Banner: Legal Info & Help: Black Lives Matter

Legal Info and Help: Black Lives Matter

Anti-Black racism and police accountability are among the issues the Black communities are facing in Canada, including in our province. This post provides you with Clicklaw resources on topics related to Black Lives Matter. In line with Clicklaw’s mission, we focus on public legal information and help available for British Columbians.

In making the selection, we recognize that racial injustice is often worsened by other factors, such as gender, immigration status, poverty, and so on. Many of the issues of systemic discrimination faced by Black communities are similar to those experienced by Indigenous people. We’ll start with a few background articles illustrating this before giving you the resources on a few related topics.


Black Women in Canada and the Black Women’s Program at BWSS (Feb 21, 2020)

Angela Marie MacDougall, the ED of Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) wrote about the history of Black people in Canada, the struggle & injustice faced by Black women, and how their specialized programs have been providing a safe space and empowerment for the community since 2017.

Civil liberties and First Nations groups launch complaint on discriminatory police stops; call for investigation (June 14, 2018)

“… the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (“UBCIC”) and the BC Civil Liberties Association (“BCCLA”) filed a complaint with the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner calling for an immediate investigation of the significant racial disparity revealed in Vancouver Police Department’s practice of “street checks” or police stops, often referred to as carding.

Street checks are the practice of stopping a person outside of an investigation, questioning them and obtaining their identifying information, and often recording their personal information. The complaint is based on a release of data under a Freedom of Information request posted on the VPD’s website, and first reported by the Globe and Mail, that reveals that Indigenous and Black people are significantly over-represented in the numbers of street checks conducted by the VPD over the past decade.”

COVID-19 discriminates against Black lives via surveillance, policing and lack of data: U of T experts (April 21, 2020)

This UoT news article argues for the importance of including race-based data in shaping the Canadian COVID-19 responses. It goes over how the pandemic disproportionally harms the lives of Black, Indigenous and racialized people.

Human rights: racial discrimination

In BC, the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner works to prevent discrimination and inequality by investigating issues of discrimination. Kasari Govender, the Commissioner, started her five-year term on September 3, 2019. Find out more about the work they do.

BC Human Rights Code protects you from racial discrimination in certain areas. Find out how and when this is applicable:

Police accountability & your rights

Your rights at protests

At the time of writing, the latest Order from the Provincial Health Officer that applies to a rally or a demonstration is Mass Gathering Events, May 22, 2020 (PDF). The following resources were written before the pandemic:

  • Legal Information for People Attending Wet’suwet’en Solidarity Actions (2019), from Pivot Legal Society.
    • Written during the recent solidarity actions, this guide contains legal information on people’s rights at protests and special circumstances to your right to protest (being a non-Canadian citizen, a youth, or a trans person).
  • Guide to The Law of Protests in BC (2018), by Leo McGrady, QC.
    • A paper on your rights when dealing with police at public demonstrations.
  • Know your protest rights (2017), from the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association
    • A pamphlet on your right to protest and information on what to do and what not to do when exercising this right.

Getting legal help

  • Human Rights Clinic, from the Community Legal Assistance Society
    • Free representation to complainants who have cases before the BC Human Rights Tribunal
  • Human Rights Clinic, from the Law Centre at UVic
    • Assistance to Complainants and Respondents from the Capital Regional District with complaints regarding BC Human Rights Code
  • Islamophobia Hotline, from Access Pro Bono BC
    • Free confidential legal advice if you feel that you have been discriminated, harassed, or faced violence because you are a Muslim or were perceived to be Muslim.
  • Legal Advocacy Program, from MOSAIC BC
    • Assistance to low-income newcomers navigating the Canadian legal system, ensuring that they are informed of their legal rights and responsibilities.
  • Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS):
    • Crisis Line at 604-687-1867, toll-free 1.855.687.1868: support and services for women facing violence
    • Legal services and advocacy: advocacy, workshops, clinic, and legal representation for women leaving an abusive relationship

Find more help using Clicklaw HelpMap, a database of free or low-cost legal services. Includes community legal advocates and legal aid intake workers in your area.

For more recommended readings around the social and legal issues, check out LawMatters’ latest blog post.

Stay informed:


Library Month at LawMatters

By Megan Smiley, LawMatters Program Coordinator

For those of us without legal training, legal problems can be scary and overwhelming to tackle. Without open access to useful and trusted legal information, it would be near impossible. We are lucky in BC to have a network of public legal education and information organizations working hard to improve access to justice, and local public libraries are a key part that network.

Funded by the Law Foundation of BC, LawMatters is the Courthouse Libraries BC outreach program for public libraries. We believe libraries are the key to informed and connected communities and have been working in partnership with them since 2007.

Together with our library partners, LawMatters works to enhance local public access to legal information throughout the province, from big urban centres to small rural communities. Libraries are able to buy more legal books through LawMatters grant funding, and also receive print copies of some of our most popular Clicklaw Wikibook titles at no cost, such as JP Boyd on Family law. In total, people in 241 communities can find core legal resources at their local public libraries as a result of this program and the hard work of librarians and library staff in each location.

One of the key aspects of our work is to provide training to public library staff on finding and using legal information resources – like Clicklaw.

We regularly hear from librarians that Clicklaw is their ‘go-to’ when answering patrons’ legal questions because it provides ideas for next steps, helps them point their patrons towards the best resource, and when necessary, helps them find the right referral. But it’s also true that librarians are a key part of improving Clicklaw – the relationship is complementary. Public librarians contribute valuable knowledge, expertise and insight so that we can continually develop and improve the site for all users.

People go to public libraries for the widest range of reasons.  Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell have recently done a beautiful job of expressing the value of libraries, so I won’t attempt to do it here. But I will say to those of you who are struggling with legal issues: Don’t forget about your local public library!

They not only provide free public access to legal books, they can also provide referrals to advocates and other community organizations. They are a quiet safe space for you to think, research, and plan. Lastly, while librarians cannot give legal advice, they are a great resource because they are really good at finding current, reliable, and vetted information. They can help you find the information you need, and if not, help you find the people who can.

Stay Informed with BC LawMatters:

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