The British Columbia government is investing more than $16 million to support collaborative solutions for resolving child protection cases, enhance assistance with family and civil law issues, and improve access to justice.
One of these important investments expands the Legal Services Society’s successful Parents Legal Centre from Vancouver to Surrey. Another will add a full-service Justice Access Centre (JAC) to the Surrey Courthouse in 2018.
The Legal Services Society will receive $8.4 million in new funding over three years for the Parents Legal Centre, which helps families resolve child protection issues earlier and collaboratively.
In addition, Budget 2017 adds $6 million over three years to continue pilot projects operated by the Legal Services Society for low-income British Columbians who need assistance with justice issues. Initial evaluations showed the pilots – the Expanded Criminal Duty Counsel in Port Coquitlam, the Expanded Family Duty Counsel in Victoria, the Parents Legal Centre in Vancouver, and the expanded Family LawLINE, accessible throughout the province – promise faster, better outcomes for the 6,000 participants who accessed these services last year.
The Province is adding nearly $2 million to transform the Surrey Family Justice Centre into a Justice Access Centre to increase service to clients with family and civil law disputes. Justice Access Centres offer individuals and families a range of information and services designed to find early, affordable solutions to legal issues and assist self-represented litigants.
Work will begin on the renovation later this year with the Surrey JAC expected to open in 2018. Services provided by the Surrey Family Justice Centre will not be disrupted during renovations.
Suzanne Anton, Attorney General and Minister of Justice –
“Our government is transforming justice services to improve access to justice for low-income British Columbians. The Parents Legal Centre builds on the recommendations of Grand Chief Ed John, and its expansion to Surrey will reach even more families facing child protection issues and help more Indigenous families stay together. I’m impressed with the work of the Legal Services Society and its efforts increase access to justice in our province.”
Grand Chief Ed John –
“I’m gratified that the B.C. government is building on my recent report that recommends changing the focus of the Indigenous child welfare system from intervention and separation of families to strengthening familial bonds. Today’s announcement focuses on keeping families together and honouring traditions and culture. This is a positive move toward reconciliation.”
Suzette Narbonne, board chair, Legal Services Society –
“I’m delighted that the Province continues to support the Legal Services Society’s justice transformation projects — they’re helping low-income British Columbians find timely and effective resolutions to their legal problems. The society has a range of legal aid services that support people with out-of-court solutions as much as possible, but when it’s necessary, by providing a lawyer’s help to go to court. We look forward to continuing to work with our justice system partners to improve access to justice in B.C.”
- The Ministry of Justice invests more than 20% of its budget for legal aid services that provide access to justice for low income British Columbians.
- Annual investments include more than $77 million for LSS and $30 million for Family Justice Centres throughout the province, three Justice Access Centres and the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program.
- Justice Access Centres provide help with family and civil law issues that affect everyday life – separation or divorce, income security, employment, housing or debt – and offer a range of information and services designed to help people find early, affordable solutions.
- Family Justice Centres throughout the province offer family mediation services in-person, via telephone or internet for those contemplating separation or divorce.
- These and other related programs and services offer women and families solutions to their legal issues without necessarily engaging court processes.
Justice Access Centres: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/justice/about-bcs-justice-system/jac
Legal Services Society: http://www.lss.bc.ca/
A backgrounder follows.
Government Communications and Public EngagementMinistry of Justice
Parents Legal Centre for child protection matters – Counsel and a legal advocate are providing information, advice, and representation services to parents to assist them in collaborative processes, where appropriate, to resolve their child protection issues. It is currently located at the Vancouver Law Courts, Robson Square, and will be expanding to add a location in Surrey in 2017-18.
Expanded Criminal Duty Counsel – Located at the Port Coquitlam courthouse, expanded criminal duty counsel supports early resolution in less-complex criminal cases by aiding qualified clients until resolution or the setting of a trial date by the same duty counsel.
Expanded Family Duty Counsel – A full-time lawyer and administrative assistant co-ordinate duty counsel and legal advice services at the Victoria Justice Access Centre to provide clients with continuity of advice and assist with coaching to help people resolve matters earlier. This service also is available at Vancouver’s JAC.
Expanded Family LawLINE – Family lawyers provide legal advice to clients throughout the province over the phone and by email. Service expansion includes increased hours, enhanced use of technology and allows clients greater continuity of service.