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Intake in Northwest BC

Challenges are many for intake workers in Northwest BC. Our Regional Centre in Terrace and satellite office in Prince Rupert face the task of finding lawyers for clients from Haida Gwaii to Burns Lake — and all the places in between. There are numerous isolated villages on our coast, so there are always challenges to complete intake applications and find local lawyers to represent clients. The local Bar is small. To meet the needs, we often need to pay lawyers to travel from another community to represent clients.

Our intake workers appoint family and criminal duty counsel for courts in Prince Rupert, Terrace, Smithers, Kitimat, Houston, and New Aiyansh. There are days that we are unable to find duty counsel in those communities. If someone is in custody, we need to find a lawyer who might be available to provide duty counsel over the phone from another community. Some mornings, we spend a great deal of time on the phone to find duty counsel.

Our staff lawyers and intake workers travel to New Aiyansh every second month and to Kitimat once a month to be duty counsel and take legal aid applications from clients. In the winter months, weather and road conditions can hamper travel to these areas.

The major challenges our clients face in applying for legal aid are travelling to our offices from the outlying villages and trying to find a telephone and fax machine to get their information to us. Some clients may have problems getting to our office and to court due to financial constraints. At times, our fall and winter weather make it very difficult to travel by road, boat, and seaplane.

Intake in the north is a struggle at times but it is rewarding to know that we are helping people access legal aid services. Is it all worth it? … Yes.

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