Free webinar on legal issues facing older women survivors of violence in British Columbia

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“Roads to Safety” will launch on May 24th to coincide with Part 1 of the webinar, and all participants will receive the link to download the PDF. It will also be available via Clicklaw.

By West Coast LEAF

Elder abuse and violence against women aren’t separate issues, and we believe that they must not be separate conversations. That’s why West Coast LEAF (Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund) and the Canadian Centre for Elder Law are offering a free webinar for front-line service providers to explore the legal challenges that are most likely to impact older women in BC who have experienced violence.

If you support or advocate for older women in BC, we invite you to join our free two-part webinar on Tuesday May 24th and Tuesday May 31st from noon to 1 pm Pacific Time. We will introduce our new 90-page plain language legal handbook for older women fleeing violence, called Roads to Safety, and offer an overview of some of the legal topics it covers:

TUESDAY MAY 24th – PART 1

• Decision-making rights and capacity, including for women with dementia and mental health diagnoses
• Substitute decision-makers and the abuse of decision-making authority
• Protection orders and peace bonds
• Options to assist older women who are facing abuse and cannot take action to protect themselves

TUESDAY MAY 31st – PART 2

• Public pensions
• Basics of property division after separation or divorce, including pension division
• Steps to protect assets in cases of financial abuse

Each session will be framed by discussion of the insights that 450 older women shared with us in nine different languages as part of the Older Women’s Dialogue Project. Throughout the webinar, we’ll maintain a focus on the gendered dynamics of violence against older adults. We aim to prompt reflection about how legal challenges in the aftermath of abuse can vary based not only on age and gender, but also based on ability, citizenship status, Indigenous identity, language, access to financial resources, and more.

We hope you will come away with greater confidence in talking to older women in BC about their legal rights and options in the context of abuse.

This webinar is part of the Older Women’s Legal Education Project, a collaboration between West Coast LEAF and the Canadian Centre for Elder Law. Funding has been generously provided by the BC Council to Reduce Elder Abuse.
Space in the webinar is limited to 100 people. Please register now at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1678353196952104195

Questions? We would love to hear from you! Please contact Alana Prochuk at education@westcoastleaf.org or 604-684-8772 extension 117.

Stay informed with West Coast LEAF:

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Census 2016 Resources

Census2016The following information on the 2016 Census is from the City of Vancouver but includes general helpful info:

Dear Community Partners:

As you are aware, the 2016 Census is officially underway!

In an effort to encourage all Vancouver residents to participate in this year’s Census, we ask you to share the following information with your colleagues and clients.  Among other things, people may not be aware that, in addition to English and French, the questions are available here in 11 ethnic languages and 11 aboriginal languages, as well as in braille, audio and sign language (video). It is important to note that the questions are translated for reference purposes only. The census questionnaire must be completed online or on paper, in either English or French. The census paper questionnaire can be obtained in large print format by calling the Census Help Line at 1-855-700-2016.

Statistics Canada staff will also go out into the community and give presentations on request: please contact Peter Liang at Peter.Liang@canada.ca or 604.366.7597.

Census Questions

Data Collection

  • Mailout of letters to all households in Statistics Canada database about has already taken place (May 2nd).
  • Any household not receiving a letter should call the Census help line at: 1-855-700-2016 or TTY 1-866-753-7083. In particular in Vancouver, many secondary suites may not be known to Statistics Canada, and we’d really like their information to be collected.
  • In-person enumeration and follow up will take place over the next few months.

Making the Census Accessible

  • Census help line: The Census Help Line operates Monday to Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., starting May 2, 2016. The census help line will answer questions in non-official languages as able.
  • Anyone can request a printed copy of the questionnaire if they are unable to complete it online.
  • Accommodation for people with sensory disabilities: http://www.census.gc.ca/ccr16h/ccr16h_001-eng.html
  • Multilingual fact sheets and translations of the questionnaire: http://www.census.gc.ca/ccr16f/ccr16f_000-eng.html

Content of the Questions

  • Completing the census is mandatory.
  • No personal information is published (until 2108, if people give permission to future researchers) and it’s not used for anything but statistical purposes.
  • The census isn’t perfect, and some questions may not include everyone: In particular, persons not identifying as either male or female should leave the sex question blank but must add an explanatory note in the comments section: http://www.census.gc.ca/ccr16c/ccr16c_010-eng.html#a73.
  • There are city resources that can help with some of the long-form questions: In particular, people can use Vanmap to look up the year their dwelling was built and what its assessed value is.

Census Jobs

  • Statistics Canada is still hiring field staff to collect data. People may apply if they are 18 years of age or older and are eligible to work in Canada as a citizen, permanent resident or temporary resident with a work permit.
  • More information about the hiring process is available online: http://www.census.gc.ca/ccr16d/ccr16d_000-eng.html.

Stay Informed:

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Legal Resources for Youth

Do you work with children and youth? Here are some interesting services and programs from our Clicklaw contributors that you may not know about:

Bookable Court Tours, Mock Trials & School Workshops

mock_trials_JES_youthJustice Education Society runs a Justice Education Program that provides bookable court tours in various locations across BC and also facilitates youth mock trials: JES helps coordinate about 70 youth mock trials each year, performed by youth ranging from Grade 5 to Law 12 students. Younger participants will use scenarios from popular book series (e.g. Harry Potter), while Law 12 students will perform actual case re-enactments. To read more about how to book a court tour or mock trial, click here.

DCC_frontThe Downtown Community Court (DCC) in Vancouver’s DTES, which opened in 2008, is a partnership between the BC Provincial Court, the Ministry of Justice, and social and health service agencies. Its goal is to reduce crime, improve public safety, and provide integrated justice, health and social services to offenders in a timely manner, while holding them accountable for their actions. DCC offers tours to the general public, school groups and even international visitors, who come to learn about the DCC model. The tour lasts for about 1.5 hours during which the guide will introduce: how the DCC got started, who generally attends at the DCC, a typical day in court, and what integrated programs are connected with the court. Tours are provided on Tuesday and Thursday or by special arrangement. To organize a tour, contact communitycourt@gov.bc.ca.

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People’s Law School runs the Justice Theatre program, delivered throughout the province of BC: a troupe of professional actors perform dramatizations of criminal trials at elementary and secondary schools and to community groups. Each show is designed for participatory engagement. Attendees are encouraged to be part of the jury, to debate the issues and to vote on the overall outcome of the case. Topics can range from: Bullying and the Internet, Bullying and Violence, Stanley Cup Riot, Gang Violence, and Shoplifting. For more information on Justice Theatre, please contact: Rob McAninch 604-331-5400

wcleaf_trendshiftWest Coast LEAF offers workshops for students in Grades 8-12, in Kamloops, Nanaimo and the Lower Mainland. The workshops can be delivered in schools or community groups. The goals of the workshops are to: open a space for discussion with young people about the ways the Internet is used in our lives, and to clear up myths about what the law in BC says about online behaviour. The workshop is 2.5 hours in length and can be offered over 1-3 sessions. Read more about the TrendShift workshops here.

CPABC-logo2Cerebral Palsy Association of BC operates a number of programs for youth with disabilities, including: a Youth Without Limits Support Group – a peer-to-peer support group for people with disabilities – youth and young adults between the ages of 13-29, facilitated by people with disabilities. Youth Without Limits is held in downtown Vancouver. The Cerebral Palsy Association of BC also operates the Navigator for Youth Transitioning to Adult Services, which helps connect youth with the services they need through our specialized information and referral resource. The Navigator service is available for youth aged 14 to 25, their parents and members of their Transition Support Teams. To access this service, call the CPABC office at 604-408-9484, or email Jeanne@bccerebralpalsy.com.

Online Resources

  • Explore the “Children & teens” section of the Clicklaw site to find common questions and resources on: young people and criminal law, parental separation, rights of children & teens, and protecting children.
  • The HelpMap features multiple services that provide help with legal issues related to children & teens here.
  • The Law Foundation of BC and the Representative for Children and Youth have compiled a list of resources and services for children and youth; many of these resources can also be accessed through Clicklaw.
  • Justice Education Society has just soft-launched a new service for youth legal_rights_youth_jes
    at LegalRightsForYouth.ca. What’s new: a virtual assistant to help youth understand basic legal concepts and find the right information. Every weekday from 11am to 2pm, youth can chat live (with LSLAP students) to get answers to their legal questions. During offline hours, youth can ask questions and get answers back by email. Topics include: Working, Renting, Driving, Debt, etc.

Stay Informed:

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Clicklaw at the first Canadian Twitter Town Hall with #AskChiefJudge

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Chief Judge Crabtree taking a selfie by request at the Twitter Town Hall. Also pictured: Karen St. Aubin from the CBA BC Branch, Audrey Jun from Courthouse Libraries BC (Clicklaw)

The BC Provincial Court — a Clicklaw contributor — made history last Thursday as the first court in Canada to hold a Twitter Town Hall.

Everyone was invited to participate by tweeting questions to the Provincial Court’s Chief Judge Crabtree using the hashtag #AskChiefJudge or by sending an email prior to the event. The Chief Judge tweeted 100 direct replies in response between 1-3pm on April 14th, BC Law Day.

As the Provincial Court eNews notes, the event was promoted by “[t]he communications team of the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch…as part of BC Law Week. They, and the BC Law Society, Trial Lawyers Association, Courthouse Libraries BC, Clicklaw, Justice Education Society, Legal Services Society, Mediate BC, Access Pro Bono, Access to Justice BC, and Nidus joined the conversation, adding helpful information.”  Thank you as well to all Clicklaw contributor organizations and Clicklaw visitors and users for participating!

News of the event made waves online:

Following the Town Hall, reflections on the event’s success:

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Take the first step: Wills and Personal Planning

End of life.

It’s one of those topics that we usually like to dance around or pointedly avoid until a problem is staring us in the face.

I’ve narrowed it down three possible culprits:

  • we may think learning about estate planning and personal planning is too difficult and complicated;
  • we may think it costs too much money; and/or
  • in the context of personal planning, we may easily conceive of accidents happening to us as we explore new and unknown places, but not in our own home, workplace or community.

Here are some ways to take the first step:

MakeAWillPoster2016
Make a Will Week encourages the public to write their will or bring an existing will up-to-date.

There’s no better time than now to start learning about the importance of having these legal documents in place. Think of it like travel insurance–nobody especially likes planning for it, but don’t you want to make sure you’re covered in a crisis?

At the Wills and Personal Planning Resources page on the Courthouse Libraries BC website, you have one page with information guides, forms, free or nominal-fee services, tools, and events—for everyone to use. Did you know about CBA BC’s Dial-a-Lawyer Day coming up on April 16th?

The PDFs are printable and shareable.

What’s Personal Planning? Isn’t a will enough?

If you don’t know about Representation Agreements, Enduring Powers of Attorney and Advance Directives, you’ll want to read more about these important legal planning documents here.

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Law Day is April 14, across Canada.

Along with the other Law Week presentations, bookmark Nidus’ topical presentation (free, in-person) at People’s Law School on April 14th, which will cover the key legal documents, as well as:

Check out everything mentioned above here.

All Law Week/Make-a-Will Week Events:

Stay Informed:

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Introducing the Indigenous Community Legal Clinic

By Randy Robinson
Peter A. Allard School of Law J.D. CandidateRandy (2)

The Indigenous Community Legal Clinic (“Clinic”) in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (“DTES”) is both a legal clinic and a learning space for law students. The Clinic’s hummingbird logo is a symbol of the work that is undertaken by clinicians at the Clinic. Many Indigenous Peoples view the hummingbird as a communicator of knowledge enabling it to act as an advocate for all creation.

Why join the Clinic?

I am Algonquin of the Timiskaming First Nation in Quebec. I am in the last semester of the Peter A. Allard School of Law’s Juris Doctorate program.  In my early years as a high school student growing up in the DTES, I observed many injustices stemming from the disheartened history of our Indigenous community.

My desire for change towards these inequities led me to enroll. The Clinic enables law students such as myself to experience a strong foundation for law practice through an experiential and legal knowledge curriculum. Clinicians undergo three weeks of rigorous orientation where students meet lawyers and judges from diverse legal fields and practice areas.

Lessons for Law Student Clinicians

IMG_0876During my clinical term I developed skills pertaining to: file management, communication with other parties, working with a supervising lawyer, in depth legal research and writing, trial preparation, criminal and civil litigation, networking with a close knit cohort of clinicians, and creative solution orientated thinking.

An example of the practical learning experiences and legal knowledge that I attained at the Clinic was my work with the Pemberton Circuit Court (“PCC”). Physically attending the PCC after speaking with unrepresented clientele on the court list was crucial to bringing to light the desperate need for legal services in this remote community. Since then the PCC has joined the Clinic’s curriculum. This results in both a greater access to justice for Indigenous Peoples living in remote communities and a comprehensive extension of the Clinic’s services.

As a legal clinician I recognize the value of these practical legal skills and learning experiences. I also recognize that these skills pertain to the possibilities for changing the inequities that I observed in the DTES. However, on a grander scale I also recognize the value in the outstanding experiential knowledge the Clinic curriculum brought to my legal education. During my time at the Clinic this fusion led to valuable insights for understanding and negotiating my present legal education and future legal competencies.  One insight that stands out in my mind is when I met provincial court Judge Gregory Rideout at the Clinic. Judge Rideout aptly described the importance of the role of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”) in the space of the DTES.

I will approach my future legal studies and practice with the following motto in mind: “Like the hummingbird, first and foremost we must be communicators”.

What does the Clinic offer?

The Clinic exists for two purposes:

  • first, to provide free legal services to the Indigenous community in the DTES, and
  • second, to provide legal education to law students in the Allard School of Law.

We provide advice, assistance and representation to clients who self-identify as Indigenous and who cannot afford a lawyer, on topics ranging from: criminal matters, family law matters, human rights complaints, to Indian Status applications and hearings before certain administrative tribunals.

Please see the Clinic’s listing on the HelpMap for more details and for information on how to contact us.

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Introducing Kinbrace – Refugee Housing & Support

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Kinbrace Community Society is one of our newest Clicklaw Core Contributor Organizations.

What does Kinbrace do?

Kinbrace, a Vancouver-based non-profit charity, assists people arriving in Canada seeking refugee protection.

They facilitate the often nerve-wracking transition by providing help with housing, integration, well-being, and access to refugee protection. The Kinbrace residence hosts 12-15 residents at a time, and residents receive the support of Kinbrace staff, interns and volunteers.

Resources for refugee claimants & service providers

Kinbrace has offered workshops to educate service providers and refugee claimants alike on Canada’s refugee protection system.

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This guide has been recently updated and is available in 6 languages for BC.

Kinbrace also publishes the (recently updated) Refugee Hearing Preparation Guide for several regions, available in six languages for BC: English, Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Farsi/Persian, French, and Spanish.

The guide is clear, friendly and straightforward with: information on gathering and submitting evidence, legal issues to consider, checklists, explanations of terminology and answers to frequently asked questions. It directs readers through the refugee hearing process timeline. It is invaluable not only for refugee claimants but for support workers who can use the guide in their work.

They also offer the amazing READY Tours program.

What are READY Tours?

Refugee claimants are given the unique opportunity to see the inside of a refugee hearing room at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. A staff member of the Refugee Protection Division (IRB-RPD) provides information and answers questions.

What’s a READY Tour like?

Thanks to Fran Gallo, READY Coordinator at Kinbrace, I had the opportunity to observe a READY Tour in early October at the IRB, located right next to the VPL Central Branch in Downtown Vancouver.

what-is-READY

Refugee claimants, volunteer translators and Fran meet at the second-floor lounge of the building where Fran quickly makes sure everyone is equipped with the Guide, a pamphlet from the Red Cross, and a “test sheet” to see what attendees know about the process before, then what they’ve learned after the tour. Fran gathers information about the claimants’ hearing dates, whether they have a lawyer (maybe for the hearing only), and if the individual is applying alone or with others (family).

The tour proceeds upstairs with a staff person of the IRB-RPD–for our tour today, we get the Registrar. She tells us that she will answer questions only about the hearing, not the appeal. She speaks slowly so that the interpreters have time to translate: Check in at the glass window. Come 30 minutes before your hearing – witnesses and observers too. This is the hearing room. Someone will make sure all parties are present and direct you to the appropriate room. You can step out during breaks.

The room itself is about 15×15 feet. We’re full up as the tour has about 20 people in attendance. The Registrar explains that they are an independent administrative tribunal, separate from CIC and the CBSA. The Refugee Protection Division makes decisions on who needs protection – this is all in the Guide. She cannot give advice or specifics. There are requirements and limitation dates, people who may or may not be present at the hearing from heavily acronymed organizations: the CBSA or CIC, the UNHCR, legal issues that must be focused on (identity, credibility, state protection).

The process can appear daunting. However, most attendees report learning helpful information about what they should prepare and being more relaxed for their hearing. It’s easy to see why the READY tours are so valuable. The tours began in 2008 as a collaborative initiative between Kinbrace, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the IRB-RPD. Thousands of refugee claimants and service providers have since participated in the experience.

Find out more about the READY Tours here.

Stay informed:

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Updates on BC Disability Benefits

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Important changes are coming December 1, 2015

1 – People receiving Persons with Disability (PWD) benefits will be able to hold more assets with no impact on their benefits due to some changes effective December 1, 2015.

See our new Common Question, How are BC disability benefits changing on December 1, 2015? for more info on the changes and what resources will be updated.

 

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2 – The BC Ministry of Social Development & Social Innovation in consultation with the RDSP Action Group (made up of leaders from the financial and disability communities), has released a new resource on How to Start and Manage a Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) in British Columbia.

The RDSP is a long-term-savings plan designed by the Government of Canada to help people with disabilities and their families save money for the future.

 

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3 – Disability Alliance BC has a new resource on Filing Income Taxes for People receiving PWD/PPMB as part of their Tax Aid BC program. The help sheet describes how people receiving BC disability benefits can prepare and submit an income tax return for free over the internet.

 

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BCANDS provides health and disability related services to First Nation/Aboriginal persons including assistance with PWD applications.

4 – Effective July 1, 2015, the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS) began overseeing the adjudication of new applications for Persons with Disabilities (PWD) and the Monthly Nutritional Supplement (MNS) programs for over 200 First Nation communities within BC (on reserve).

The programs are adjudicated and administrated by BCANDS on behalf of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (formerly Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada).

More Resources & Services:

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Online Dispute Resolution in BC – Got a strata dispute?

Intro | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3a | Part 3b


The Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) team is looking for people to help beta-test their web-based Solution Explorer. As we mentioned in our Introduction to ODR in BC, the CRT will be an online tribunal opening in 2016. It will be accessible 24/7, and can be used by people to resolve their small claims and strata/condo disputes.

The first step in the CRT process is called the Solution Explorer, a self-help tool that helps diagnose the type of problem or dispute, provides helpful related information, self-help options and identifies a recommended next stage of the process.

Who Can Take Part?Older-couple-with-laptop

The CRT is looking specifically for a group of 8 to 10 people who are owners, tenants or occupants of a strata. Participants will be observed using the Solution Explorer to resolve real life strata disputes by CRT staff to see how it is used and how it can be made better.

What are the Requirements to Participate?

If you can attend a 30 minute appointment on either of these two dates below, look up the other requirements here on the CRT’s website, where you will find more information on how to get involved:

  • December 3, 2015 in downtown Victoria OR
  • December 7, 2015 in downtown Vancouver

To learn more about the CRT, visit their website.

Related Common Questions on Clicklaw:

Stay informed:

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Increasing BC Hydro rates drive request for an electricity affordability program for BC’s poor

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BCPIAC represents low and fixed income people of BC in utility regulation matters, and works on strategic anti-poverty and social justice issues in BC courts and tribunals.

By Erin Pritchard
Staff Lawyer, BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre

In September 2015, BC Hydro filed a Rate Design Application (RDA) with the BC Utilities Commission (Commission). This means the Commission, BC Hydro and stakeholders will review rate structures (how BC Hydro charges customers for its services) and terms and conditions of service for residential, business and industrial customers.

In this proceeding, the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre (BCPIAC) will ask the Commission to implement rate relief, emergency bill assistance, and specific terms and conditions for low income BC Hydro ratepayers.

BC Hydro rates are increasingly unaffordable for low income customers

About 170,000 (10%) of BC Hydro’s residential customers are “low income”, meaning they are living at or below Statistics Canada’s Low Income Cut Off (LICO).  People living in poverty have a hard time paying for essential services such as electricity when their incomes are stagnant. Since electricity is essential to survival, energy bills can only be paid at the expense of competing household necessities, such as food and medicine.

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“Since electricity is essential to survival, energy bills can only be paid at the expense of competing household necessities, such as food and medicine.”

BC Hydro residential electricity rates have increased by 47% in the last 10 years, and are on track to increase by another 10.5% in the next three years. Rates are projected to continue to rise significantly in future years as the government continues to order BC Hydro to build multi-billion dollar projects like the Site C dam without a full public review of those projects by the Commission. While rate caps are currently keeping BC Hydro rates artificially low, project expenditures will eventually be collected from ratepayers.

BC Hydro’s rate increases have far outpaced increases in provincial income and disability assistance rates and the BC general minimum wage over the same time period. Over the last 10 years, BC social assistance rates have only gone up by $100 or less (for a single person) and the BC general minimum wage by $2.45 an hour.

BC Hydro currently offers no rates or terms and conditions that specifically apply to low income customers.  It offers two programs to its low income customers:

  1. Energy Savings Kits that include a few energy saving products which, if fully installed, might save $30 per year, and
  2. In more limited cases, energy efficiency home upgrades through BC Hydro’s Energy Conservation Assistance Program. This program is not available to BC Hydro customers living in apartments.

While such energy efficiency programs are important, they are not a stand-alone response to low income customers’ increasing inability to afford their power bills – they are only one element of what must be a comprehensive low income bill affordability strategy.

What is BCPIAC doing to help?

In the RDA, BCPIAC will ask the Commission to order that BC Hydro:
Read more about how you can help

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