Free Legal Advice on Dial-A-Lawyer Day

Gearing up for Law Week 2013 the BC Branch of Canadian Bar Association will be offering free legal consultation sessions as part of its Dial-A-Lawyer Day, happening on Saturday, April 13.  Law Week is a terrific initiative that aims to raise awareness about our legal system, recognizing the dedicated legal professionals involved and it aims to help the public understand how the justice system works. 

 The Dial-A-Lawyer event makes legal advice accessible.  If you live in British Columbia and you have a question about a legal issue in the following 6 areas of law – family, wills & estates, tort & motor vehicle accident, immigration, business or criminal – you can call (604.687.3221 or 1.800.663.1919) and speak with a lawyer for up to 15 minutes for free

 While we are on the topic of free legal advice take a look at other options available to members of the public seeking an alternative to costly legal services.

New and Revised Publications from the Legal Services Society

By Nate Prosser (guest blogger)
Legal Services Society (Legal Aid BC)

This week saw a shake-up in family law as the new Family Law Act replaced the old Family Relations Act, and a slew of legal changes came into force. As a result of these changes, many of the family law publications produced before the act came into force are no longer legally accurate.

With this in mind, the Legal Services Society (LSS) has revised all of its family law and child protection publications. This included creating many new publications, from booklets to fact sheets and self help-guides, and revising more than 20 booklets, brochures, flow charts, and fact sheets. In addition to these, all information on the Family Law in BC website has been updated to reflect the new Family Law Act.

A list of new and revised resources can be found on the Family Law in BC website. All of the updated publications are available online and in print now (see also Families & children and Abuse & family violence in the publications section of the LSS website).

If you have any copies of these publications dated earlier than March 18, 2013, please recycle and replace them with the updated editions, as they are now incorrect.

JESS – a virtual assistant for navigating BC Small Claims Court matters

Are you disputing a car repair bill, pleading with a carpenter to complete your unfinished kitchen reno, or seeking damages for personal injury for $25,000 or under, all by yourself?  Then JESS may be the resource for you.  Launched on January 10, 2013, JESS is a pilot project developed by Justice Education Society and is now available on SmallClaimsBC.ca website.

It is a virtual assistant that offers guidance on what steps you may take in order to move your case forward.  JESS delivers expertise by combining interactive video scripts, website text and multiple choice questions that offer a much needed roadmap for people going to small claims court.

This latest project is based on a legacy of resources – legal publication, websites and instructional videos – created by Justice Education Society, an organization that strives to improve access to British Columbia’s justice system.

If you would like to inquire further about this program visit the Society’s website at www.justiceeducation.ca or explore some of Clicklaw’s own resources dealing with small claims matters.

Client Data and Privacy Laws for Small Organizations Event

The BC Civil Liberties Association and the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association held an event on January 22nd titled “Privacy Issues Facing Small Organizations”. This informative breakfast workshop described the basics that small organizations need to know about client data privacy laws, such as:

  • Good privacy policy creates and maintains trust with your clients. Clients need to know what level of confidentiality you can offer.
  • Valid consent includes both express and implied.
  • Your clients have the legal right to withdraw consent at any point, even after it has been given, and even if it will effect service provision.
  • The Personal Information Protection Act protects your right to collect, use, and disclose client information, but also places limits on how and to what extent those practices occur.
  • Once you collect data from your clients, it is in your control, even if it is not in your custody. You are responsible for data disposal. If you use a 3rd party data storage provider, then you need to know how secure the data is.
  • The Information and Privacy Commissioner of B.C. oversees compliance with provincial privacy laws.
  • A paper titled “BC Civil Liberties Association’s Online Communications Strategy” was distributed. Further resources are available at the Clicklaw topic Privacy & access to information.

Public Access Computers in Public Libraries

Do you use your public library for Internet access? That could be about to change. At the beginning of April, Industry Canada announced that they have ended the funding for the Community Access Program. This program had been operating since 1995 to help connect Canadians to the Internet by funding public access computers in places such as public libraries.

The Canadian Library Association is dismayed at this announcement and released a statement in response. Industry Canada says 79% of Canadians now have Internet access at home, and many can also get online access through their smart phone. However, the Canadian Library Association points out that only 54% of households in the lowest income quartile have home Internet access, so community-based Internet access is still needed. The BC Library Association also issued a statement, describing the funding cuts as “a blow to some of the country’s most vulnerable and remote communities.”

While a few larger public libraries in BC have announced that they’ll continue to provide public access computers, there are real concerns that many libraries in smaller communities will no longer have the resources to provide public access computers.

At Courthouse Libraries BC, we’re also dismayed that funding for the CAP program has ended. We work closely with public libraries in BC through our Law Matters program. We help them to develop legal collections for the public, and provide training for librarians on using Clicklaw to answer legal information questions. Our recently released consultation report, Talking to Librarians about LawMatters: Promising Practices, confirms that people use public access computers in public libraries for many purposes, including to access legal information, to complete court forms, and to apply for federal and provincial government programs. Ending the funding for these public access computers will have a negative impact on many communities in BC and across Canada.

The Nova Scotia CAP Association has launched a campaign to save the Community Access Program, called Save CAP. They’re asking people to contact their MP to say why they value this program. We encourage you to check out their website and have your say.

BC’s Law Week 2012: celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Charter

Every April the Canadian Bar Association  organizes events across Canada to celebrate the signing of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In BC, Law Week is a collaborative project organized through the partnership of the BC Branch of the Canadian Bar Association (CBABC), the Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia, the Law Foundation of British Columbia, the Law Society of British Columbia, and the Vancouver Bar Association.

This year’s theme is Access to Justice: The Celebration of the Charter of Rights in recognition of the Charter’s 30th birthday. From April 15-22, events such as a speech contest for students, the Dial-A-Lawyer program, and the 9th annual CBABC Fun Run, will be held at various locations throughout BC.

Here at Clicklaw, we think it would be smashing if you joined us at the Vancouver Law Week Open House on Tuesday the 17th. A chance for the public and student groups to learn about the law and the legal system, this year’s Open House is being held outside the Vancouver Art Gallery from 10 am to 3pm. Clicklaw, alongside their friends from Access Pro Bono Society of British Columbia , will be there to answer your questions and share what we do. We’d love to see you!  You will also be able to  learn specifically about Clicklaw at Law Day events in Nanaimo (on the 14th) and Victoria (on the 21st ).

To get you all primed for Law Week, check out these Clicklaw resources from CBABC:

April: National Poetry Month

The rain — unending?

But, no, spring’s come. Remember?

Sunshine will follow.

Ok, so there are better poets out there, but in the spirit of National Poetry Month I decided to attempt a haiku for your, um, reading pleasure.

April is a time for poets and poetry lovers alike to celebrate the power of verse.  As many of you may know, however, art (to quote ALO) can get messy.

Want to learn more about Canadian copyright? Or what you should know when entering into a contract with a publisher? Perhaps you are submitting your work to a contest or considering self-publication?

Check out The Artists’ Legal Outreach (ALO) on Clicklaw. Made up of volunteer lawyers and law students, the ALO has resources, workshops, and clinics for all types of artists.

For more resources on entertainment & media law, start your Clicklaw search here.

It’s spring! and possibly time to start that home reno project

Although the weather has been suggesting otherwise, today is the first day of spring. Yes, spring! . . . The time of year when thoughts turn to love, cherry blossoms,  and quite possibly, some serious home renovations.

Whether you are re-shingling your roof, replacing your eavestroughs, or converting living spaces to meet changing needs, knowing both your rights and responsibilities will help to ensure the experience turns out to your satisfaction.  Who should I hire? What should the contract include? Will the bylaws of the strata corporation for my condo allow me to make these renovations? Who can I talk to for more information?

Resources on Clicklaw can help you  find the answers to these and other questions. Begin your reading here, and start those spring renos on the right foot!

Clicklaw Wikibook – Legal Help for British Columbians, 3rd Edition

At Clicklaw, we’re delighted to announce the launch of the 3rd edition of Legal Help for British Columbians as a Clicklaw wikibook. This popular guide is a quick reference, plain-language tool for non-legal professionals whose clients or patients have urgent legal problems. Covering common legal problems faced by low income clients in BC, the Guide outlines first steps to address the problems, as well as where to go to get further information and assistance.

Highlights of the new edition include:

  1. New format:  The Clicklaw wikibook format allows us to work collaboratively with a dozen contributors and reviewers from the legal community and public legal education and information community.  The new format is also easier to use and search for information in the Guide than is the case for a PDF document (previous editions of the Guide were posted on the Internet as PDF documents).
  2. New sections: We’ve added 10 new common legal problems to the Guide, as well as new chapters on immigration and mental health.
  3. Updated information throughout: Our group of volunteers has reviewed the entire Guide and is committed to making updates to the Clicklaw wikibook as the law and resources change.

We’re excited about our first Clicklaw wikibook and we’d love your thoughts and comments! Have a look, and let us know what you think.

More information about the Clicklaw wikibook can be found in this one page announcement and this news release.

Promising Practices: LawMatters’ collaboration with public libraries

LawMatters At Your Local Public Library  is a unique outreach program of the Courthouse Libraries BC. Begun as a project in April 2007, and becoming an ongoing Client Services program in 2010, LawMatters helps public libraries enhance their legal information collections and provides training for public library staff. Together, LawMatters and BC’s public libraries aim to ensure that all BC residents have local access to basic legal information.

Their latest report, Talking to Librarians about LawMatters: Promising Practices,  is now on Clicklaw. This 2011 paper summarizes the findings of a phone survey of 20 public libraries across BC and identifies practices that enhance library staff’s ability to provide legal information.

One of the outcomes of the report is that, in moving forward, a key role for LawMatters in sustaining legal reference services is providing opportunities for ongoing training.  According to program coordinator Janet Freeman, LawMatters will be sponsoring two webinars this spring for public librarians on the topic of Residential Tenancy Law. The webinars will be offered through the Libraries and Literacy Program of the BC Ministry of Education.

To read more from LawMatters see their 2010 report LawMatters At Your Local Public Library: A Report for Public Librarians.