Your Welfare Rights and updates to assistance rates and policies

We published three booklets in the series called Your Welfare Rights: How to Apply for Welfare (March 2017), Welfare Benefits (March 2018), and When You're on Welfare (March 2019). All three booklets are currently available in print and online.

Since those publication dates, the BC Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction increased assistance rates (effective April 1, 2019) and updated various welfare policies (effective July 1, 2019).

If you or your clients are applying for assistance, or already get assistance, see the ministry's website for updates to rates and policies.

Your Welfare Rights booklets describe in plain language the types of welfare available, how to apply, benefits and supplements if you qualify, and rules and responsibilities when you're on welfare.

We plan to revise How to Apply for Welfare, Welfare Benefits, and When You're on Welfare at a future date. The Factum will announce when revised editions are available.

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Legal Aid
Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC: How mediation can help

If you're an Aboriginal parent and involved with the Ministry of Child and Family Development in BC, you have rights. Learn how Wanda is accessing mediation and working to get her kids back.

A mediator is a professional trained to not take sides, help people work out conflicts, and reach an agreement. You can ask for a mediator as soon as the ministry contacts you, or at any stage of the child protection process. Mediators are available across BC. Getting a mediator may be different in every community. See Mediate BC's website for a roster (list) of mediators in BC.

For more information about mediation, see the Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC website.

AboriginalLegal Aid
Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC: Children cared for by grandparents in BC

The Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC website relaunch features five videos sharing experiences of overcoming complicated legal issues with the help of Legal Aid BC. One of these videos is Doris’s story about taking her grandchild into care.

Aboriginal grandparents play an important role in extended family rights in BC. If you're unable to care for your children, grandparents can take care of them. You can arrange for this through an Extended Family Program agreement. This BC government program allows your child to be in the care of someone they know instead of foster care. You can ask a social worker to place your child in the care of a family member, a friend they have a close relationship with, or someone who has a cultural or traditional connection to them.

To find more information about how the Extended Family Program can help your family, see the Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC website.

AboriginalLegal Aid
Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC: Separation and matrimonial property rights on reserve

One of the new features of the Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC website relaunch are five videos that tell personal stories based on true stories from community members. These videos focus on experiences of overcoming complicated legal issues with the help of Legal Aid BC.

Steph shares her story about how she was able to stay in her home on reserve because of matrimonial real property rights.

Laws about homes on reserves changed who can stay in the family home if you and your partner break up or your partner dies. These laws might apply to you if you live on a First Nation reserve, you or your partner is a member of a First Nation or a status Indian, you're married, or you've been living with your partner for at least a year.

Find more information about separation and matrimonial property rights on reserve in BC here.

Legal Aid
Starter Legal Display Kit for public libraries

The Legal Services Society is pleased to partner with LawMatters on the Starter Legal Display Kit for public libraries. Using this form, public libraries can order a free basic kit of legal information handouts plus specific titles based on their community’s needs! The purpose of promoting handouts in a legal display is to provide another access point for patrons: access to print information they can take away for themselves.

As always, LSS publications can be individually ordered at any time from www.crownpub.bc.ca or read online at legalaid.bc.ca/read.

LawMatters and LSS are offering this service for a limited time for public libraries. We welcome your feedback as it helps us shape future resources and services. Contact lawmatters@courthouselibrary.ca or publications@lss.bc.ca if you have any questions or comments.

See the LawMatters blog post for more details.

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Hot Off the Press: A Second Chance

We’ve developed another publication with Indigenous Story Studio (formerly Healthy Aboriginal Network). A Second Chance uses engaging storytelling and illustrations to introduce you to legal rights for Aboriginal peoples. A Second Chance is Myra’s story.  When she’s charged with assault with a weapon, Myra learns about her legal rights and, with help from Legal Aid, gets a Gladue report for her sentencing hearing.

A Second Chance is available online and in print. See also the video animatic.

Legal Aid
New legal aid service offers early resolution for criminal cases

LSS is introducing a new criminal law service with fewer eligibility requirements so that we can serve a broader range of clients who wouldn’t normally qualify for legal aid.

On May 15, 2019, LSS is launching a new Criminal Early Resolution service that will provide a lawyer to clients who might otherwise have to represent themselves on matters that don’t require a trial. The financial eligibility limit is $1,000 higher than for a standard representation contract, and there’s no requirement that the client face a risk of jail.

Currently, LSS denies service to 1,200 criminal applicants a year because their incomes are over the financial eligibility limit or they don’t face jail. We expect, however, that client demand for the new service will exceed that number once people learn about it. This means significantly more people will have access to lawyers for legal advice and assistance through the court process.

The Criminal Early Resolution service is ideal for clients who don’t qualify for standard legal aid representation services but whose cases can’t be resolved by duty counsel.

Benefits of this new service include legal representation for clients, early resolution for clients, and elimination of unnecessary court appearances.

Aboriginal Legal Aid Website Re-launch

We just re-launched our Aboriginal Legal Aid website with new features and easier navigation. We re-designed the site to help you find the legal information and resources you’re looking for, such as child and family rights, on-reserve issues, and information about First Nations/Indigenous Courts.

Many of the new features are a result of feedback received through extensive user testing with Indigenous people from across BC, through interviews and focus groups. We listened to this feedback and incorporated it to create a more helpful and relevant website.

One new website features personal stories based on actual experiences from Indigenous people who share how Legal Aid helped them, such as how mediation helped Wanda get her kids back.

Visit www.aboriginal.legalaid.bc.ca to learn more about a legal problem and how Legal Aid can help.

If you would like to give us feedback on the new website design, please email: aboriginal@lss.bc.ca.

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AboriginalLegal Aid
Hot off the Press: How to Appeal Your Conviction and How to Appeal Your Sentence
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We’ve put out a new edition of How to Appeal Your Conviction and How to Appeal Your Sentence, now completely revised and redesigned. The criminal appeals process is incredibly difficult, particularly if you’re in custody. Not knowing whether you were convicted of a summary or indictable offence or which court to appeal to can make filing the first (of many) forms an impossibility. These booklets consider the roadblocks and explain the process step by step, starting with how to apply for a legal aid or court-appointed lawyer, and how to continue on your own if you couldn’t get a lawyer, including tips on doing legal research.

What’s new:

  • A removable 11-by-17 flowchart with an overview of the steps and deadlines

  • A draft version and removable blank version of all required forms, including two new fillable affidavits and a cover page for the factum and appellant’s statement

  • Detailed instructions for each form, including how to track down all the required information beforehand

  • Important addresses and phone numbers

  • Commonly asked questions

  • Tricky legal terms and concepts, such as the grounds for appeal, described in plain language

  • Practical tips on serving documents to Crown and swearing or affirming an affidavit

  • Sections on case management, limited 684s, and Gladue rights at sentence appeals

The previous edition of these booklets is no longer current; please recycle.

Legal Aid
Hot Off the Press: Five new or revised French translations
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LSS is committed to providing PLE publications in French for both our francophone community here in BC and, of course, for all French-speaking newcomers to BC.

We’ve just released five new or revised French translations.

The new French translation is:

·       Is That Legal?

Updated to match their English counterparts are the French versions of:

·       For Your Protection

·       How to Become a Child’s Guardian

·       If Can’t Get Legal Aid for Your Child Protection Case

·       Legal Aid Can Help You

All these translations are available online (only) on our website.

The translations were funded by the Francophone Affairs Program in BC, which was made possible through the Canada-British Columbia Official Languages Agreement on French-language Services.

See our website for a full list of all our French PLE publications.

Legal Aid
Hot Off the Press- Separation Agreements: Your Rights and Options

Previously Separation Agreements: Your Right to Fairness 

Co-produced with West Coast LEAF (WCL). This booklet explains the law about the fair division of family property or debt when spouses separate, and what to do if you believe your agreement might be unfair.

The English language version of this booklet has been redesigned and reprinted with minor changes, and is now available online and in print. 

Legal Aid
Hot Off the Press: Clear Skies

Co-produced with the Indigenous Story Studio (ISS). Clear Skies is a comic book that uses striking imagery to tell the story of Marnie and her kids, who live with family violence. With the support of her community, and by learning her legal options, Marnie is able to leave an abusive relationship. Clear Skies speaks to Aboriginal youth and brings a human face to the legal process.

During the development stage, Aboriginal youth asked LSS and ISS to create a video version of the comic book. View the video on the Clear Skies page on the Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC website. This webpage also lists resources and contacts to help people experiencing family violence.

The English language version of Clear Skies has been reprinted with minor changes, and is now available online and in print.

AboriginalLegal Aid
Hot off the Press: When You’re on Welfare: Rules and responsibilities

This plain language booklet tells you what you need to know when you’re on welfare, including:

·       what the ministry might ask you to do and how you might do those things,

·       what might happen if you don’t follow the ministry’s rules,

·       income and assets you can have and still get welfare,

·       your employment-related responsibilities, and

·       how to appeal a ministry decision.

It also includes where to get help if you have a problem getting your welfare payment.

When You’re on Welfare is illustrated with original drawings, and is the third booklet in the series Your Welfare Rights. The other two booklets are How to Apply for Welfare and Welfare Benefits.

The series replaces the booklet Your Welfare Rights: A Guide to BC Employment and Assistance.

When You’re on Welfare is available online and in print.

Legal Aid
Hot Off the Press- Keeping Aboriginal Kids Safe: Your Family's Rights

This easy-to-understand, illustrated booklet explains the child protection process for Aboriginal children and families, including:

·       what you and your community can do if a social worker removes (takes) your child from your home,

·       how delegated Aboriginal agencies work,

·       how mediation can help you stay out of court,

·       what's involved in the court process, and

·       how the Extended Family Program can help you take care of your child.

Keeping Aboriginal Kids Safe also includes a flow chart of the process for child protection cases that involve Aboriginal children, and a page to write the important details of your child protection case.

The booklet design is friendly and engaging. Soft colours and constellation images based on the theme of Aboriginal sky lore or sky stories are used throughout. A scenario, with dialogue and original drawings in comic-book style, illustrate each of the booklet's topics.

Keeping Aboriginal Kids Safe replaces the Aboriginal Child Protection fact sheets. Please recycle the fact sheets.

AboriginalLegal Aid
Legal aid services available as usual – Lawyer service withdrawal averted

LSS is pleased to announce that legal aid services will not be disrupted starting next week after all. Lawyers who do legal aid have voted to accept a bargaining incentive payment from the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Services Society to prevent a withdrawal of lawyer services.

This is good news for the many people who rely on legal aid. The offer was made possible with a $4 million contribution from government and $3.9 million from LSS. The $7.9 million total will be used to increase payments to lawyers for several months, during which time the Association of Legal Aid Lawyers, LSS, and the ministry will negotiate a framework for a future increase in payments beyond the end of October. Lawyers do valuable work on behalf of legal aid clients and have had only one increase in pay since 1991.

 To find out more, see our announcement on the LSS website.

Legal aidLegal Aid
LSS prepares for a possible withdrawal of lawyer services

Many of you have heard the news that members of the Association of Legal Aid Lawyers have voted 97% in favour of withdrawing their services April 1, 2019. If this happens, we want you to know that LSS is committed to taking all reasonable steps to help people who need legal aid.

If lawyers stop accepting legal aid contracts, LSS will prioritize the most vulnerable people as follows:

o   Situations where children have been, or may be, removed from a parent by the Ministry of Children and Family Development

o   People requiring Family Protection Orders

o   People needing an order to prevent the other parent from permanently relocating (moving) their child out of the province

o   People who are being held in custody on criminal charges and waiting for a bail hearing to determine if they can be released from jail until they have to appear in court

LSS is taking every step to prepare in advance. LSS intake and local agent offices will still be accepting legal aid applications; however, people should expect longer wait times on the LSS Call Centre and Family LawLINE. Parents Legal Centres will also continue to provide child protection services.

What we know so far is there will be a significant impact on those appearing in court charged with a crime. While we expect some family duty counsel to still be available in many courthouses on family court days, the situation could change.

Immigration services will likely be affected. Though at this time, LSS expects to be able to cover immigration duty counsel for those in detention. We are working on alternatives for those needing to fill out refugee claim applications.

From what we know now (subject to change), contracted lawyers for the following services will be working during a withdrawal:

  • Duty counsel at First Nations Court, Drug Treatment Court, Downtown Community Court, and Circuit Courts

  • Expanded Criminal Duty Counsel in Port Coquitlam

  • Family advice lawyers at Family Justice/Justice Access Centres

  • Family LawLINE and Brydges Line

LSS will make efforts to find lawyers willing to take contracts to help vulnerable clients, and refer people we cannot help to other resources.

We will keep you informed as things change.

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Hot Off the Press: Unbundled Legal Services Infographic
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We've created a new infographic poster to explain Unbundled Legal Services. Some lawyers offer unbundled legal services, which means you can pay them to  help you with part of your family law problem, and you handle the rest of your case yourself.

An unbundled lawyer:

· meets with you to plan how they can help with your legal problem,

· discusses the tasks you will pay them for and which ones you will do on your own,

· works on only the tasks you agree to, and

· charges you for only the agreed tasks.

The infographic also contains information about unbundled services paid for by Legal Aid BC.

Family lawLegal Aid
A common-law breakup: splitting up property
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When Jake and Sarah broke up, they realized they've got a lot of decisions to make. They have to divide everything they accumulated together over the years, but have no idea where to start. Many common-law couples (couples who have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least 2 years have the same rights and responsibilities as married couples) will need to divide their property. If they can't agree how to divide it, they might even end up in court.

Family property is almost everything either you or your partner own together or separately on the date you separate, including your family home, investments, bank accounts, and more. It doesn't matter whose name the property is in.

Property division laws are the same for both married and common-law couples: unless you have a written and signed agreement that says otherwise, all family property will be divided equally. A court will only order a different division if it would be considered “significantly unfair” to do otherwise (this decision considers things such as the length of relationship, and if other agreements were made). Note, you must apply to divide family property within 2 years of the date you separated.

There are exceptions to these divisions, called excluded property, which you don't have to split equally. This includes property you owned before the relationship started, and gifts and inheritances given during the relationship.

There are many resources and services available to help you divide your property and avoid going to court. Some services are free if you have low income. Please visit familylaw.lss.bc.ca and mylawbc.com for more information.

Family lawLegal Aid
Hot Off the Press- Sponsorship Breakdown
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The new English version of Sponsorship Breakdown is now available in Arabic, Farsi, Punjabi, Spanish, simplified and traditional Chinese, and (online only) French.

Sponsorship Breakdown was revised in the fall of 2017 to reflect changes to immigration law — most importantly, the elimination of conditional permanent resident status. This booklet is for permanent residents who need help when their sponsor stops supporting them.

Hot Off the Press: Living Together or Living Apart
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We revised and reprinted the English version of our popular booklet Living Together or Living Apart: Common-law relationships, marriage, separation, and divorce.

Living Together or Living Apart explains the basics of family law in BC. It includes information about:

· your rights and responsibilities if you’re married or in a marriage-like relationship,

· how spouses can work out agreements,

· how to work out arrangements for parenting if you have children,

· what to do if you decide to separate or divorce, and

· how to sort out money matters.

It also explains your legal options and where to get help, and includes a glossary of definitions.

We made the following changes to this edition:

· deleted the separate chapter on family law for Aboriginal readers and integrated that information throughout the booklet,

· revised information about making agreements and what guardianship means,

· moved the charts about agreement types and court order types from the Appendix to the section on going to court; and

· to increase readability, printed the booklet in a larger size, used a second colour (green) on inside pages, and added three new original drawings to illustrate family law situations.

Living Together or Living Apart is available in print and online. Please recycle previous English editions.

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