A Draft Submission from the Environmental Law Centre Society

Access to safe drinking water for First Nations communities has been a hot-button issue in Canada. Our newest contributor, the Environmental Law Centre Society, has made A Draft Submission: Canada’s Legal Obligation and Duty to Ensure On-Reserve Access to Clean Drinking Water publicly available.

The original draft submission was the work of Craig Crooks, a law student at the Centre, who prepared the document for a BC First Nation. It presents the argument that “Ottawa is legally obliged to do more to upgrade First Nations’ drinking water systems”. As the issue affects many aboriginal communities, this publication would be useful as a resource for other First Nations who intend to make similar submissions to the Federal Government.

New report: Blueprint For An Inquiry

BC Civil Liberties Association, together with Pivot Legal Society and West Coast LEAF, has recently released a new report entitled Blueprint for an Inquiry. The Missing Women’s Inquiry, led by former BC attorney-general Wally Oppal, was set up to examine the problems arising from investigations of the disappearance and murder of dozens of women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Believing that the Inquiry was an absolute failure, the authors Darcie Bennett, David Eby, Kasari Govender, and Katrina Pacey sought to identify specific lessons for inquiries involving marginalized people in the future. The report includes 23 recommendations and focuses on “broad trends and procedural approaches that future commissioners of inquiry and their staff may usefully adapt to the particularities of their own jurisdiction”.

Clicklaw Project Evaluation … and the Winner of the Clicklaw Survey Draw

From July to September 2012, over 600 Clicklaw visitors completed an online survey. For Clicklaw visitors who reported that they found some information related to their legal issue, we asked if we could send them a follow-up survey and offered them a chance to win a $100 Chapters gift card. We received over 100 entries for the draw and last month we picked the winner using a random number generator. Congrats to Tim from West Vancouver! We hope you enjoy your prize …

A word cloud generated from comments submitted by Clicklaw visitors to the website survey

Thanks to everyone who participated. We learned a great deal about visitors to our website and their thoughts about Clicklaw. We learned, for example, that:

  • 60% of survey respondents were people with a legal question
  • 15% were people assisting a friend or family member with a legal question
  • 10% were intermediaries, such as family justice counsellors, community workers, and librarians assisting a client

We asked them if they found information on Clicklaw they would use – 65% of them reported that they did.

In the follow-up survey, we also learned that:

  • respondents rated the information they found through Clicklaw as 4.3 out of 5 in terms of being helpful and 4.4 out of 5 in terms of being understandable
  • respondents provided a 4 out of 5 rating to the question: did the information you found through Clicklaw help you take next steps relating to the legal issue

Kudos to Clicklaw contributors for making quality legal information available to British Columbians!

In other positive Clicklaw news, the number of visits to the Clicklaw site continues to grow. Visits in October 2012 were close to 70% higher than October the previous year.

The findings from the surveys, together with information we gathered from Google Analytics, a survey of Clicklaw contributors, and surveys of Clicklaw training participants, are summarized in the newly published Clicklaw Project Evaluation Report. We are excited about this evaluation as it allows us to set benchmarks and to use the information gathered for planning future enhancements.

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Clicklaw Wikibooks: An experiment in born-digital publishing

Earlier this year, we launched our first Clicklaw wikibook, Legal Help for British Columbians. A wikibook is a born-digital book, created collaboratively on a wiki platform. By turning this popular Guide into a wikibook, we hoped to make it more accessible, easier to update, and more versatile than its previous print-first format would allow.

In the first six months, we’ve seen that use of the wiki version of the Guide is 20 times greater than use of the previous online version of the Guide (a PDF generated from the print-ready file). We’re impressed with the way multiple contributors and reviewers can effectively collaborate on the wiki platform. And through our Courthouse Libraries BC LawMatters program, we provided public libraries across BC with printed copies of the Guide that were assembled directly from the wiki pages. So far, so good.

This slide presentation “Clicklaw Wikibooks” summarizes our experiment in born-digital publishing.

Guide to the New BC Family Law Act

On March 18, 2013 a whole new Family Law Act will come into force in British Columbia. The new Act overhauls the BC family law system and brings with it many changes. Among the more sweeping changes are a greater focus on the child, emphasis on settling matters out of court, how property is dealt with on marriage breakdown, and new rules about when a guardian wants to move with a child. The Legal Services Society has published an excellent guidebook that summarizes the highlights of the new Act in approachable, plain language format. See the Guide to the New BC Family Law Act.

CPP Disability Appeal Self-Help Workbook

Has your application for Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits been turned down? If your reconsideration request is not successful, you may want to consider appealing to the Review Tribunal. To help you to decide if this stage of review is right for you, the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities has produced a comprehensive self-help workbook. Going to the Canada Pension Plan Disability Review Tribunal is a 70 page guide that includes information such as:

  • deciding whether an appeal is right for you
  • key strategies for success in preparing your case
  • preparing written submissions, and
  • presenting your case.

It also includes case examples, checklists and cases of interest. The Coalition has also produced a short video that gives an introduction to this booklet.

Video to Help Evaluate Online Legal Information

On the Internet, we have access to more information – and more varied information – than we ever have. One of the reasons why is that anyone can publish to the Internet. On the flip side, one of the problems with the Internet … is that anyone can publish to it! The phrase “Caveat lector: Let the reader beware” is only modestly helpful, which is why a new video from the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta is a welcome aid to help readers determine if online legal information is reliable. Is it Reliable? Seven Clues to Good Legal Information Online is just 4 minutes long and provides specific criteria to help evaluate reliability, including jurisdiction, authority, clarity, currency, advertising and privacy.

Clicklaw Visitor Survey

Over the next few weeks, we’re asking Clicklaw visitors to take a very short survey after they’ve used our site. We want to learn more about who’s using Clicklaw, why people are coming to our site, and whether or not they’re finding information that relates to their legal issue.

Our survey is a little different than the traditional 4 questions that you may get when you visit a website. For Clicklaw visitors who report that they have found some information that relates to their legal issue, we ask if we can send them a follow up survey a few days after their visit. Our goal is to give visitors time to read and digest the legal information found through Clicklaw, and see if it has helped them to take next steps with their legal issue. Participants who complete the second survey will have the opportunity to have their name entered in a draw for a $100 Chapters gift card.

We’re running the survey for the next few weeks. Both the pop-up and follow-up surveys are very short and take only a few moments to complete. So we would really appreciate it if you could take a moment to fill out our survey! And if you refer clients to the Clicklaw website, please encourage them to do the same. We’ll report back at the end of the summer on what we learn!

Resolving Disputes

Have you ever had a conflict with someone in your life? Did you ignore it and hope it would go away? Did you hire a lawyer to argue your case at all costs to “win”? Did you do something inbetween? There are many different ways to handle conflict.

For certain types of conflict, one option may be to take your case to an administrative tribunal to decide. There are many costs associated with this option. It can cost you money, energy, and time. It can also damage your relationship with the person with whom you have a conflict, and you may not get the result that you want.

The Justice Education Society, in partnership with the BC Council of Administrative Tribunals and with funding from the Ministry of Justice, has created a new section on their Administrative Law website on Resolving Disputes before they escalate. This includes four animated videos:

  1. Choosing a Dispute Resolution Option
  2. Understanding Disputes
  3. Preparing for a Tough Talk
  4. Negotiating a Solution

The messages are clear and concise, offering simple yet effective suggestions you can choose to try out to resolve a conflict before it escalates. My favourite is Preparing for a Tough Talk. Have a look and post your thoughts on our blog!

The Administrative Law BC site also includes a glossary of terms used in administrative law and administrative hearings (tribunals), and a directory of tribunals in BC.

Another option to consider for certain types of conflict is mediation. For more information on this option, check out Clicklaw’s common question What can mediation help me with? And if you want to get legal advice about a conflict, you can find legal help in your community on Clicklaw’s HelpMap.


Electronic Devices Privacy at the Canadian Border

The data on your phone, tablet, or laptop is likely something you consider to be private. We use these devices for so many aspects of our lives now – personal and business emails, writing reminders to ourselves, taking photos and videos of our holidays, banking – the list goes on and on. And for people like for lawyers, journalists and doctors, the information on these devices can include confidential information about others. We carry these devices with us all the time, even when we travel.

Let’s say you’ve gone on a trip outside Canada. What happens when you cross the border back into Canada? Can the border agent search your smart phone? Do you really want them looking at your holiday photos, seeing your business contacts list, reading your emails? Can they search the files on your laptop? Do they have the right to do that?

The BC Civil Liberties Association has recently added a new resource to Clicklaw. The Electronic Devices Privacy Handbook: A Guide to Your Rights is a handbook for people who are crossing the border into Canada. It covers:

  • your rights at the Canadian border,
  • the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) policies,
  • best practices for keeping your information private and secure, and
  • what you can do if you’ve been searched.

And before you leave Canada, consider checking out the rules for the country you’re travelling to, as the rules are different wherever you go. The handbook includes a link from the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s online guide to crossing the U.S. border: Defending Privacy at the U.S. Border: A Guide for Carrying Digital Devices.