Get legal info at your local library

By Shannon McLeod
LawMatters Program Coordinator

October is only a few days away, and it is Canadian Library Month, an excellent opportunity to recognize the role public libraries play in providing legal information to their communities.lmlogo

Since 2007, Courthouse Libraries BC has been proud to partner with BC’s public libraries through the LawMatters program. Supported by the Law Foundation of British Columbia, LawMatters is Courthouse Libraries BC’s outreach program for public librarians.

Through this partnership we are working to enhance public access to legal information in all communities across British Columba.

The LawMatters program focuses on four main areas to help support public libraries:

Grants

Financial assistance is given to all public libraries that choose to participate through our grants program. Grants are distributed annually to help purchase legal information and reference materials.

Collection Support

We provide libraries with a core list of titles to use as a guide for selecting and ordering materials. The list is evaluated annually for currency and accuracy. We are also available to offer suggestions and work with librarians to support local collection needs.

Working with Clicklaw Wikibooks, LawMatters has previously distributed print copies of Clicklaw Wikibook titles Legal Help for British Columbians, JP Boyd on Family Law, and Dial-A-Law free of charge to libraries throughout BC to support legal collections.

Skills Development

We offer training sessions to public librarians to improve their confidence helping the public with legal information questions. This includes how to use legal resources, the basics of legal research, and general legal reference skills.

Partnerships

Our goal is to increase access to legal information for all communities in BC and empower librarians and to provide legal information, reference, and referral.

We aim to build community capacity through partnerships which we continue to explore with libraries and other organizations. We encourage and consult with public libraries to host community forums to connect with local organizations that work with the public to help them find legal information.


For more information on the growing role of public libraries and public librarians as partners in access to justice, see “LawMatters at Your Local Public Library; A History of BC’s Program for Public Legal Information and Education in Public Libraries.”

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Talks on Access to Justice

What is the biggest problem facing the legal profession? The Chief Justice of Canada says it is access to justice. Research suggests that almost half of Canadian adults will experience a significant legal problem over a three year period, but very few will find legal services to deal with that problem. So why doesn’t access to justice (“A2J”) have a higher public profile?

Find out how and why this problem touches the lives of a majority of Canadians not just now, but throughout their lives.

Not in Vancouver? The following talk will be livestreamed at Why Don’t we Have Appropriate Access to Justice?, and livetweeted using #justicetalks.  This and future talks will also be available as podcasts.

 

Why Don’t We Have Appropriate Access to Justice?

When: Wednesday, September 28, 2016 @ 5-6:30pma2j_talk_01

Where: Green College, Coach House

What: What stands in the way of adequate access to justice? The Honourable Thomas Cromwell, recently retired from the Supreme Court of Canada and chair of the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters will share his thoughts on why we still do not have appropriate access to justice in civil and family matters and provide a brief update on some promising initiatives. Panel: Jennifer Muller, former self-represented litigant; Dan Baxter, Director of Policy Development, Government & Stakeholder Relations for the BC Chamber of Commerce

Cost: All talks are open to the public without charge.

 

Access to Justice and Sexual Violence

When: Wednesday, October 19, 2016 @ 5-6:30pma2j_talk_002

Where: Green College, Coach House

Who: Janine Benedet, Centre for Feminist Legal Studies, Peter A. Allard School of Law, UBC
Tracy Pickett, Medicine, UBC

Cost: All talks are open to the public without charge.

 

Access to Justice and Indigenous Laws

When: Wednesday, November 23, 2016 @ 5-6:30pm

Where: Green College, Coach House

Who: Val Napoleon, Law Foundation Professor of Aboriginal Justice and Governance, Law, University of Victoria
Hadley Friedland, Law, University of Alberta

Cost: All talks are open to the public without charge.

 

For more information on all events:

www.greencollege.ubc.ca or gc.events@ubc.ca

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BCLI seeks your views on complex stratas

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BCLI carries out scholarly research, writing and analysis for law reform, collaborating with government and other entities, and providing materials and support for outreach and public information.

by Kevin Zakreski
Staff Lawyer & Corporate Secretary

The British Columbia Law Institute wants to hear from you about its proposals to reform the Strata Property Act.

With the help of a volunteer project committee, BCLI is carrying out a multi-year project on strata-property law. The committee has just released its Consultation Paper on Complex Stratas (PDF).

Strata-property law started out as a way to encourage the development of high-density residential housing. Over time, stratas became increasingly complex. They have become more architecturally varied, incorporating different building styles. For example, a single strata development may have an apartment tower, surrounded by townhouses and other low-rise buildings. More and more, stratas are also combining different uses. It’s become common to see mixed-use stratas with retail and commercial uses on the lower floors and residential uses above.

These complex stratas have many benefits. They create variety in the marketplace. They support amenities that owners enjoy. And they advance urban-planning goals.

But complex stratas also create some problems. The bulk of these problems center on money.

It’s expensive to develop a large, sophisticated strata property. If it had to be done all in one go, only the biggest real-estate developers would be able to do it. And once a complex strata is up and running, the owners of strata lots being used for different purposes often have different ideas about how to spend the strata’s money and how to operate the strata. For example, commercial owners might need things like extra trash pickups and security patrols that don’t benefit residential owners. The residential owners may wonder why they should have to contribute to paying for these services.

The Strata Property Act uses three devices to manage these problems. These three devices are sections, types, and phases. They are at the heart of the consultation paper.

Sections and types allow a strata corporation to manage cost sharing between groups of owners, while phases permit the development of a strata property in segments over an extended time. Sections, types, and phases all entered the law in the 1970s. They haven’t been comprehensively reviewed since that time.

The committee considered some bold ideas to reform the law. It debated abolishing sections and greatly expanding the role of types. It looked at fundamentally changing the government oversight that attaches to phases.

In the end, the committee decided to not to propose bold changes. It proposes keeping the current framework, but with some significant fine tuning.

The consultation paper has 68 tentative recommendations for reform, including:

  • 29 tentative recommendations on sections, which propose clarifying the procedures for creating and cancelling sections, spelling out section powers and duties, and strengthening section governance, budgets, and finances;
  • 14 tentative recommendations on types, which propose clarifying the procedures for creating and cancelling types and fine-tuning the operation of types; and
  • 25 tentative recommendations on phases, which propose enhancing the oversight of the phasing process, simplifying governance in a phased strata corporation, and providing additional protections for the financial interests of owners in a phased strata property.

The committee would like to hear your thoughts on all 68 of its proposals. But if you would rather just focus on the big picture, then you may be interested in the summary consultation. It has just three highlighted proposals for comment.

You can find the full consultation paper, the summary consultation, and instructions on how to participate in the consultation on Strata Property Law Project—Phase Two webpage.

Stay informed with BCLI:

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BC Family Justice Innovation Lab Official Launch

logo_bcfamilyjusticeinnovationlabBy Kari Boyle
Coordinator, BC Family Justice Innovation Lab

Adapted from this post.

What is the Lab?

The Lab is not a place, an organization or a product.  It is a space.  A space for taking new approaches to family justice innovation in BC.  It is a space for diverse groups of people to work together with the support and tools they need.

Who is working on the Lab?

Our Core Lab Team is described here.  I have the privilege of the “Coordinator” title but we are all working as a team to keep moving forward.

Why is the Lab important? 

Previous family justice reforms have not resulted in the kind of transformational change that is really needed to make the system accessible and effective for BC families.  It remains too complex, too expensive and too time-consuming.  A new approach is needed.  A small group of us looked outside the justice system for inspiration and were excited to learn about “lab” approaches being used in other sectors to effect meaningful social change.  This approach is different because it is:

  • family-centred (not just in words but in action)
  • systemic
  • participatory
  • experimental

It is focused on action rather than creating another report with recommendations for what others should do to make things better.  We have enough reports.  We will aim to experiment, including with prototyping, and to take a “learn as you go” approach while still ensuring we have robust evaluation data.

There are many different kinds of labs.  This Lab will focus on using a combination of human-centred design approaches and system thinking (coined “systemic design”).  Human-centred design places the people who will be using the innovation at the centre of the innovation design process. It is a fast-paced, experimental process that taps into people’s innate creativity, and has four iterative steps – empathy, definition, ideation and prototyping.  System thinking acknowledges that the BC family justice system is a complex adaptive system and encourages multi-disciplinary engagement with people across the “system” defined broadly i.e. all of the pieces that families encounter while taking their journey through separation and divorce.  As M. Jerry McHale Q.C. said early in our exploration, “this is not a justice issue with some social aspects, this is a social issue with a few justice aspects”.

We believe that the Lab will be able to pursue change in new ways that individual justice organizations cannot do by themselves.  In so doing, we aim to support and amplify their efforts to improve the BC justice system.  We are also committed to supporting and collaborating with the Access to Justice BC.

This is a learning journey.  We don’t have everything figured out but we are confident that we can help if we start, if we engage with others, if we are open to creative ideas, and if we really try to see the system from the perspective of those we exist to serve.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or if you would like to participate in the Lab in some way.  Follow us on Twitter (@BCFamInnovLab) and use the “contact us” feature on our website and we will get back to you. Thank you.

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Sept. 2016 – Events (Victoria, Vancouver, online)

  • 0x_adviceathonAccess Pro Bono is holding their annual Free Legal Advice-a-Thon. They’re wrapping up this year’s event in Victoria, Centennial Square this Friday, September 16, from 10am to 2pm.

 

  • srl_supportThe National SRL Support NetworkVancouver Branch, is holding their next meeting for people representing themselves in Family or Civil Court next Monday, September 19, from 6-8pm at Westcoast Child Care Resource Centre. Attendees should RSVP to NSSN.vancouver@gmail.com.

 

 

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  • People’s Law School is holding their open house on Thursday, September 22 from 11am – 3pm at their 150-900 Howe Street location. Learn about wills and get a Justice Theatre Presentation on online bullying. Advanced registration is required. Call 604-331-5400.

 

 

  • 0x_bcinfosummitRegister now for the BC Information Summit! The event is organized BC FIPA, and will have expert speakers (including speakers from organizations like BCCLA) who are involved in how the world of freedom of information and privacy is changing. Thursday, September 22, 8:15am – 5pm.

 

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Free Webinar Training: Strata Property Disputes & the Civil Resolution Tribunal

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Cross-posted from the LawMatters Blog.

As of July 2016, most strata property disputes must be resolved using the new online Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT). Join us for a free webinar for community workers, advocates and public librarians:

Register: Civil Resolution Tribunal Intake Process
Presented by CRT Chair, Shannon Salter
September 8, 12:30-1:30pm PDT

The online Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) is up and running to resolve strata (condominium) property disputes. This session will show you how to use the CRT’s online information and application systems, and answer some common questions about how to help your clients use the CRT. The webinar will be recorded and made available after the presentation to help users navigate this fantastic tool.

Overview

The CRT’s goal is to improve access to justice by using technology to provide accessible and affordable dispute resolution services. As a first step, the CRT’s Solution Explorer software application provides free legal information and self-help tools. You can access the Solution Explorer here. These tools help to diagnose problems and resolve them through information, videos, and template letters that are directly relevant to the dispute.

Accessible 24/7 from computers and smartphones, the Solution Explorer helps people resolve their disputes without having to go to court or use the CRT process.

If people cannot resolve a dispute themselves using these tools, they can begin a CRT claim from within the Solution Explorer. The CRT then issues a notice package, which the applicant serves on the other parties to the dispute. The claim goes through a facilitation phase, where a dispute resolution expert works with the parties to achieve an agreement between the parties. If this is not possible, an expert, independent tribunal member will make a binding decision after a hearing. This CRT decision is enforceable as a court order.

Check out our previous CRT webinar for a refresher on the Solution Explorer!

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Moving in together, “Common-Law Relationships” and Unmarried Spouses in BC

Are we or aren’t we?

0_censusThis past year, your household would have received some form of the 2016 Census, which included a question that could stump a few people: Are you married? Do you have a common-law partner?

The Statistics Canada website defines Common-Law Partner as “persons who are members of an opposite-sex or same-sex couple living common law. A couple living common law is one in which the members are not legally married to each other but live together as a couple in the same dwelling.”

“Common-law partner” is the term used federally (Canada-wide) to mean a marriage-like relationship that has lasted for two years, just one year or even less, depending on what law applies.

In BC, our provincial family laws use the term “spouse” or “unmarried spouse” to refer to an unmarried couple who has lived together in a “marriage-like relationship” for at least two years, or less than that if they have had a child together. There is no such thing as a “common-law spouse” or “common-law marriage” in BC. However, there are still certain consequences of being an “unmarried spouse”. See Unmarried Spouses.

What should I know about before moving in with my partner?

keys-525732_1280In BC, If you have lived together in a “marriage-type relationship” for two years (with some variability), these are some important consequences to know about:

  • the debts either of you incurred while you were living together are considered “family debt”, which means that when you break up, the responsibility for this debt may be divided equally between you. Read more about this at: How to divide property and debts, Property & Debt in Family Matters;
  • if you buy property together during your relationship, regardless of who paid the downpayment, you could equally share it and equally share the increase in value of property you had before the relationship, which can even apply to the increase in value of “excluded property” like gifts and inheritances;
  • the courts will treat you like a married couple when determining spousal support. See Spousal Support;
  • you may be considered spouses for the purpose of social assistance and other benefits* (which may negatively or positively affect your eligibility). See Thinking of moving in together?;
  • it may affect your partner’s right to “contest” your will. See What Happens When Your Spouse Dies.

I’m already living with my partner. Is there anything I could do?

I want legal advice and/or more information on my situation. Where can I get it?

If you are low income and have questions on family law matters, the Family LawLine can provide more information and help.

To find legal advice and other help on family law issues, see Helpmap results for “family law” and “legal advice” here. It includes services like the CBABC’s Lawyer Referral Service, which connects you with a lawyer who will offer an initial 30-minute consultation for a nominal fee of $25 plus taxes.

This post didn’t cover everything. Read more about this topic:

For example, we weren’t able to discuss situations where an unmarried couple have had a child together. That would have made this post very long indeed! Read the resources linked throughout this post for more information. Another great resource to consult is: Living Together or Living Apart: Common-Law Relationships, Marriage, Separation, and Divorce

Past posts on Family Law from the Clicklaw Blog:


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Civil Resolution Tribunal accepting early strata intake July 13th

Need a refresher on Online Dispute Resolution? Check out the introduction to our ODR series here.civil-tribunal-act-logo-large

The following entry is a cross-post from the Civil Resolution Tribunal website.

By Shannon Salter
Chair of the CRT


We’re happy to let you know that on July 13, 2016, we’ll begin accepting strata claims for early intake.

By starting early intake, we’ll have a chance to test our process to make sure it works as well as possible for the public once we’re fully open. It will also allow us to provide a little help for people with ongoing strata disputes who are eager to take their first steps toward a resolution.

We’ve taken a lot of steps to prepare for early strata intake this summer. The Civil Resolution Tribunal Act strata provisions and the related amendments will be in force on July 13, 2016. The CRT’s fees have been set and the CRT’s rules are being finalized.

On July 13, 2016, we’ll have detailed information on the website telling you how to start the CRT process. Basically, it’ll work like this:

  1. You’ll start with the Solution Explorer, to learn more about your dispute and how to resolve it without needing to start a CRT claim.
  2. If you can’t resolve your dispute using the support from the Solution Explorer, you’ll have the option to start a CRT claim from the Dispute Summary screen in the Solution Explorer.
  3. You’ll use our Application Checklist to make sure you have all the information you need to complete your online Application for Dispute Resolution.
  4. You’ll complete and file your Application for Dispute Resolution online. Paper forms are not available for the early intake process, but you are welcome to have a trusted friend or family member help you fill in the online form.
  5. You’ll have to pay the application fee, or apply for a fee waiver if you have low income. You can pay the fee or apply for a fee waiver online as part of the application process. Here’s more about the CRT’s fees.
  6. We’ll provide you with a Dispute Notice to give the other parties in the dispute. We’ll let you know how to do that, as well as next steps.

Please remember that the CRT is not completely implemented yet. We are not yet fully staffed, and the technology is not completely built. We’ll use this time to test and improve our online intake processes for strata. Although we’ll start accepting applications for strata dispute resolution, we won’t be ready to resolve disputes right away. That will happen once we’re fully open to accept and resolve strata disputes in the fall.

You may have to wait several months for your dispute to move to the facilitation phase. We’re still getting ready for the large number of strata disputes we expect to see once we’re fully open. We’ll need everyone’s patience as we learn and improve on the job.

Here’s a reminder of some of the benefits and limitations of using the CRT’s early intake process for your strata dispute.

Benefits of CRT early intake for your strata dispute:

  • It can pause the limitation period. Many strata claims have a 2 year limitation period. The limitation period acts like a countdown clock, and when this time runs out, you may not be able to bring a claim to the CRT or a court. But, if the CRT accepts your dispute into its early intake process, the limitation period will be ‘paused’ and stop counting down. You can find out more about limitation periods here.
  • You’ll be ready for CRT resolution. As soon as we’re ready to start moving strata disputes into our facilitation phase, you’ll be ready for this next step toward a resolution. Just making your early intake application might help to clarify the issues and encourage an early resolution by agreement among the parties in your dispute.
  • You’ll help shape the CRT process. Our early intake will help us test our online intake processes to make sure they meet your needs. You might get a chance to show us how you think things should work, which will make the CRT better for everyone.

IMPORTANT: Limits of filing a CRT claim during early intake

  • The CRT’s full dispute resolution services won’t be available during early intake. You will be able to start your claim, but this is mainly a testing phase for intake. Many disputes will need to wait until the rest of our processes are ready before they are resolved. We expect this to happen in the fall. Our timeline target of 60 to 90 days won’t apply to the early intake testing.
  • Your ability to go to court may be limited. If you apply for strata dispute resolution with the CRT, you and the other parties will be required to continue in the CRT, rather than going to court instead. If you start, and then decide you would rather go to court instead of waiting for the CRT to fully open, you’ll need to ask the CRT’s permission. If this happens, the CRT would probably agree to it during early intake.
  • Not everything will be online. You’ll be able to use the Solution Explorer for strata disputes and you’ll be able to apply to the CRT using our online system. However, other dispute resolution processes will be done through email, video, telephone or mail, while we continue to build the CRT technology.

Please watch for more information about the CRT’s process in the coming days. Please also let us know if you have any questions or comments at info@crtbc.ca.


STAY INFORMED WITH THE CIVIL RESOLUTION TRIBUNAL

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Happy Social Media Day from Clicklaw

SocialMediaDay_HashtagsWe’ve found social media to be a great way to communicate and connect with others in the legal, legal tech, public legal education and access to justice communities. Hashtags are primarily associated with social media platforms Twitter and Instagram, but in recent years, other platforms like Facebook have also joined in.

In honour of Social Media Day (or #SMDay), we compiled a quick Database of BC/Canadian Legal hashtags, so that someone who isn’t familiar with these communities can see where conversations are happening.

Did we miss any?

We’d like to keep this list up-to-date and growing (we haven’t come across any other legal hashtag databases in Canada – though we did come across this interesting piece on using social media for legal research on SLAW), so if we missed any, let us know! Leave a comment here or email us.

Congratulations!

We’d also like to congratulate the BC Provincial Court for being recognized on Twitter Canada’s official blog here. For our recap of the #AskChiefJudge Twitter Town Hall, click here.

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Family LawLINE: Helping BC families with their legal problems

masterlogo-www.lss.bc.ca_blackThe Legal Services Society’s Family LawLINE is a telephone service that assists people with their family law matters, including many who are located in rural and remote areas. Lawyers work from their own offices, using the phone to provide free legal coaching and “next step” legal advice to eligible people across British Columbia. Clients can schedule a number of follow-up phone appointments and share documents by fax or email.

Clients come to the Family LawLINE with a wide variety of family legal issues. There is no “typical client”.  One client may have recently separated and is seeking initial legal advice and assistance to move forward.  Another may be involved in a court process or is seeking assistance to change existing agreements or orders. By using LawLINE, a client has the opportunity to work with a family lawyer to identify goals and desired outcomes, and to develop a step-by-step plan of action.

WHAT SPECIFIC SERVICES DOES FAMILY LawLINE PROVIDE?

Family LawLINE helps people who are representing themselves through all stages of court and collaborative process by providing:00_FamilyLawLine

  • Interpreters, if clients need services in languages other than English
  • Information and advice on court processes, both Provincial and Supreme Court
  • Information and advice on options for resolving legal issues out of court
  • Referrals to other services, including online resources and other public agencies
  • Assistance with preparing documents for court
  • Coaching to help clients:
    • understand the law relevant to their particular case,
    • make more effective court appearances,
    • present evidence properly,
    • prepare for negotiation and settlement,
    • use Public Legal Education and Information tools, and
    • identify their goals and how to achieve them effectively.

HOW DOES SOMEONE GET THESE SERVICES?

To qualify for the Family LawLINE service, a person must:

  • Qualify financially;
  • have an eligible family law issue; and
  • not have a lawyer already working for them.

To find out about eligibility and access the Family LawLINE:

Call the Legal Services Society’s provincial call centre at 604-408-2172 (for Greater Vancouver) or toll free at 1-866-577-2525, Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm and Wednesdays until 2:30.

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