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:

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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.

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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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How Do I Get Married In British Columbia?

Photo courtesy of Freepik.com

In British Columbia, opposite and same-sex couples who are 19 years or older (with some exceptions) and are currently unmarried can marry. Although it is not difficult to get married in BC, there are a number of crucial steps that must be taken before, during and after the ceremony. Here is a quick checklist:

CheckboxApply for a marriage licence

You and your partner need a licence to get married in BC. To apply, one of you has to go in person with primary identification for both individuals (e.g. birth certificate, citizenship card) to a Vital Statistics Agency office. The license is ~$100 and is valid for three months.

CheckboxGet married in a religious or civil ceremony

You can choose either a religious or civil ceremony. The person performing the ceremony must be licensed under the B.C. Marriage Act

  • Not all religious officials are licensed. They must register with Vital Statistics.
  • For civil ceremonies, this person is known as a marriage commissioner. The base fee for a marriage commissioner is $78.75 and they may charge additional fees.
  • The marriage ceremony must be held in the presence of at least two witnesses, in addition to the marriage commissioner or religious official.

CheckboxWhere you cannot get married and who cannot marry you

“The City of Vancouver does not provide marriage licences or perform marriage ceremonies any longer”, says Brad, an information rep from City Hall who referred us to the BC Vital Statistics Agency. Nor can you get married inside a courtroom. Similarly, marriages are not performed by judges or judicial justices. As stated above, either a marriage commissioner or religious official conducts the ceremony.

CheckboxRegister the marriage

The marriage commissioner or religious official who conducts the ceremony will help you complete a Marriage Registration Form. This form must be sent, within 48 hours of the ceremony, to the Vital Statistics Agency for registration.

CheckboxFor more information

Details regarding how to get married in BC can be found at: JP Boyd on Family Law, CBA BC’s Dial-A-Law Scripts and BC’s Vital Statistics Agency.

Stay informed:

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New Study Supports the Wikibook Model of Public Legal Education

CRILF LogoBy Lorne Bertrand & Joanne Paetsch
Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family

Wikibooks are websites built on the MediaWiki platform, an open-source application that powers websites such as Wikipedia, Scholarpedia and the notorious WikiLeaks. Wikibooks are agile and highly adaptable, and are normally used to present large amounts of text from multiple authors in a digestible, easily accessible format. Clicklaw, a public legal education web resource run by Courthouse Libraries BC, has adapted the wikibook concept to provide plain language legal information to the public.

Unlike most MediaWiki websites that allow any user to add and revise content, Clicklaw Wikibooks use a unique development model in which potential contributors are screened by the Clicklaw Wikibooks team before being given editorial privileges. This collaborative approach allows several lawyers to contribute content and ensures that the task of maintaining and updating the material is not overly burdensome for any one individual.

In 2013, Clicklaw added JP Boyd on Family Law to its collection of wikibooks. The resource offers more than 120 webpages of substantive legal information, about 500 definitions of common legal words and phrases, links to hundreds of key government and non-government resources, and more than 100 downloadable forms for the British Columbia Supreme and Provincial Courts.

The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family has just released the findings of the first phase of its evaluation of JP Boyd on Family Law, conducted with funding from the Law Foundation of British Columbia and Courthouse Libraries BC. The evaluation used data from several sources to assess the use and usefulness of the wikibook, including: a pop-up survey completed by 546 users of the website; a follow-up survey of 142 users administered one week after completing the pop-up; and website traffic information generated by Google Analytics.

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Know Your Rights for Election Day – October 19

logo_bcclaFurther to our earlier post on the upcoming Election, here is some more information provided via the BC Civil Liberties Association (a Clicklaw contributor organization) on their blog that we wanted to share:

It’s important that we all know our rights when it comes to voting, and what we can do if something goes wrong.

The so-called Fair Elections Act passed by the Conservatives last year changed many of the rules about what you need in order to vote. Here are a few things to remember:

1 – You do not need Photo I.D. to vote.

Some voters were told that they did – this is INCORRECT. If you present two pieces of ID, one of which contains your address, you are good to go. Neither one needs to include your picture. If you’re told you need photo ID on Election Day, ask to speak to the poll supervisor to clear up the confusion.

2 – If you have a Driver’s License or other government-issued I.D. with your: (i) name, (ii) address, and (iii) photo, that’s all you need to vote.

You do not need a second piece of ID if you have your driver’s license.

3 – There are all sorts of documents you can use as identification on Election Day.

These include: a library card, student ID card, a bill or bank statement, a label on a prescription container, a government cheque or cheque stub, and many other options. And it doesn’t even have to be the paper copy; an e-statement or invoice works too. For the full list of acceptable documentation, click here. Just make sure at least one piece has your address on it.

4 – If you don’t have anything with your current address on it, don’t despair!

Although the so-called Fair Elections Act eliminated vouching for identification purposes, it maintained (after much criticism and advocacy) a version of vouching for address. It’s called an Attestation of Residence. If you don’t have anything with your current address on it, someone can “vouch” for where you live as long as they:

        • Live in the same polling division as you
        • Have proof of their own identity and residence
        • Haven’t vouched for anyone else or been vouched for themselves.

While this is not an easy list to meet, a room mate, family member, or neighbour may be able to help – don’t be afraid to ask!

Additionally, Elections Canada has produced a Letter of Confirmation of Residence which can be used by voters who are 1) members of a First Nation band but don’t have a street address on their ID, such as those who live on reserve or 2) those who receive services from a shelter or soup kitchen, or live in a student residence or long-term care facility. Here’s the link to the letter:http://www.elections.ca/id/EC50053_e.pdf – get it signed by the administrator of the facility where you live and bring it, plus a second piece of ID with your name on it to the polls, and you’re set!

5 – Your Voter Identification Card (VIC) has no legal status, but you might want to bring it anyway.

This summer, the BCCLA intervened in a case brought by the Council of Canadians and Canadian Federation of Students challenging the Fair Elections Act. They were hoping to get an injunction to allow people to rely on their VIC as one of their pieces of ID, but were unsuccessful. So your VIC won’t count as ID on Election Day, but it may make it a bit faster and easier for people to identify which line-up to join. So bring it if you’ve got it.

6 – Your Sex, Gender Expression and the Sex Indicator on your I.D. and Voter Registration Documents do not affect your right to vote.

Check out this great resource from EGALE for more information for trans voters.

7 – Check your ballot!

Dirty ballots – meaning they already had marks on them when they were given to the voter – were observed in a number of ridings over the weekend. Check your ballot, and if there’s any kind of weirdness to it, return it and ask for a new one.

8 – You do not have to pre-register to vote.

While you will save yourself time if you’re already registered, you CAN register to vote at the polling station on Election Day. Just bring the identification you’ll need (described above) and ask to register. No big deal.

The right to vote is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Knowing our rights is the best first step towards defending them.

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#WhyNotMediate: Conflict Resolution Week starts Oct. 17

By Mediate BC 

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Take a look behind the scenes to understand how mediation works

Mediate BC is hosting BC’s second annual Conflict Resolution Week, October 17-24, 2015.

During the week of October 17-24, Mediate BC and its Roster mediators will be organizing events throughout the province to build awareness of healthy ways to resolve conflicts, including mediation.

The Conflict Resolution Week 2015 theme is “Why Not Mediate?

#WhyNotMediate is the event’s official hashtag.

Mediation is a great option for many people because it’s private, has more flexibility in resolutions and typically is faster and less expensive than going to court. It saves people time, money and stress and allows them to get back to what’s important to them,” says Mediate BC’s CEO Monique Steensma. Steensma is supported by studies that show mediation to be an effective, affordable, timely and accessible option.

Check out free events in your local community.

Mediators invite you to take a “behind the scenes” look at the mediation process and what they do through a series of videos posted at mediatebc.com: Click here for the Behind the Scenes Videos

For questions and information contact: 1-877-656-1300 ext. 104 or training@mediatebc.com.

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