A new ruling out of Provincial Court has addressed one of the pressing issues for the transition from the previous Family Relations Act (FRA) to the current Family Law Act (FLA): how should the courts interpret older orders that don’t address all the relevant issues?
This issue arises with interim orders that grant access, but say nothing about custody or guardianship. Under the transition rules of the FLA, if you had access under the old act, you now have contact with a child under the new act and are not a guardian of your child. The problem is that if you’re not a guardian, you don’t get to make important decisions about their life (such as how the child is raised or where they live).
Interim orders only for access might have been made, for example:
- to allow one parent to see their child when the ex refused to let it happen and it wasn’t necessary to make orders about custody or guardianship,
- if making a decision about custody and guardianship too soon in a case would make the conflict between the parents worse, or
- if there wasn’t enough evidence available for the judge to make an informed decision about custody or guardianship.
These interim orders can have serious effects now that the law has changed.
In this case, a father had an interim access order made under the FRA as the first stage in his family law case. By the time the matter came back to court, the FLA was in place and the mother’s lawyer argued that the father was not a guardian because the FRA order only gave him access. However, since the father had lived with the mother after the child’s birth, he would normally be a guardian under the FLA, but an order hadn’t been made for custody or guardianship under the FRA.
The judge ruled that the most important aspect to consider was whether the transition from the old to the new act took away any rights that the father may have had that had not been determined by the court under the FRA. The judge concluded that it did not, so the father was ruled to be the child’s guardian. This ruling sets a precedent that will affect all future cases that touch upon this subject.
You can read all the details and an explanation of the decision on JP Boyd’s blog.
48 locations across BC where we sent our publications in April
April is always a busy month for us and this year was no exception; our publications flew off the shelves as BC residents and intermediaries looked to LSS to explain the new BC Family Law Act!
Over the course of the month, we shipped 32,140 publications (almost 20% more than last year) to people looking for plain language legal information. These publications went out to nearly 130 different organizations in 48 locations across BC. The organizations ranged from law offices to libraries, to police, to schools, to health services, to settlement agencies and more.
With the new Family Law Act only a few weeks old, it was no surprise that our family law publications were the most popular. Five of our family law publications accounted for over a third of all the publications we sent out that month. Those publications were:
Thanks to everyone who helps get these publications into the hands of people who need them. If you’re interested in finding out more about our publications, you can find them all for free (online and in print) on our website. If you have any feedback on our publications you’d like to share with us, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Responsive, Intersectoral, Children’s Health, Education and Research (RICHER) representatives recently met with Dr. Barry Zuckerman of Boston Medical Center to talk about the Medical-Legal Community Partnership (MLCP), based in the Downtown Eastside. Together, we explored the potential to address a wide range of legal issues affecting low-income people. Currently, there are over 250 medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) in the US and several in Canada, including the RICHER MLCP and the Legal Services Society’s own Fir Square initiative.
Dr. Zuckerman is an MLP leader in the United States. He talked about the benefits of the model in a recent issue of Pediatrics:
The health system is effective in diagnosing and treating a patient with asthma and maybe with good social work or visiting nurse staff, etc., can have an impact on asthma triggers in the home. The connection to legal aid programs resulted in identification of poor quality housing in a group of buildings owned by 1 firm. Health care teams would be unlikely to identify the owner of a building or see the pattern of risk linked to other buildings owned by the owner. Not only was treatment of the affected index patients addressed, but 11 of the 19 other buildings received significant repairs that improved the housing quality and likely (but not proven) reduced the risk for asthma and other housing-related illnesses. (Medicine and Law: New Opportunities to Close the Disparity Gap, Pediatrics 2012; 130:5 943 – 944)
We talked about civil, family, and child protection issues, barriers to accessing legal help, and possible solutions. One of the challenges is to provide the right service, at the right time, in the right place; to put support in the path of the client. We discussed the role of place-based services, triage models to identify legal issues, and the importance of sharing knowledge.
LSS supports the RICHER MLCP through training on legal resources and community engagement. In December, we organized an information session for community agencies and service providers that was very well received. We are planning a follow-up later this year so that agencies can continue the conversation with providers. We continue to be active at the RICHER table.
–John Simpson, Manager Community and Publishing Services
Our newly revised publication For Your Protection: Peace Bonds and Family Law Protection Orders is now available in Punjabi and Chinese (simplified and traditional), in addition to French and English. This booklet explains how and when people can apply for peace bonds and family law protection orders, and what the differences are between them.
Currently, the booklet is only available online. Print copies of the English, Punjabi, and Chinese (traditional and simplified) will be available in the near future.
We’ve run out of print copies of the English Guide to the New BC Family Law Act. However, the booklet is still available as a PDF on our websites. You can also read it online in Chinese (traditional and simplified), French, Spanish, and Punjabi. And you can still get print copies, for free, in all languages except English and French from Crown Publications.
We first released the guide in November last year, and since then, we’ve distributed more than 15,000 copies. Last month, we also released updated versions of all our family law publications that cover the topics found in the Guide to the New BC Family Law Act in more depth. You can find all our family law publications (print and online) on our website.
We’re pleased to welcome Warren Chapman as the new local agent for Burns Lake and area. Warren has been practising law in the Burns Lake area for 25 years. He first started practicing in the area with the Yinkadinee’ Keyakh Law Centre Society, where he spent 10 years before opening his own practice.
“I’m really looking forward to being a local agent because I know absolutely everybody around here,” says Warren. He is very familiar with all of the bands, the chiefs, the people, and several generations of First Nations families.
Originally from London, Ontario, Warren received his law degree from Queen’s University and was called to the bar in 1977. He then moved to British Columbia and articled in Fort St. John. He has been a part of the Burns Lake community for 25 years.
“Burns Lake is a beautiful area,” says Warren, who has done legal aid for more than 30 years. “I only intended to stay here for a couple of years, but my wife and I just loved the area.”
Joining Warren will be two legal assistants, who will assist with carrying out legal aid duties, Shauna and Stephannie. Shauna attended the College of New Caledonia in Burns Lake and has been working with Warren since 2005. Stephannie grew up in Burns Lake and also attended the College of New Caledonia in Prince George. She has been working with Warren since 2011.
The team opened their doors to legal aid clients in March 2013. You can find their office hours and contact information here.
On March 20 of this year, the Indigenous Law Students’ Association at UBC Law gave out their annual Courage in Law Award. The award is given to recognize people who have shown leadership and courage in advancing legal services for indigenous people and fostering diversity in the legal profession.
Among the recipients was our very own Pamela Shields who manages Aboriginal services for LSS. Among her other work at LSS, Pamela has been instrumental in promoting and implementing Gladue rights throughout the province. Gladue rights are the Criminal Code rights to special consideration that a judge must give an Aboriginal person when setting bail or during sentencing.
The award was also given to retired Judge Cunliff Barnett and Gail Davidson. Judge Barnett is known for taking his court to Indigenous communities where he created space for indigenous legal traditions in his judicial decisions. He is currently involved with the First Nations Court in Kamloops. Gail Davidson serves as the executive director of Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada and has worked to advocate for the protection of indigenous women’s rights in Canada.
Not content with just receiving an award that day, both Pamela Shields and Judge Barnett went on to give presentations to UBC law students, speaking about Gladue rights and how to make space for indigenous legal traditions in the criminal court system.
To learn more about Gladue, see Aboriginal legal rights — Gladue on the LSS website, as well as Are You Aboriginal? (fact sheet) and our Gladue Primer.
Family Law in BC — Quick Reference Tool
Back in stock! We’ve reprinted our popular quick reference tool so it’s available to order once again. As well, there is a now a French translation available online in PDF. This set of postcards covers the key concepts of family law in BC while highlighting the changes due to new Family Law Act (in effect March 18, 2013). The tool is meant to provide a helpful overview before readers move on to more comprehensive resources.
New BC Family Law Act — Frequently Asked Questions (French translation)
This fact sheet about the new BC Family Law Act is now available in French (online).Presented in simple question and answer format, it covers the meaning of the new legal terms; property division rules for married or unmarried couples; and how the new act affects existing court orders or agreements.
This bilingual infocard for refugee claimants is now available (online or print) in two versions: English/Spanish and English/French. The infocard encourages claimants to contact legal aid as soon as possible. It highlights legal aid coverage for refugees and the new LSS immigration phone service, as well as the intake hours at the Vancouver legal aid office.
This year’s Annual Intake Training Conference proved to be a great hit! Held at the Sheraton Wall Centre, which was a great venue, the conference this year focussed on the new Family Law Act and professional development. From the feedback received, we can tell most of the intake assistants really enjoyed the sessions. A few of the comments were:
The sessions provided skills and tools to take away; e.g, listening skills, how to communicate with clients more effectively, identifying conflicts with clients (conflict of interest).
Food was great — not much wasted. Had a great time, learned a lot, and looking forward to going back to my office with renewed energy.
Best conference I have attended!
Good to have contact with other workers, exchange of info and ideas. It helps with feelings of isolation in small communities. Good hotel choice, healthy food. Thanks for good efforts!
Intake staff are usually the first people applicants meet when they apply for legal aid. Applicants could be facing criminal charges, going through a divorce, dealing with having their child taken away, or new refugees coming into Canada. Intake can be an emotionally taxing job. One of the big takeaways from the conference was that participants really appreciate a chance to meet and talk to each other about the problems they all face.
Many of the sessions touched on this theme. Donna, our Aboriginal community legal worker, spoke about the experiences of Aboriginal people when interacting with the system and encountering the child protection system. Other sessions included “Dealing with clients in distress,” “The Child, Family and Community Service Act,” “Self-compassion,” and “Diversity/Intercultural Communication.”