been organized in a way that allows users to quickly find answers to their legal questions.
Here are some of the highlights of our new site:
Tenant Survival Guide – One of the most popular legal publications in the province, our TSG offers a comprehensive yet plain language overview of tenants’ and landlords’ rights and responsibilities.
Template Letters –When issues arise during a tenancy, tenants should communicate their concerns to their landlord on paper. TRAC offers 27 template letters to use as a starting point.
Tenant Info Pamphlets – TRAC has created a pamphlet that covers the fundamentals of residential tenancy law, and translated it into 18 languages. For tenants whose first language is not English, this is where to look.
All content pages on our website can be printed as nicely formatted fact sheets. Online information is important, but so are hardcopy resources. Feel free to print and distribute our fact sheets to friends, family members, clients and landlords
Food, shelter and clothing: these are the basic necessities that directly impact our quality of life. Meeting basic needs can be a challenge on reservations. If you live on reserve and are struggling to pay for food, shelter and clothing you can apply for social assistance.
The LSS Aboriginal Legal Aid BC website has information to help get you started with an application. Below are highlights from the website; visit the site for more detail:
Who can get social assistance
You must be:
an adult (19 or over)
live on reserve in BC; and
one of the following:
a Canadian citizen
a permanent resident
a Convention refugee, or
a sponsored immigrant whose sponsor can’t or won’t provide support. (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada will decide whether this is the case.)
What is social assistance?
Social assistance is money and other benefits for people who:
live on reserve
don’t have enough money to meet their needs
have no other reasonable way of getting money
In addition to regular benefits, social assistance benefits can include additional benefits for: people with certain types of physical or mental disabilities, people with medical conditions and people who face undue hardship issues like hunger and eviction. Some of these additional benefits are short-term and time-limited.
Where and how to apply for social assistance benefits
You can apply for social assistance with the band social development worker for the reserve you live on. You can reach them by calling the band office for your reserve.
For more information on the types of benefits, how to apply, and who can help, visit the LSS website here: Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC
At Clicklaw, we use Google Analytics to track which pages are getting the most views, as well as where people are following through and clicking on links to resources and services on other websites.
There are of course other factors to consider in calculating resource helpfulness, but here is an interesting snapshot of the seven most viewed and clicked resource topics and links of the past year:
1) HelpMap: The Clicklaw HelpMap helps provide access to free low-cost legal advice and legal information services in BC. You can look for services related to a particular topic in a particular city in BC using the search tool located on this page.
Although people referred to fact sheets and written resources, it was clear that many were also seeking additional in-person help. Our most popular service pages referred to were for the Family Justice Centres and Court Registries in BC.
The Family Homes on Reserve and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act brings into force new laws regarding homes on reserve as of December 16, 2014. The law details who can stay in the family home on a reserve if you and your spouse split up or your spouse passes away.
The law highlights the issue of status. You may be able to remain in the family home even if you’re not a First Nation member and your spouse is.
If you were not a First Nations member or status Indian, and your relationship ended or your spouse died, you may not have been allowed to remain in the family home. Due to the negative impact on families – particularly women and children – the law was needed to provide families with rights and options.
What you’ll need to know
Aboriginal Legal Aid BC lists for whom the law applies:
At least one of you is a First Nation member or status Indian
You’re married (spouses)
You’re common law (living with your partner for at least a year)
You live on a First Nation reserve
Who the Law Doesn’t Apply To
The Aboriginal Legal Aid BC website has a list of persons the new law doesn’t apply to including if your reserve has a self-government agreement, its own land code or its own matrimonial real property laws.
Any upset to the family dynamic can be stressful. For families on reserve, the added weight of matrimonial real property rights and who can remain in the family home on reserve can potentially increase pressure and stress on all parties involved. It is important to note courts will consider the best interests of the children as keeping connections to their First Nations culture, social and family ties are essential.
We analyzed five common manifestations of cyber misogyny:
“revenge porn” (non-consensual sharing of intimate images, often by an ex-partner)
“sexting” among youth
child sexual exploitation
gender-based hate speech online.
We provide an overview of the current legal responses available to victims of these forms of cyber misogyny under criminal, civil, and human rights law, and make 35 recommendations for how Canadian and BC law and policy could be strengthened to better protect the equality rights of women, girls, and other vulnerable communities online.
Then in September, we released Able Mothers: The intersection of parenting, disability and the law. This report takes a critical look at the discriminatory misconceptions and stereotypes that can influence decisions affecting mothers with disabilities. It also makes recommendations for law and policy reforms to better protect the dignity, equality, and rights of disabled mothers and women seeking to become mothers.
Governments have a legal obligation to provide the supports necessary so that parents can provide a safe and nurturing environment for their children. However, our research shows that government is failing to meet this obligation, with devastating results for both children and their disabled mothers. Rather than removing children from their disabled parents and placing them in foster care, we believe that government should be providing the supports these parents need, in the best interests of their children.
Legal Services Society has launched its Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC website, which replaces and expands upon their previous Aboriginal section on the LSS Website. The new website design is built as a result of feedback from the community, making information easy to find.
Information on Aboriginal legal rights is offered in plain language. The new site provides guides on family law, child protection, social assistance on reserve (with the latest rates), the Indian residential schools settlement and wills and estates on reserve. Plain language information also includes Gladue, First Nations Court and harvesting rights.
The above mentioned guides are housed under five main subject tabs with a drop-down menu style for added search convenience: Your Family; Your Legal Rights; Benefits and Services; The Ministry and Your Kids; Legal Aid Can Help
The website interface has an easy-to-read layout with the content pages featuring:
Contextual information on publications and who can help.
Relevant publications and who can help information are listed right next to the information to which they apply. This gives end users the information they need to help answer their questions without having to search for it.
Plain language definitions of complex legal terms are bolded in red; hover your mouse over the term to get the definition which appears in a pop-up window.
Technology plays a large part in our daily lives, and this now includes how we access and use legal information. The Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC website is designed to fit all devices, allowing you to read and navigate the materials on your phone or tablet.