New service for clients with financial security issues

Effective October 30, 2018, the Legal Services Society will implement a new limited representation contract for a trial period, where counsel may provide unbundled services to clients with financial security issues, including child and spousal support and preservation and/or division of family property. The contracts are intended to provide clients with the assistance necessary to effectively negotiate a settlement or represent themselves.

Limited representation contracts will include up to 15 hours preparation, including limited court-based case conference attendance. Unbundling legal services, where counsel provide legal services for part of a client’s legal matter, allows clients to access some legal help where they would otherwise not be eligible for legal aid representation.

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Legal aid now available to help children stay out of foster care

Sometimes a grandparent, aunt, uncle or other relative is willing to care for a child who is at risk of going into foster care, or has been removed from their home already -- because the parents are unable to care for them. In foster care, however, children often lose touch of the things that matter most: their family, culture and community. That’s why the Legal Services Society (LSS) is now providing lawyer services to relatives who would like to care for a child on a temporary or permanent basis. Community members with a cultural or traditional responsibility towards a child may also be eligible.

The intent of the new service is to keep children out of foster care whenever possible. In some cases, we can provide lawyers for collaborative processes before or at the same time as the child’s family is involved in a court action. If relatives and community members can’t resolve the matter of caring for a child out of court, the service may include a lawyer’s assistance in court.

Relatives and community members who want to become caregivers may be eligible for this service if they meet LSS’s financial and coverage guidelines. To apply, contact the nearest legal aid office or call LSS at 1-866-577-2525 or 604-408-2172.

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More people with child protection matters will now be financially eligible for legal aid

The Legal Services Society (LSS) has increased the financial eligibility guidelines for child protection services. This is to improve the accessibility of legal aid when a child has been removed or is at risk of being removed from their home by the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

LSS provides lawyers to about 2,300 people with child protection cases each year. With its severe consequences on families, LSS is hoping the higher income cut-off will mean more people get a lawyer’s assistance when there are concerns that a child is in need of protection.

The financially eligibility guidelines for child protection (CFCSA) matters have increased by $1000 for each household size. The change became effective as of September 27, 2018. See the new income chart here.

By increasing the guidelines, LSS now has consistent financial eligibility criteria for all its child protection representation services, including LSS’s Parents Legal Centres.

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Gladue Reports Graphic Novel Focus Group

The Legal Services Society (Legal Aid BC) is working with the Healthy Aboriginal Network to create a story about Gladue reports in the form of a graphic novel and video.

Under the Criminal Code, people who identify as Aboriginal have Gladue rights. These rights encourage judges to take a restorative justice approach to sentencing that helps both the offender and community heal. The Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed that judges must look at how Indigenous offenders’ lives have been affected by colonialism and systemic racism and must consider sentences other than jail to repair the harm a crime has done.

You're invited to watch the focus group short and provide feedback. The videos are made from the rough storyboards, so that after focus group testing and feedback, the story and illustrations can be edited easily and cheaply. After you watch the video, please think about what you liked the most/least and if the story, situation, and characters seemed realistic to you.

Please email your feedback to sean@thehealthyaboriginal.net.

AboriginalLegal Aidvideo, Gladue, comic
MyLawBC’s Dialogue Tool improved

MyLawBC’s Dialogue Tool has been updated.

The Dialogue Tool helps you create a separation agreement that addresses your family’s needs. You start with an intake process where both you and your ex answer questions about your situation and set out your ideas for the future. Once you’ve both finished this step the system looks at your answers and creates a custom template separation agreement for you to fill out and complete.

Since MyLawBC’s launch we have been gathering feedback about the Dialogue Tool from both real world users and in user testing sessions. Based on this feedback we’ve made a number of improvements to the tool. Some of those changes are to the backend of the tool and may not be readily apparent. Here are some that you might notice:

  • The questions asked during the intake process have been rearranged to follow an order that users thought was more natural.

  • The legal clauses that are given to users have been updated to make them easier to understand.

  • A new section was added to show the original text of the legal clauses in the template so you can refer back to it after you have edited them.

We’ve heard a lot of positive things about the Dialogue Tool and we hope with these changes we’ll hear even more. You can try out the improved Dialogue Tool or learn more about it on MyLawBC.com.

Reimbursement of deductions from disability or income assistance of methadone patients

The Government of BC has agreed to pay back $5.7 million that was deducted from the disability or income assistance cheques of 11,700 methadone treatment patients between November 2009 and July 2016. 8,000 people currently on disability and income assistance who were affected by these deductions will automatically receive a monthly cheque of up to $150 until the amounts are paid back. However, there are around 4,000 people who were methadone patients and used to receive disability and income assistance but no longer receive it, who should also be compensated.

 

Methadone patients who were receiving disability and income assistance between November 2009 and July 2016 can register for payment by contacting Gratl and Company, the law firm who argued the case on behalf of methadone patients. See the Gratl and Company website for more information about how to make a claim.

Increased funding for Gladue reports

This year, the Legal Services Society has increased funding available for Gladue reports.

Under the criminal code, people who identify as Aboriginal have Gladue rights. These rights encourage judges to take a restorative justice approach to sentencing that helps both the offender and community heal. The Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed that judges must look at how Indigenous offenders’ lives have been affected by colonialism and systemic racism and must consider sentences other than jail to repair the harm a crime has done.

A Gladue report helps the judge take into account Gladue rights during sentencing or when setting bail. Legal aid lawyers can request funding for the production of these reports. For more information about legal aid Gladue reports, please contact us at gladue.coordinator@lss.bc.ca.

You can learn more about Gladue rights and Gladue reports on the Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC website and from our Gladue publications (scroll down to see them all).

Hot Off the Press - If You're Charged with a Crime
If You're Charged wih a Crime cover

We updated this easy-to-understand brochure with revised content, including a section highlighting our new Aboriginal publications.

If You’re Charged with a Crime outlines:

  • what happens when someone is charged with a criminal offence,

  • the first steps in the court process and the options available,

  • the accused person’s legal rights, and

  • how to get legal aid or other legal help.

Previous editions of this brochure are no longer current; please recycle.

Wrapping Our Ways Around Them

Wrapping Our Ways Around Them is a new plain language guidebook that focuses on how Aboriginal communities and parents can be involved in child welfare issues. It empowers communities to participate in the child protection process to keep children culturally connected and to help families heal.

The guidebook:

  • explains how Aboriginal communities and parents can be involved in child welfare decisions outside of court and at court;
  • outlines the child welfare process; and
  • defines an Aboriginal child and their human rights, including protecting their cultural identity.

Wrapping Our Ways Around Them is produced by the Nlaka’pamus Nation Tribal Council’s ShchEma-mee.tkt (Our Children) Project and is available online as a PDF.

Hot Off the Press: If You Can’t Get Legal Aid for Your Child Protection Case

If You Can’t Get Legal Aid for Your Child Protection Case is now back in stock, and you can order it from Crown Publications.

This booklet is for people facing a complicated child protection hearing who’ve been denied legal aid and can’t afford a lawyer.

It explains why you can ask for a court-appointed lawyer and how to apply. It includes the forms you need, what you should say to the judge in court, and where to get legal help and other support.

Updates to this new edition include:

  • a glossary with frequently used words and phrases,
  • restructured content for a more logical, step-by-step approach,
  • redefined terminology,
  • improved forms instructions,
  • more cross-references to forms, and
  • graphics to improve accessibility.

Previous editions are no longer current; please recycle.

Hot Off the Press: Sponsorship Breakdown

The new English version of Sponsorship Breakdown is now available in 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.

LSS increases availability of family law services

With new funding from the provincial government, the Legal Services Society (LSS) is now able to help more people who have family law problems. LSS has reinstated family law coverage that it had to eliminate over a year ago when money for discretionary spending ran out.

The following policy changes may help one of your clients.

Family Exception Reviews

Under the Exception Review process, LSS will review the application of a financially eligible person whose legal problem does not meet our family coverage guidelines. The purpose of the review is to determine if there are circumstances that may warrant appointment of a lawyer for the person. The factors LSS will consider depend on the circumstances of the individual case, but are generally situations where appointment of counsel is needed.

Discretionary Financial Eligibility

Sometimes a legal aid applicant meets the coverage guidelines for family law representation but does not meet our financial eligibility guidelines. Discretionary financial coverage for family cases means LSS will take a more generous approach to determining if a client is eligible for legal aid. Note that it is for applicants who are only slightly over the financial eligibility guidelines and have a serious, complex case.

Extended Family Services

Under the Extended Family Services process, LSS can grant a lawyer more hours for a client whose primary legal issues require more time than was specified in their original legal aid representation contract.

If you are working with a client whose lawyer is nearing the end of the available hours in the representation contract, consider asking the lawyer to apply to LSS for Extended Services (it must be the lawyer, not the client, who applies).

If you have questions about whether these changes could help your client, please call 604-601-6000 and ask for Sarah Khan or Branka Matijasic.

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Hot Off the Press: If You Can’t Get Legal Aid for Your Criminal Trial
If You Can’t Get Legal Aid for Your Criminal Trial

We’ve revised and reprinted If You Can’t Get Legal Aid for Your Criminal Trial. This booklet is for people facing serious and complex criminal charges who’ve been denied legal aid and can’t afford a lawyer.

It explains why, how, and when to make a Rowbotham application – to ask the judge to stay your charges until the government provides funding for a lawyer. It also explains:

  • what you have to prove,
  • how to prepare for court, and
  • what happens in court.

The revisions we’ve made to the booklet include:

  • Clarifying terminology
  • Restructuring the information to present the application process more logically and in clearly defined steps
  • Adding visuals to improve readability

The booklet includes a checklist of points to cover in court and copies of the necessary court forms, with instructions on how to complete them.

Note that the French version of this publication does not include the recent changes that are in the English version.

Hot Off the Press: Gladue Report Guide
Gladue Report Guide

Aboriginal peoples have Gladue rights under the Criminal Code of Canada, as a result of their unique circumstances in Canada. This means when an Aboriginal person is before the court for a bail hearing or sentencing, the judge must apply Gladue principles and take into account the background factors that may have brought them there. The Aboriginal person can give the court information about themselves and their family history in a Gladue report to help the judge decide the best restorative justice option for them and their community.

Our plain language booklet Gladue Report Guide is a new publication to help Gladue report writers. The booklet explains the tasks involved and information required to prepare and write an effective Gladue report to help the Aboriginal person before the court receive fair treatment.

The Gladue Report Guide is one of five new LSS Aboriginal publications about Gladue rights and First Nations Court. The others are Your Gladue Rights, Gladue Rights at Bail and Sentencing, Gladue Submission Guide, and What’s First Nations Court?

To find out more about Gladue rights, see the Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC website.

Hot off the Press: A Guide to Aboriginal Harvesting Rights
Harvesting Rights

We’ve produced a new and expanded edition of our booklet A Guide to Aboriginal Harvesting Rights. This guide is for Aboriginal people who want to understand their harvesting rights — the right to fish, hunt, and trap, and gather plants, fungi, and timber. The booklet explains in plain language:

  • Aboriginal rights protected under the Constitution, and how they translate to harvesting rights in BC,
  • Métis harvesting rights, including how to get a Métis harvester card,
  • treaty rights,
  • tips for harvesting outside your traditional territory,
  • what to do if you’ve been charged with hunting or fishing illegally,
  • how to get legal help, and
  • the court process.

What’s new in this edition?

  • A checklist of things to confirm before you go harvesting and what to bring with you
  • More examples of what’s considered a harvesting offence, how to reduce your chances of being charged, and when it’s a good idea to get a licence or permit
  • Harvesting restrictions based on conservation, public health, and public safety reasons
  • Whether you can trade, barter, or sell harvest
  • What to do if you want to fish outside your Nation’s communal licence

A Guide to Aboriginal Harvesting Rights is available online and in print. The previous edition of this booklet is no longer current; please recycle.

Hot off the Press: Five translations of Is That Legal? What the Law Says about Online Harassment and Abuse
Is That Legal - Arabic

In 2017 in collaboration with West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund (West Coast LEAF), we published the second English edition of Is That Legal? to help youth be safer online when they use social media. Now this popular booklet is also available in Arabic, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Punjabi, and Spanish.

Is That Legal? describes four online situations youth might find themselves in:

  • taking intimate images
  • sharing intimate images
  • cyberstalking
  • sexual exploitation

The brightly coloured booklet explains in plain language what the law says about each situation, including:

  • what consent means and the age of consent in Canada;
  • what an intimate image is;
  • when an action is sexual assault, criminal harassment, uttering threats and intimidation, extortion, or child pornography; and
  • what Internet luring and grooming is.

It also says what you or someone you know can do in these situations, and where to get support services and legal help.

Is That Legal? is available online and in print in the six languages.

Have You Made a Will?

If you haven’t made a will, you’re not alone. According to a Global News Morning BC report, only one third of parents in BC with children under 18 have a legal will. If you have children, do you know who’s going to look after them if you and your spouse die? This week (April 8 to 14) is BC’s annual Make a Will Week — perhaps it’ll inspire you to write or update your will.

Why make a will?

Without a will, your money and personal possessions might not be distributed as you’d like, and your children’s future may be decided by government agencies. Making a will can give you peace of mind. You’ll know who gets your assets, no matter how modest, and who’s going to look after and raise your children.

How do I make a will?

MyLawBC can help you make a simple will online that reflects your wishes and fits your situation. MyLawBC, which is free to use, guides you through its Make a will pathway where you’ll learn about the important decisions you need to consider.  At the end, you’ll get an easy-to-use form in Microsoft Word to complete, print, and sign.

Before you start, the Check your situation link in the sidebar will show you whether you can use MyLawBC for your will. If your situation is complicated, MyLawBC can’t provide a will. But you’ll still get basic information about what you need in your will, and where you can get help.

If you have a complicated situation, or can afford legal help, getting help from a lawyer or a notary is a good idea.

More information

You can find out more about making your will with MyLawBC in this video. And in addition to MyLawBC, the Make a Will Week website has links to many useful resources.

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Hot Off the Press: Welfare Benefits

This plain language booklet gives basic information about:

  • the types of monthly welfare benefits that are available;
  • benefits called supplements, including housing-related supplements, a wide range of health supplements, subsidies for families with children, and employment-related supplements;
  • how to apply for a supplement if you qualify; and
  • how to appeal a ministry decision.

It also includes where to get help if you have a problem getting monthly welfare benefits or a supplement.

Welfare Benefits is illustrated with original drawings, and is the second booklet in the series Your Welfare Rights. How to Apply for Welfare is the first booklet in the series.

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

Welfare Benefits is available online and in print.