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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Stay informed:

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Access to Justice BC

a2j_logoAccess to Justice BC is British Columbia’s response to a national call for action to make family and civil justice more accessible. It is a forum to facilitate open communication and collaborative working relationships among justice system stakeholders.

The following entry is a cross-post from the Access to Justice BC website

By Mr. Justice Robert J. Bauman
The Honourable Chief Justice of British Columbia
Chair of Access to Justice BC


Welcome to the Access to Justice BC website. It is my sincere pleasure to launch what I anticipate will become a series of updates communicating the activities and progress of Access to Justice BC. I look forward to reaching people across our province who are interested in and concerned about the extent to which the civil justice system is accessible in BC. I want to provide information about what Access to Justice BC is doing about the problem, and to invite you to tell us how well we are doing.

In this posting, I will describe a bit about Access to Justice BC and explain what encouraged me get involved with the initiative.

Access to Justice BC started when a few of the province’s justice leaders and thinkers took to heart the recommendation of the National Action Committee to create a provincial forum dedicated to improving access to justice. The small group of people grew larger and came to involve the major legal institutions in the province, and eventually representatives from organizations outside of the justice system as well. The rationale for this broad membership is to foster an innovative, multi-disciplinary approach to the issue, hopefully leading to better ideas and a greater willingness to experiment (and to take risks).

Access to Justice BC got off the ground in 2015 with a handful of meetings addressing the processes that the group will follow and deciding on a first target for action within the civil justice system: family law. Running parallel to the full Access to Justice BC meetings have been a multitude of smaller sub-committee meetings, working on strategy, communications and planning issues.

The most recent full meeting of Access to Justice BC, which I will describe in more detail in a separate posting, took place in February of this year and put to the test the creative thinking and commitment of the group. A number of concrete initiatives were identified for exploration, and I will be reporting on these initiatives as they progress.

What drew me to join Access to Justice BC? Like many people involved in the civil justice system, I am sorely aware of its shortcomings. Don’t get me wrong; I’m also proudly aware of its strengths and successes. But when I see litigants struggling to navigate complex court processes on their own, or when I consider the unknown number of people in BC who, thwarted by the potential cost, don’t pursue their legal rights, I have to ask myself: is the justice system there for everyone who needs it? If not, what are we doing wrong? Are there minor fixes to address some problems, or is a complex overhaul required? Conversely, what aspects of the system (or of another system for that matter) are working well? Is there a way to transpose those successes to certain areas of civil justice or to scale them upwards?

Access to Justice BC does not pretend to have the answers to these questions. The access problem isn’t something that can be solved by a group of people thinking hard in a room. It is a complex problem that may require multiple innovative solutions and, in order to reach those solutions, some degree of trial and error. It will also take hard work and, yes, in some cases resources.

I hope that you will visit our website and follow our progress over the next year.

– Bob Bauman, Chief Justice of British Columbia


Stay informed with Access to Justice BC:

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2016 Bi-monthly Update Series: March-April

In our 2015 year-end update, we promised to provide bimonthly updates to new resources and services added to Clicklaw in those two months. Here is a selection from the hundreds of changes in March and April:

Jan-Feb | Mar-Apr | May-Jun | Jul-Aug | Sep-Oct | Nov-Dec


Battered Women’s Support Services
by Battered Women’s Support Services

See BWSS’ expanded legal advocacy program which includes full representation (family and immigration matters), and other help on family law issues: workshops, a family law clinic and a court forms preparation clinic.

 

Islamophobia Hotline
by SABA BC, Access Pro Bono, National Council of Canadian Muslims, BCPIAC, FACL BC, CLAS, BCCLA, CABL, CBA BC

Free confidential legal advice if you feel that you have been discriminated, harassed, or faced violence because you are Muslim or were perceived to be Muslim: 604-343-3828

 

Resources on police record checks
by Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Want to know what a police record is? How to try to deal with a non-conviction record? What privacy and human rights laws apply, or best practices for employers? Check out this resource from the CCLA.

 

LSLAP Manuals
by LSLAP Law Students’ Legal Advice Program

See the latest links for LSLAP’s updated legal advice manuals.

 

Coping with Separation Handbook
by Legal Services Society

For spouses (married or living in a marriage-like relationship) dealing with the emotional aspects of separating. Describes ways to cope and how to help your children cope. Includes support services for spouses, parents, and children, and where to find legal help.

 

The Social Security Tribunal
by Disability Alliance BC and CLAS

In 2013, the process to appeal the denial of Canada Pension Plan Disability (CPP-D) changed when a new system, the Social Security Tribunal (SST), replaced the Review Tribunal. This guide will help people and advocates who are appealing denial of CPP-D to the SST. The guide has been updated in 2016.

 

Atira Legal Services
by Atira Women’s Resources Society

See updated information for Atira’s Legal Advocacy Program for Women in the DTES, Atira’s Weekly Summary Legal Advice Clinic, and Atira Women’s Court Form Preparation Clinic.

 

The McKenzie Friend: Choosing and Presenting a Courtroom Companion
by NSLRP

As a self-represented litigant, you may bring someone to sit with you at the front of a courtroom when you are appearing before a judge or master. You must ask the judge for permission for this person – often a friend or family member – to sit beside you and help you through the process.

 

Executor Guide for BC
by Heritage Law

This publicly available wikibook will help you understand the steps involved in being an executor and probating a will.

 

Leaving Abuse
by Legal Services Society

This graphic novel tells the story of Maya, who is leaving her abusive partner but doesn’t know where to get help. Through illustrations and clear basic legal information, Leaving Abuse shows how she finds the support and legal aid she and her children need to stay safe and start a new life.

 

TRU Community Legal Clinic (CLC)
by Thompson Rivers University (TRU)

The Community Legal Clinic (CLC) is the first student-staffed pro bono legal clinic in the Interior of British Columbia. The students and the supervising lawyer are a passionate team providing legal assistance and advice to those who would otherwise be unable to afford legal assistance.

 

Preparing for B.C.’s New Societies Act: A Guide to the Transition Process
by BC Registry Services

The new Societies Act will come into effect on Nov. 28, 2016. In the two years following that date, every preexisting society will be required to “transition” to the new Act. This document sets out some basic information about the transition process and other matters that societies may wish to consider over the coming months.

 

Debt collection & debt repayment agents
by Consumer Protection BC

Consumer Protection BC is the licensing and regulatory body for the debt collection and repayment industry (which includes debt collectors, collection agencies, bailiffs and debt repayment agents). They provide information on your rights & obligations around debt collection practices. Includes links on how to dispute a debt, request communication in writing only, or notify a collection agency you are not the debtor.

Includes updated information on debt collection practices. See also blog post on Debt Repayment Agents: New Rules are in place and New things to know about BC’s debt collection laws


Notice – BC Government URLs

You may have noticed that some of the links to websites hosted by the BC Government may be broken as they restructure. We are currently working with BC Gov website staff to keep links updated. For example, see the updated link to Family Justice in BC.

Stay informed:

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An Introduction to BC Provincial Court Family Orders

This doesn’t need to be you.

In Provincial Court, you can get orders for: guardianship, parenting arrangements, child/spousal support, protection, and more.

See this page for general information and more resources on the BC Provincial Family Court process.

What is a court order?

An order is a statement of the court’s decision. It sets out what you and the other party (for example, you and your ex-spouse) must do.

Court orders must be prepared and filed, or “entered” into the Provincial Court Registry (click for locations).

Read the Legal Services Society (LSS) resource, “All about court orders” for more information about what kinds of court orders you can get, as well as options to pursue before the court makes a final order, to try and resolve as much of your case as possible without a formal court hearing.

Can I get a court order without a lawyer?

Yes.

If you and the other party agree about what you want the court to order, you can apply for what’s called a “consent order” and may be able to get it without attending court.

  1. If you have a lawyer, your lawyer will have the order typed and submit it to the Court. If you don’t have a lawyer, the other party’s lawyer will do this, but you should see a lawyer yourself to review the proposed order before you sign a document showing you consent to the order.
    • Click here to see where to find free or low cost legal advice on family law matters.
  2. Family Justice Counsellors can also help you with family orders.
    Family Justice Counsellors can help you with consent orders.
  3. If you don’t have a lawyer, another direct way to get a consent order is to meet with a Family Justice Counsellor (FJC) who can help you obtain or change an order in Family Court. FJCs work at Family Justice Centres located across BC; they provide free services for people of modest means. FJCs are specially trained to support families to reach agreement on issues of guardianship, parenting arrangements (including parental responsibilities and parenting time), contact and support. They can help you obtain or change an order in Family Court; including preparing the consent order and submitting it to the Court for you. They can also provide information and referrals, short-term counselling, mediation, help with various court forms, and more. In some communities, couples who separate must meet with a FJC before they are given a date to appear in court.
  4. As a last resort, if you cannot meet with a Family Justice Counsellor or get help from a lawyer, it is possible to prepare a consent order yourself. This LSS Resource with Tips on how to draft a consent order contains links to the BC Provincial Court’s website, where you can access a “Picklist” WORDdoc including standard Family Law Act (FLA) terms to help you draft the order. (To “draft” an order means to choose the wording and type it. See also: What does the FLA deal with?) However, both parties should talk to a lawyer to make sure they understand what they’re agreeing to before signing their consent.
    • “How to get a final family order in Provincial Court” explains what to do once you draft a consent order. If a judge approves your order, you won’t have to appear in a court room. However, if there are problems in the wording you choose or the information you provide, you may have to attend court to give the judge more information. This is why it’s so helpful to have a FJC or lawyer prepare and submit a consent order for you.

If, however, you and the other party ultimately don’t agree, you’ll go to court and the judge will make an order:

When?

  • If both parties agree by the time you get to court you can ask the judge to make a consent order on the day of your first court appearance.
  • When you go to court, you can ask for a case conference where you and the other party will meet with a judge to discuss the issues. If you agree during the case conference, the judge can make a consent order there.
  • Your matter can be set for a hearing or trial or an interim application. The judge will make an order after considering evidence and submissions.

Who does the drafting in this case?

  • This does not mean that the judge types up the order that is filed at the registry. The Rules require the successful party’s lawyer to do that.
    • However, if you are successful and do not have a lawyer, the court clerk (registry staff) prepares the order unless the judge orders otherwise. For example, if the unsuccessful party has a lawyer, the judge may ask that lawyer to draft the order.
    • If the other party’s lawyer will be preparing an order, ask the judge to permit you to approve its wording before the lawyer sends it to the Court.
  • Whether an order is submitted by a lawyer or prepared by the court registry, it will be checked by court staff and/or the judge to ensure it reflects what the judge said in court.

How should the court order be drafted, and why?

The order should clearly and precisely reflect the court’s decision. It should state who does what, to whom, when, and in some cases where or for how long.

It should be understandable even by someone who is unfamiliar with the case. This is because the court’s orders may need to be enforced by people who were not involved in the case.

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Use the Picklists provided by the BC Provincial Court to draft better family orders.

Poor Example of a term in an order:

John Smith will pay child support of $800 a month.

  • There would be problems enforcing this order if John did not pay. It doesn’t say who he must pay or when, among other details missing.

Better Example of a term in an order:

John Smith will pay to Jane Smith the sum of $800 per month for the support of the children, May Smith born June 1, 2011 and Lee Smith born July 3, 2012, commencing on October 1st 2015 and continuing on the first day of each and every month thereafter, for as long as the children are eligible for support under the Family Law Act or until further Court order.

  • This wording from the “Picklist” on the Provincial Court website makes it clear who does what to whom, when, when the obligation starts, and when it ends. Use the standard wording of Family Law Act terms provided in the BC Provincial Court Picklists whenever possible; this also helps with faster processing at the Registry: Click here for the Picklist Word Doc.

If a lawyer is involved, they will use their notes of what the judge said to draft the order. If the judge gives written reasons for judgment after trial, the order will be prepared based on these written reasons – you can also order clerk’s notes or a transcript of the proceeding, although this can take some time and is expensive.

The order can be in the following forms (Click here to access forms):

  • Form 20 for consent orders (see what else you need to file – special requirements for applications of guardianship of children and child support),
  • Form 25 for protection orders;
  • Form 25.1 for restraining orders; and
  • Form 26 for all other orders.

Click for links to all the resources

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Help for people with family law issues who have to represent themselves in BC Supreme Court

By Winnifred Assmann and Nate Prosser
Legal Services Society2015-10-02 16-42-35_Prepare for your trial_ Family Law in BC

Representing yourself is intimidating. It’s also a scenario that is becoming
more common. To help people in this situation, the Legal Services Society has created a new set of online resources to help people navigate Supreme Court trials and hearings.

These include a new self-help guide on how to schedule and prepare for a Supreme Court trial, plus step-by-step guides to walk users through completing the forms required for Supreme Court trials and Chambers hearings. All these resources walk you through the trial process.

Stage 1: Before you schedule a trial

A new fact sheet – Discovery — Sharing information with the other party – explains what discovery is, why you want to share information, and other ways to get information, like a pre-trial examination of witnesses.

Stage 2: Prepare for your trial

How to schedule and prepare for your Supreme Court trial includes a timeline of significant deadlines and links to videos that set out the court process.

Accompanying this guide are two fact sheets, Making an offer to settle, which explains how to resolve your issue before going to court, and Present your evidence in Supreme Court, which explains the different types of evidence and how to present them.

Videos, produced with the help of People’s Law School, explain topics including: scheduling and preparing for a Supreme Court trial, giving testimonyquestioning a witness, and using documents during a trial.

Stage 3: At your trial and after

The new guide, How to draft a Supreme Court order, walks through how to draft a Supreme Court order if you’re a party in a family law case. To also help with this, LSS created samples of some of the most common court orders.

Other resources include: fact sheets on coping with the court process, tips for conducting your Supreme Court trial, and what happens at a Supreme Court trial. LSS also compiled sample questions that can be asked of witnesses at a Supreme Court trial.

Finally, a new video gives you an overview of Supreme Court, tells you what to bring, shows you the inside of a courtroom, and describes what everyone in the courtroom does.

Drafting affidavits

The final set of resources help you write an affidavit. This includes a self-help guide, samples, and tips.

Those are just some of the new resources LSS has made to help people representing themselves in a family trial in Supreme Court. A full list of links can be found starting at How to represent yourself in a Supreme Court family law trial on the Family Law in BC website.

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Going to BC Provincial Court? New Resources For You.

Handouts contain short bit.ly URLs that forward to the Common Question page where the resources are accessible and the handout is available as a shareable PDF download

You may be familiar with Clicklaw’s Common Questions. While you can use Clicklaw’s search and navigation to narrow down resources, sometimes it’s easier to get help picking a few to start with. This is where the Common Questions come in.

We have been working with Judge Ann Rounthwaite of the BC Provincial Court and the Clicklaw Editorial Committee to come up with 3 new special Common Question pages to help you get started with different matters in Provincial Court:

The lists are not exhaustive of all the resources available on these topics. If we included everything possibly out there, it would be much longer than a handy one-pager. We aimed for a mix of helpful basics but also resources that included practical tips for the courtroom.

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Check out new resources from the BCPC

The handouts also include some great new resources from the BC Provincial Court. For example, “Preparing for a Family Court Trial in Provincial Court” provides helpful information on Evidence at a Family Court Trial, and what facts can be relevant for your trial depending on what type of Application you are making. See more here.

Everyone is welcome to download, print and share these handouts: judges, court staff, advocates, settlement workers, librarians, and even lawyers who would like to help their clients better understand the court process now have an easy starting point to direct to. If you are a Self-Represented Litigant, this is a good place to begin. Check it out!

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Introducing the CanLII Primer from the National Self-Represented Litigants Project

Today’s guest blog post features a new resource for those preparing for the presentation of their cases — in court, in chambers, or as part of a negotiation or mediation. It focuses on how to navigate CanLII, a free legal online service. This resource is available via Clicklaw.

By Dr. Julie MacfarlaneNSLRP
Professor of Law at the University of Windsor & Project Director

As part of my 2011-12 study of the experiences of self-represented litigants (SRLs) in Alberta, BC and Ontario, I asked each of the 259 SRLs I interviewed to tell me what was the most useful on-line resource they had used in preparing their case.

By far the greatest number singled out CanLII, the Canadian electronic case and legislation database. One told me “CanLII is the best thing for a self represented person ever…” Many talked about the hours they spent poring over cases in CanLII.

CanLII received a million hits – in March 2015. How many of those were self-represented litigants, I wonder? Continue reading

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