Big Changes to Small Claims

Small Claims under $5001

Last week, the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT)–Canada’s first online tribunal–began accepting small claims disputes $5000 and under.

Small claims disputes that the CRT can resolve include a wide variety of issues between individuals and organizations. You can start with the Solution Explorer, the first step in the CRT process, to find information and self-help tools for your issue. You can also apply for dispute resolution right from the Solution Explorer.

If you go through to obtain a CRT order, it may be enforced by filing it in the BC Provincial Court. When you do so, it has the same force and effect as a judgment of the BC Provincial Court.

What about Small Claims over $5000?

The BC Provincial Court now handles Small Claims cases between $5001 and $35,000. The Court has put together a helpful page that goes over the changes, including:

  • types of disputes;
  • what the CRT can and cannot hear;
  • when a claim under $5001 can still be heard by the Provincial Court;
  • when the CRT might refuse a claim;
  • what to do when you are not happy with a CRT decision;
  • special procedures in Vancouver and Richmond; and
  • alternatives to court.

What resources & help are there for Small Claims?

With the help of Judge Ann Rounthwaite (retired), Digital Communications Coordinator for the BC Provincial Court, we have updated Where do I start for information on Small Claims Court?

This page provides a curated collection of helpful basics for all things Small Claims.

It includes a printable PDF handout with:

  • A summary of the resources; and
  • A short bit.ly link so anyone can quickly access the full list of links.

Other Provincial Court resources

The following Common Questions have also been updated:

Access all “Where do I start…?” questions and handouts at: bit.ly/clicklawbcpc

Stay informed:

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June 2017 Events (Online, Vancouver, BC-wide)

Bookmark this post! It will be updated as more events are announced. You can also get frequent updates via our Twitter. Have a suggestion? Email us.

  • Tuesday, June 6 (10am-12pm): Usability Testing: A Way to Enhance Your PLEI Resources A workshop at the Law Foundation of BC offices in Vancouver. In developing a public legal education and information resource, usability testing is an excellent way to learn about how people might use your resource and to improve its ease of use and effectiveness. There are several usability testing methods, many of which are increasingly affordable even on small projects. This workshop will share the range of methods in the usability testing toolbox and when to apply each method.
  • June 7-14 (various dates): Nidus logo_niduspresents online webinars & an in-person presentation on Personal Planning

Wednesday, June 7 (11:30-12:30pm) Online Webinar: Live Demo of the Personal Planning Registry. Register Online.

Wednesday, June 14 (11:30-12:30pm) Online Webinar: Planning for Health Care & Personal Care. Register Online.

Wednesday, June 14 (1:00-2:30pm) In-Person Presentation: Planning for incapacity and end-of-life. No Registration required. At South Granville Seniors Centre, 1420 West 12th Avenue (between Granville & Hemlock) in Vancouver. Held in lounge on 3rd floor.

Wednesday, June 28 (11:30-12:30pm) Online Webinar: Planning for Financial & Legal Matters. Register Online.

  • June 13-28 (various dates): Courthouse Libraries BC presents various online webinars open to advocates and community workers:

Tuesday, June 13 (12:30pm-2:00pm): Working More Effectively with Clients Who Have Mental Health Issues.
Advocates around BC report they are increasingly providing services to clients with complex and multiple barriers. In this 1.5 hour webinar offered jointly with PovNet, Kristi Yuris and Kris Sutherland will provide practical strategies aimed at increasing each advocate’s capacity to work more effectively with clients with mental health issues. NOTE: This Webinar is now sold out. There is space in our in-person group viewings at the Vancouver (800 Smithe St) and Kamloops (455 Columbia St) library locations. Please email training@courthouselibrary.ca to register for an in-person viewing or to be added to our waitlist for the webinar.

Monday, June 19 (12:30-1:30pm): Civil Resolution Tribunal: BC’s New Online Tribunal (An Update).
The online Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) is resolving strata property disputes, and as of June 1, will also begin accepting small claims disputes under $5,000. In this 1 hour webinar hosted jointly with the Civil Resolution Tribunal, Shannon Salter will walk you through the CRT process including some changes specific to small claims disputes and discuss the use of CRT since inception. She’ll also answer your questions about how to help your clients using the CRT.
Register online.

Wednesday, June 21 (12:30-1:30pm): Representing Your Client at a Hearing of the Mental Health Review Board.
In this one hour webinar offered jointly with Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS), you will hear from Diane Nielsen and another legal advocate of CLAS. This webinar will assist lawyers and advocates in representing people who are involuntarily detained under the Mental Health Act (MHA) at Mental Health Review Board (Review Panel) hearings to review their involuntary detention.
Register online.

Wednesday, June 28 (12:30-1:30pm): Clicklaw Refresher for Libraries & Community Helpers.
This one hour webinar is aimed toward community helpers and public library staff. LawMatters Coordinator Shannon McLeod and Clicklaw Coordinator Audrey Jun will be reviewing how to search Clicklaw for reliable legal information specific to BC as well as how to use Clicklaw Wikibooks and the Clicklaw Helpmap to make better referrals.
Register online.

  • Wednesday, June 21 (starting at 6:30pm): BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) holds their Annual General Meeting at the YWCA Hotel in Vancouver. The AGM is your chance to hear about their work, elect BC FIPA board members, and talk about some of this year’s most important freedom of information and privacy issues. It will feature a talk by Sinziana Gutiu about the current climate for information and privacy issues in BC and what BC’s new political climate could bring. RSVP to fipa@fipa.bc.ca.

Stay informed:

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Organization of the Month | May 2017

This month, we feature BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA), a Clicklaw contributor.

FIPA is a non-partisan, non-profit society established to promote and defend freedom of information (FOI) and privacy rights in Canada. They strive to empower citizens by increasing their access to information and their control over their own personal information. FIPA was the major force in getting BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act passed.

// Upcoming Events

Wednesday, June 21: FIPA AGMFIPA will have a joint speaker with the Canadian Institute for Information and Privacy Studies. The public is welcome attend but only members can vote. Become a member today, and join FIPA for the AGM! For more information on membership, visit FIPA’s website.

Tuesday, July 11 @ 12:30pm: FOI 101 Online Webinar with Courthouse Libraries BC. Open to anyone interested in learning the basics of filing FOI requests and learning to navigate some common challenges that can arise as requests are processed. Stay tuned for more information! You can also subscribe here to stay updated on all Courthouse Libraries BC webinars.

September: Right to Know Week – FIPA will be hosting their annual FOI 101 workshop as well as the 7th BC Information Summit. More information to come, so be sure to check the FIPA website for the most recent updates. These events will be included on the Clicklaw blog’s monthly events posts.

// Q&A with Vince, FIPA Executive Director

Hi Vince, thanks for answering our questions. Can you explain what FIPA does?

A lot of what we do is helping people navigate a system that is completely alien to them, usually to get them information or documents they need to take care of other problems they may be having. We also do some education, but keeping in mind most people we help are focused on other issues–FOI is a means to an end.

Who does FIPA help?

We work to serve all of BC and even more so this year by providing our FOI 101 workshop through an online webinar with Courthouse Libraries BC, so that we can better reach the entire province. This interactive webinar will provide newcomers to FOI with practical skills to prepare and submit information requests that get results, and to navigate some common challenges that can arise as requests are processed. We are also actively engaged in national issues as well.

What are you working on now? 

We’re always working on exciting privacy and FOI reforms at both the provincial and federal levels, but with a new provincial government apparently ready to take office, we’re gearing up to really push for these reforms that have been largely ignored.

This year, we’ve also been doing work based on our 2015 The Connected Car: Who is in the Driver’s Seat? Report for the federal Privacy Commissioner. We have just appeared at a Senate Transportation committee hearing into autonomous and connected vehicles, and we hope to do an update on the report later this year. This exciting research will examine the current state of privacy protections in the Canadian car industry.

What’s something you’d like to clear up about FIPA?

A lot of people think we hold personal records in our office, or that we are a government body to whom they send their requests–but we don’t, and we aren’t!

What are you most excited about for FIPA?

We have the opportunity to deal with a very fast-changing field, especially working to ensure that new technological advances are also protective of our information and privacy rights.

Conversely, is there anything you are worried about?

I’m worried that we are being sold a bill of goods, trading our rights to information and privacy for convenience and/or claimed protection from danger.

Last question: if you could wave a magic wand and make one wish come true, what would it be, and why?

I’d wish that even a small percentage of the money and time being spent on developing new technologies and products was spent on ensuring that those technologies and products protect our information and privacy rights. It’s not impossible to protect privacy in the new information age, but there is a reluctance to devote the resources to make it happen.

// FIPA expertise brought to Common Questions

Thanks to FIPA, we also have a slew of new Common Questions on FOI, records, and privacy. Check them out by scrolling down on the Clicklaw home page:

Stay informed with FIPA:

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2017 Bi-Monthly Update Series: March/April

To keep you informed, here are some highlights of changes and updates made to Clicklaw in March and April:

Jan-Feb | Mar-Apr | May-Jun | Jul-Aug | Sep-Oct | Nov-Dec


Cerebral Palsy Association of British Columbia

  • Navigator for Youth Transitioning to Adult Services
    Youth with disabilities in BC face challenges when transitioning from childhood to adult services. This program helps youth aged 14 to 25, their parents and members of their Transition Support Teams, connect with the services they need, such as disability benefits, health services, or school supports.

Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS)

Disability Alliance BC

The following help sheets are now available in 5 languages: Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Persian, Punjabi, Spanish.

Legal Services Society

Nidus Personal Planning Resource Centre and Registry

People’s Law School

Each of the following publications now has a fresh new look, new content, and more practical guidance. Both are available in multiple media formats: wikibook, EPUB (for reading on a tablet or e-reader), PDF (print version), and printed booklet (order via Crown Publications).

  • Essentials of Consumer Law
    Explains consumer rights for common purchases and contracts. Now includes a new section on making a contract.
  • Scams to Avoid
    Covers 15 of the most common scams. Now includes new sections on romance scams, charity scams, and expanded coverage of online and computer scams.

Provincial Court of British Columbia

  • Guidelines for Using a Support Person in Provincial Court
    Many self-represented litigants find that having a trusted friend or family member with them to provide emotional support, take notes, and organize documents can be a big help. The BC Provincial Court recognizes this, and has adopted guidelines to make it easier to bring a support person to court.

Common Question – Provincial Court Resources for Everyone: Small Claims Court

On June 1, 2017, the limit for small claims will increase to $35,000 from $25,000. This page has been updated to include this information and a link to the New Small Claims Procedures from the Provincial Court of BC. Note: The Provincial Court Resources pages will be updated for May 2017.

Canadian Centre for Elder Law (CCEL)

  • Older Women’s Dialogue Project
    This project looks at law and social policy issues that affect older woman and explores what can be done to address barriers to their quality of life.
  • Older Women’s Legal Education Project
    A collaboration with West Coast LEAF, this project tries to enhance the capacity of seniors-serving professionals to support older women fleeing violence occurring in the family and to inform older women of their rights in situations of abuse.

Stay informed:

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May 2017 Events (Online, Burnaby, Kelowna, Quesnel, Vancouver, West Vancouver)

Bookmark this post! It will be updated as more events are announced. You can also get frequent updates via our Twitter. Have a suggestion? Email us.

  • May 2-18 (12:30pm-1:30pm): Courthouse Libraries BC presents various online webinars open to advocates and community workers:

    Webinars in partnership with CLAS, TRAC, Disability Alliance BC, and PovNet.

May 2: A webinar designed for Law-Foundation funded advocates which could also be useful to lawyers and other advocates working with organizations that provide legal advocacy services. This one hour webinar will go over issues that tenants of manufactured home parks may encounter, including evictions under the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act. Amita Vulimiri, a lawyer with Community Legal Assistance Society, and Zuzana Modrovic, a lawyer with Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre, will teach the webinar.

May 9: A webinar designed for Law-Foundation funded advocates which could also be useful to lawyers and other advocates working with organizations that provide legal advocacy services. This one hour webinar will present basic information about judicial review for advocates representing low income individuals at administrative tribunals, including the Residential Tenancy Branch. We will also go over the types of files that the Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) can take on, and provide advice on making referrals to CLAS. Amita Vulimiri, a lawyer with CLAS, and Samrah Mian, CLAS’s Intake Coordinator, will teach the webinar.

May 10: Established in April 2013, the Social Security Tribunal (SST) hears appeals of several federal benefit programs including the Canada Pension Plan, Employment Insurance, and Old Age Security. The SST inherited a significant backlog of appeals. During that time the Tribunal suspended some of their pre-hearing procedures. In December 2015 the backlog was resolved and the Tribunal has subsequently begun to address appeals in accordance with the governing regulations. In this hour long webinar jointly offered by Courthouse Libraries BC and Disability Alliance BC, Peter Beaudin and Ashley Silcock will review SST policies and procedures as they pertain to Canada Pension Plan Disability appeals.

May 18: This webinar is aimed at advocates representing or otherwise assisting individuals in administrative law proceedings that engage the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In this one hour webinar offered jointly by POVNet and Courthouse Libraries BC, Raji Mangat and Monique Pongracic-Speier will guide you through when and where Charter values apply to administrative decision-makers in British Columbia, including whether Charter values may apply to decision-makers who have had their Charter jurisdiction ousted by statute. The webinar will also provide practical strategies for advocating or assisting self-represented litigants with administrative proceedings engaging Charter rights.

  • May 2-23 (Various Dates): People’s Law School presents numerous events on the following topics in Burnaby and West Vancouver:
    • Family Law
    • Personal and Estate Planning
    • Wills and Estates

Register here.

Wednesday, May 3 (11:30-12:30pm) Online Webinar: Live Demo of the Personal Planning Registry. Register Online.

Wednesday, May 10 (11:30-12:30pm) Online Webinar: Planning for Health and Personal Care. Register Online.

The BC Society Act, which provides the rules for governance and incorporation of non-profits, officially proclaimed important changes on November 28, 2016. There will be a two year transition period by which time all societies in BC will have to make the switch to the new Act. This workshop will provide the information on the bylaw and policy changes necessary for your organization to effectively make the transition when the new Act is proclaimed.

Stay informed:

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Organization of the Month | April 2017

This month, we feature the BC Provincial Court, a Clicklaw contributor.

An Innovating Court

The Annual Report notes that the BC Provincial Court saw 135,663 self-represented appearances in 2015/16. This is a 4% increase, and is the first increase in the past five years.

The BC Provincial Court’s  2015/16 Annual Report highlights several of their innovations: the use of video technology to save transports for prisoners’ preliminary court appearances, an active website and social media presence for more open communication, improvement in caseload management, an open and accountable complaint process, and volunteer activities by the Court’s Judges, Judicial Justices and staff.

Their efforts to serve the public by providing an accessible, fair, efficient and innovative forum for justice also include several notable initiatives with direct public impact: In addition to hosting the second-ever Twitter Town Hall, the Court is also taking greater efforts to improve meaningful access to justice for self-represented litigants (SRLs), and has recently released Guidelines for Using a Support Person in Provincial Court.

Support Persons Welcome

The Annual Report noted that the Court saw 135,663 self-represented appearances in 2015/16. This is a 4% increase, and is the first increase in the past five years. A self-represented appearance means an appearance where at least one of the parties does not have (is not represented by) a lawyer.

The Guidelines clarify that the Court welcomes self-represented litigants (SRLs) to bring support persons to civil and family court trials or hearings, although individual judges still have the discretion to decide whether the support person’s presence would be disruptive or unfair in a particular case.

The help provided by the support person can include: taking notes, organizing documents, making quiet suggestions to the SRL, providing emotional support, and doing any other task approved of by the judge.

The Court hopes that this initiative will bring clarity, consistency and credibility.

Further details are provided in the Guidelines and the Court’s eNews announcement.

Twitter Town Hall 2.0

The Provincial Court ran its second ever Twitter Town Hall, which included participants from: justice system organizations, lawyers, students, and people with legal problems.

Chief Judge Crabtree answering questions at the second annual Twitter Town Hall

The event invited anyone to “tweet” a question to Chief Judge Crabtree, who would endeavor to answer all questions in a two-hour period on April 6th.

As the Chief Judge explained, “Last year’s Town Hall wasn’t just a one-off event intended to make a splash. It was part of the Court’s ongoing communication initiatives dedicated to two-way engagement with the public…It’s just as important that we listen to the questions and comments of British Columbians about their courts and justice system. Our public speaking engagements permit this two-way communication, but Twitter provides an opportunity to engage with more people in a different way and with people who may not be able to attend a class or meeting due to geographic or other barriers.”

The Court received 176 tweets and responded with 129 answers and 9 comments.

Recurring themes included: Access to Justice, “unbundled” legal services, the new online Civil Resolution Tribunal and changes to Small Claims Court, diversity on the bench, using plain language, restorative justice, and First Nations Court.

The success of #AskChiefJudge inspired the Nova Scotia Courts to launch their own #AskaNSJudge event.

Information for the Public

The Court also continues to publish new information through its website. As a Clicklaw contributor, the Court ensures its resources are made more widely available and searchable on Clicklaw.

Read eNews for useful and interesting information about the Court and its work.

The Court’s Digital Communications Coordinator, retired judge Ann Rounthwaite, said “We try to provide people with useful and interesting information about the Court and its work by regularly publishing short eNews articles on the website, engaging in two-way communication through @BCProvCourt on Twitter, and providing helpful information on our website.”

For example, see these resources on Small Claims:

Stay Informed with BC Provincial Court

You can subscribe to eNews and follow the Court on Twitter.
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Do you have a will?

Printable PDF handouts with accessible Wills and Personal Planning Resources for all audiences

Wills are essential tools for responsible planning and are applicable to persons considered “mentally capable” and 16 or older in BC.

Completing a will is usually a relief.  If you have been thinking about a will for yourself or if you have family members who have yet to take that step, the next few weeks are an excellent time to start.

April 9-15, 2017 is Make-a-Will Week, and a number of organizations and legal professionals are coming together to donate their time and effort to help people write their will or bring an existing will up to date.

Don’t forget about Personal Planning

A will doesn’t mean you’re totally covered — if you don’t know about Representation Agreements, Enduring Powers of Attorney and other personal planning documents, you’ll want to read more about these important legal planning documents with experts like Nidus Personal Planning Resource Centre and Registry.

What events are going on?

On April 22, 10am-2pm, call 604 687-3221 OR 1-800-663-1919 for a free 15 minute consultation with a lawyer

Make a Will Week is closely followed by Law Week, so there are a lot of events happening in the month of April. We covered a variety in our last post on April Events.

For example, the CBA BC is holding its province-wide Dial-a-Lawyer day on Saturday, April 22, 2017 from 10am – 2pm where anyone can call 604 687-3221 or 1-800-663-1919 for a free 15-minute consultation with a Wills and Estates Lawyer. They also cover other areas of law: Business, Employment, Family, Immigration and Tort & Motor Vehicle.

Nidus is holding online and in-person presentations about Personal Planning — legal documents for health care, personal care, financial and legal matters.

People’s Law School in collaboration with various organizations are holding many Public Legal Education Law Classes across BC on various topics, ranging from Writing a Will and Probating a Will to Strata Law.

I want to learn more about making my will. What do I read? Who do I call?

At the Wills and Personal Planning Resources page on the Courthouse Libraries BC website, there is a comprehensive list of free or nominal fee resources and services for everyone—from lawyers to people who aren’t familiar with the law. The webpage contains the full list of resources, services and events. The PDF handouts (printable, shareable) contain examples of types of help that can be found on the webpage, and contain a short bit.ly link that forwards to the webpage.

If you would like to make a suggestion for a resource, please email us.

Want to share the Wills & Personal Planning Resources page? Use this short redirect URL: http://bit.ly/CLBCwills

Stay informed:

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Apr. 2017 Events – Online & BC-wide

Bookmark this post! It will be updated as more events are announced. You can also get frequent updates via our Twitter. Have a suggestion? Email us.

A community-driven event about how we can achieve women’s equality in BC. Join the Single Mothers’ Alliance BC for an all-candidates debate and keynote speakers on women’s rights in BC. Ahead of the May 9 provincial general election, learn about BC political party platforms on gender equality and discuss the issues that matter to you in community roundtables. The event will end with a networking reception for all attendees.

The BC Society Act, which provides the rules for governance and incorporation of non-profits, officially proclaimed important changes on November 28, 2016. There will be a two year transition period by which time all societies in BC will have to make the switch to the new Act. This workshop will provide the information on the bylaw and policy changes necessary for your organization to effectively make the transition when the new Act is proclaimed.

Tickets are $50, or free for workshops in the Kootenays (Kaslo & Revelstoke) due to the funding and support of Columbia Basin Trust.

  • April 3-27 (Various Dates): People’s Law School presents numerous events (some in collaboration with Mediate BC) on the following topics in Burnaby, Cranbrook, Lake Cowichan, Nanaimo, North Vancouver, Port Moody, Richmond, Surrey and Vancouver:

Wills & Estates, MyLawBC (guided pathways), Strata Law, Restorative Justice (in collaboration with Mediate BC), Scams, Employment Law, Civil Litigation, Power of Attorney, Investment Frauds, & Effective Enquiries (in collaboration with Mediate BC)

Register here.

  • April 5 & 8 (Various Dates): BCCLA has a couple of events going on this month:logo_bccla

April 5 (7:00pm) Justice for Hassan Diab – Mr. Diab’s Canadian lawyer Don Bayne and Hasan Alam of Critical Muslim Voices speak about the 8 year nightmare of Hassan Diab. At the Vancouver Public Library, Central Branch, Combined Peter and Alma Room, 350 W. Georgia St, Vancouver, BC. RSVP required.

April 8 (2:00-4:00pm) Equal Citizenship: No More Second-Class Citizens! Join us for a discussion featuring the BC Civil Liberties Association’s Executive Director, Josh Paterson, to talk about citizenship equality and your rights as a Canadian citizen. At the Welsh Hall East, West Vancouver Memorial Library (1950 Marine Dr, West Vancouver, BC). RSVP here.

Wednesday, April 5 (11:30-12:30pm) Online Webinar: Live Demo of the Personal Planning Registry. Register Online.

Wednesday, April 12 (11:30-12:30pm) Online Webinar: Planning for Health and Personal Care. Register Online.

Wednesday, April 12 (1:00-2:30pm) In-Person Presentation: Planning for incapacity and end-of-life. No Registration required. At South Granville Seniors Centre, 1420 West 12th Avenue (between Granville & Hemlock) in Vancouver. Held in lounge on 3rd floor.

Wednesday, April 26 (11:30-12:30pm) Online Webinar: Planning for Financial and Legal Matters. Register Online.

Do you have questions for the Chief Judge? About his career and experience as a Provincial Court Judge and as the Chief Judge of the Court? About his leadership and the Court’s many initiatives? About judicial appointments, judicial education, reducing delays, changes to Small Claims Court or …? Tweet your questions using #AskChiefJudge on or before April 6, 2017. “He’ll tweet you back between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. Please note that the Chief Judge can’t discuss individual cases or political issues. Not available on April 6? Tweet questions to #AskChiefJudge any time before April 6!

Join the conversation with Hugh Segal, Former Senator to discuss a Guaranteed Income for people with disabilities. Free Admission – everyone welcome. Reception at 6:30pm, light refreshments will be served.

Register at: http://ow.ly/FhtG309N9Jl or call 604.299.7851

Watch as students present their App creations from LAWF 3780 – Apps for Access to Justice, and vote for your favourite! OM 3772 or http://livestream.com/tru/law

We’ll be live-streaming this event at the Vancouver Courthouse Library, 3rd floor, 800 Smithe Street, and at our Kamloops Courthouse Library, 455 Columbia Street, Room 314. Let the front desk know when you walk into the library that you’re here to watch the Battle of the Apps. If you have any questions, email training@courthouselibrary.ca.

A number of important changes to disability assistance benefits have been introduced in recent years which affect persons with disabilities (PWD) applicants and recipients including the introduction of an Annualized Earnings Exemption (AEE), several new categories of income exemptions (including gifts), and a significant asset limit increase. In this one hour webinar offered jointly by POVNet, Disability
Alliance BC and Courthouse Libraries BC, Sam Turcotte & Annette Murray of Disability Alliance BC will summarize the most important recent changes and examine how they benefit people receiving or applying for PWD benefits as well as some of the challenges and misconceptions that have arisen as a result.

Register Online.

Stay informed:

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Organization of the Month | March 2017

A conversation with Raji

Raji Mangat is the Director of Litigation at West Coast LEAF. Besides being incredibly accomplished, she has a strong passion for justice — we talked about how she works towards a more equal society as part of the West Coast LEAF team:

Hi Raji, could you tell me a bit more about what your work involves?

My position as the Director of Litigation is a relatively new lawyer position in our office. I oversee and make decisions about what equality cases we’re going to be involved in and in what capacity. We do lots of work through committees and consultation to have different perspectives represented. We don’t want to impose based on our experiences. I spend one day a week over at Rise Women’s Legal Centre as the liaison lawyer – I work with the staff and students to identify systemic issues that are impeding women in areas of child protection and family law. I really like that part of the job; West Coast LEAF’s expertise is in systemic issues while Rise has individual clients. My position is a bridge between the two organizations. If we can identify the issues that these women are facing, that are ripe for challenge, we can potentially help even more women.

I get to see the law develop to be more inclusive and reflective of people’s diverse experiences.

I was drawn to this work because of the subject matter. I enjoy the work, sometimes in a purely legal geeky way — it’s really on the cutting edge of constitutional law and human rights. I get to see the law develop to be more inclusive and reflective of people’s diverse experiences. I hope we’re doing a good job of working for women from all walks of life who are experiencing barriers to participating equally in our society. Also, we do a ton of law reform work (letters and submissions to government, getting meetings with high level decision makers to influence policy before it becomes law) as tools for systemic change, and litigation comes in where things have gotten to the point where they must be addressed after the fact. We also work in education — to work towards what comes next, what attitudes prevail.

It sounds like you cover the whole spectrum — preventative, predictive and proactive — which would also be ideal in health care!

Yes, I think so much change can happen through reform, so that people don’t have to go through a terrible experience so we have something to challenge. If we can work on how our policy makers are making laws — what they are relying on. Are they making evidence-based decisions, or what will be politically expedient, or based on what stereotypes they’re holding in their minds. It can definitely result in lasting change. I mean, legal challenges are long and expensive and we know that we can have a law struck down and something else legislated that isn’t much of an improvement. I think that is part of also drew me to West Coast LEAF — a holistic view of how change happens.

What has surprised you the most about your work?

We put a lot of thought and energy in what and how we are doing the work — if the process doesn’t include organizations and people who have historically been left out of these processes, the outcome will reflect that exclusion. I really like how thoughtful we are, and how much energy we put into listening and reflecting in the perspectives of diverse women. It makes the work more challenging but also so much richer. This work has been [incredibly] collaborative.

If the process doesn’t include organizations and people who have historically been left out of these processes, the outcome will reflect that exclusion.

Do you have an early memory with your organization that’s stuck with you?

Really shortly after I started, we were invited to Ottawa to make submissions to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice. They wanted submissions from us on the Court Challenges Program that the government was looking to reinstate – and that they subsequently have reinstated. We are happy to see the program return because it provides an opportunity for organizations like us to apply for funding to bring challenges to government laws under the Charter. It’s a really intriguing thing because no other country has anything [quite like it]. It’s unique – the government funding a program that allows us to [challenge their laws]. I had a chance to go with Kasari (our Executive Director) and make submissions.

That same week, there was also a Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) judgment being released that West Coast LEAF was intervening in. I knew it well because I had worked on before starting my job at West Coast LEAF. I had to jump right in and roll up my sleeves – it was great to see out of the gate, some of the different ways that we do our work. It stuck with me because I didn’t even have a desk at the office yet and already I was immersed in our work.

That’s pretty amazing. What are you most excited about now? What makes you worry, and why?

I’m excited that we have experienced growth in our legal capacity by adding another lawyer. It also means it increases our ability to coordinate our tools to have education, law reform and litigation programming in tandem. We have increased capacity to bring litigation — being the ones filing the Notice of Claim — along with intervening in cases that others have brought.

And, it’s not a worry, but it is rather more of a challenge, but I wonder about how to get people in the media particularly, but people generally to communicate about inequality. People feel really uncomfortable with addressing inequality in society and there might be some reticence to report on how life circumstances will create different opportunities and barriers.

People feel really uncomfortable with addressing inequality in society and there might be some reticence to report on how life circumstances will create different opportunities and barriers.

I didn’t anticipate [the reluctance] and was a bit surprised about it. The Lloyd case, for example — about mandatory minimums — often, people would wonder why we were interested in a case about a Mr. Lloyd. Well, mandatory minimums for certain drug offences carry implications for women who mostly have more low level drug mule jobs within drug trafficking enterprises. It’s easier to scoop lower level traffickers, and long terms of imprisonment impacts women in particular ways, especially if they’re mothers, or indigenous women. Getting people to see past that — to get into some of the nuance of what the equality issues are and how they can play a role in how vulnerable people are experiencing the law — I guess I worry about how to do that better.

I hope that’s something you can find the answer to.

You’ll be my first call if I do!

Last question: if you could wave a magic wand and make one wish come true, what would it be, and why?

I’d wish that my coworkers and I would all be out of a job (laughs). But seriously, if there wasn’t a need for West Coast LEAF, meaning substantive equality and inclusion wasn’t just a vision, but a reality, if we were able to see the value of everyone being able to achieve their full potential in a way that didn’t feel threatening to others — that would be my one wish.


What we’re working on

West Coast LEAF challenges gender-based inequalities in these areas (and more):

We defend the human rights of incarcerated and criminalized women. As an intervenor in an historic case challenging the practice of solitary confinement in Canada’s prison system, we will be speaking out in court about how solitary creates particular harms for Indigenous women, women with mental illness, and women who are survivors of violence and trauma.

We stand up for women’s right to parent their children and keep their families together. For example, in our recent law reform report High Stakes, we highlighted how the lack of access to affordable, high-quality childcare can increase the risk of child apprehension and create needless barriers to placing children in the care of loving family members.  

We fight for women’s right to health care and reproductive choice. As an intervenor in the case about Trinity Western University’s proposed law school, West Coast LEAF has made a strong statement that law schools must not restrict the constitutionally-protected abortion rights of their employees and students, and must not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, or family status.

We push for access to legal help for all women who need it. Less than a year ago, West Coast LEAF partnered with UBC’s Allard School of Law to launch a low-cost family law legal clinic for self-identified women, Rise Women’s Legal Centre. Given the crisis in legal aid in BC – and particularly cuts to family law legal aid that have disproportionately impacted women – we just couldn’t wait any longer for a public policy change to address the critical gap in services. Rise, now an autonomous organization, provided urgently needed legal help to 175 women in its first 5 months.

We challenge systems that exacerbate economic inequalities facing women – particularly those women who experience multiple layers of discrimination. For example, West Coast LEAF has been outspoken in criticizing the double-standard created by the way ‘spouse’ and ‘dependent’ are defined in social assistance legislation, which results in unfair denials of income assistance and disability benefits. We called for changes to social assistance law that would support women’s financial independence, self-determination in relationships, and ability to flee abusers.

We fight for women and girls to be free from violence. For example, West Coast LEAF was part of a coalition of organizations that intervened in the inquiry into the victim-blaming conduct of Justice Robin Camp while he presided over a sexual assault trial, which resulted in a recommendation that he be removed from the bench. (Earlier this month, Justice Camp announced his resignation!) To challenge the sexist stereotypes and rape myths that were reflected in Justice Camp’s behaviour, West Coast LEAF also believes in creating a cultural shift by educating the next generation. For more than 15 years, we have been delivering our peer-led No Means No youth workshop to youth in grades 5 to 9. This interactive workshop informs young people of their legal rights and responsibilities when it comes to sexual assault and consent and challenges them to interrupt the culture of violence against women and girls. We also engage youth in critical reflection about what violence looks like online and what the law says about our lives on the Internet through our TrendShift program. We are proud that we can now offer our youth workshops in Kamloops and Nanaimo in addition to Metro Vancouver!


Who we are

West Coast LEAF (Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund) is the first and only organization in BC dedicated to using the law as a tool for advancing the equality rights of women and girls. For more than 30 years, we’ve been using multiple strategies to challenge gender-based inequalities:

  • Intervening in legal cases where equality rights are at stake, and more recently initiating test case litigation to promote equality rights;
  • Shaping laws and policies to better meet the needs of diverse women and girls;
  • Offering public education about legal rights and responsibilities through a social justice lens.

Our vision is a society free of gender-based barriers to health, safety, justice, economic security, and other basic human rights. West Coast LEAF is committed to a model of feminism that includes transgender and intersex people and defends their right to be free from sex and gender discrimination. We strive to realize a vision of equality—substantive equality—that honours the differences among people and recognizes the need for these differences to be factored into laws, policies, and social practices.

Our office is located in Vancouver on unceded Indigenous land belonging to the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the x?m??kw?y??m (Musqueam), Skwxwu?7mesh (Squamish), Stó:l? and S?l?i?lw?ta?/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

Stay informed with West Coast LEAF:

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Twitter Town Hall this April 6th

Do you have questions for Chief Judge Crabtree?

About his career and experience as a Provincial Court Judge and as the Chief Judge of the Court? About his leadership and the Court’s many initiatives? About judicial appointments, judicial education, reducing delays, or …?

You’ll have an opportunity to ask him yourself, in two weeks’ time. Clicklaw will also be at the event in support, to answer any questions about public legal education and information (PLEI) in BC, contributor organizations, and more!

How to Participate

Tweet your questions using #AskChiefJudge on or before April 6, 2017. He’ll tweet you back between 11am-1pm.

Please note that the Chief Judge can’t discuss individual cases or political issues, and may not be able to answer all questions during the Town Hall, but efforts will be made to answer outstanding questions on the Court’s website after the event.

Answers will also be available at #AskChiefJudge.

Here’s a Throwback Thursday to last year’s first ever Twitter Town Hall: See the post that gave a recap of all the events.

Stay informed with the Provincial Court:

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