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July, 2012:

Changes to the refugee claim process

On June 28, 2012, Bill C-31, titled the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, received royal assent and is now law. The bill makes a number of changes to the Canadian immigration system. While most of the changes won’t come into effect until sometime in the future, a number of changes are already in effect. These changes limit when people can apply for pre-removal risk assessments (PRRAs) or humanitarian and compassionate (H&Cs) consideration. This means that some information in the LSS publication, Your Guide to the Refugee Claims Process, is no longer correct. There are three major changes that should be noted:

  1. After receiving a negative final decision on a refugee claim from the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, there is now a one-year waiting period before claimants can apply for a PRRA.
  2. Previously, claimants could apply to stay in Canada on H&C grounds at any point during the refugee claim process. Now, applications can no longer be submitted while a refugee claim is pending. As well, failed refugee claimants are barred from filing an H&C application for one year, unless there is a risk to life due to inadequate health or medical care, or if removal would have an adverse effect on the best interests of a child.
  3. On an H&C application, Citizenship and Immigration Canada will no longer consider whether a person faces risk if returned to their country (this change occurred as of June 29, 2010).

The incorrect information in the current booklet concerns H&C applications and is primarily in the H&C chapter. A short update for Your Guide to the Refugee Claims Process about the H&C and PRRA changes will be available in the near future.

For more information on these changes, please see the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website.

The new Family Law Act: Protection orders and family violence

On November 24, 2011, BC’s new Family Law Act was introduced. It will come into effect March 18, 2013. This act will have wide-reaching effects on family law in the province. Here is a summary of its effect on protection orders and family violence. For more information, see the act itself and our introduction to the act.

Under the new Family Law Act, family violence includes:

  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • emotional and psychological abuse
  • forcibly confining a person or restricting the person’s freedom
  • withholding the necessities of life

If a person is at risk of family violence, the court may make a protection order. Either the person at risk — or someone else on behalf of the person at risk — can apply for the order.

Protection orders will take the place of restraining orders under the Family Relations Act. Any restraining orders already in effect will continue without change.

Protection orders can limit contact and communication between parties if there is a safety risk. Protection orders can, for example

  • restrict one party from contacting the other
  • stop a specific person from visiting the family home
  • control stalking-type behaviour
  • prevent someone from owning a weapon

If a protection order clashes with another order under the Family Law Act, the protection order takes priority over the other order for as long as there is conflict. For example, you may have a protection order in place that says your ex-partner is not allowed to communicate with you. You may also have a court order that says your ex-partner can have contact with your child. The protection order will overrule the contact order if you have to communicate with each other to arrange for contact.

You can’t use the new act to enforce a protection order. But a breach of a protection order is considered a criminal offence, and the police can enforce it under the Criminal Code.

Our thanks to JP Boyd for providing the background for this series. You can find more information on the new Family Law Act, as well as other family law issues, at his BC Family Law Resource Blog.

Hot off the press: Preparing an Aboriginal Rights Case — An Overview for Defence Counsel

Preparing an Aboriginal Rights Case — An Overview for Defence Counsel is a new online resource for lawyers interested in taking on an Aboriginal rights case.

Aboriginal rights give Aboriginal people the right to participate in their traditional activities on their ancestral lands. Aboriginal clients charged with a harvesting offence (such as illegal hunting or fishing) may be eligible for legal aid if their case affects their ability to follow a traditional livelihood of fishing, hunting, or gathering. For defence counsel who take on legal aid work, Aboriginal rights defences are different from the usual family or criminal law referrals.

The Preparing an Aboriginal Rights Case — An Overview for Defence Counsel booklet explains Aboriginal rights, outlines the issues involved, and summarizes the process of an Aboriginal rights case, including trial and alternatives to trial such as restorative justice solutions. The booklet also provides an overview of the leading case law.

ELAN goes to the movies!

ELAN is now coming to you in video form! Take a look at our first effort below.

As the video says, here at LSS, we want to present information about legal aid in as engaging a way as possible. Over the next few weeks, we’ll conduct an experiment using short two-to-three-minute videos to tell you about what’s going on in the world of legal aid and give you a glimpse inside LSS. Let us know what you think!

Keep an eye out for those videos here or on our YouTube channel.

Changes to Supreme and Provincial Court Family Rules and forms

Two changes were made to the Supreme and Provincial Court Family Rules recently. The Supreme Court Rules were changed to replace the word indigent” with “impoverished” and to rename forms F85 and F86 accordingly.

The Provincial Court (Family) Rules were changed to allow parents to take the Parenting After Separation course online if it is not offered in their communities.

These changes took effect on July 1, 2012.

You can find more details and links to the regulations on our What’s new in family law page.

LSS publications win APEX Awards!

We’re proud to announce that the LSS publishing team has won two Awards of Excellence at the 2012 APEX Awards this year.

The APEX Awards are an annual competition for publication excellence that judges publications on the basis of graphic design, editorial content, and overall communications excellence. Apex Awards of Excellence recognize exceptional entries in individual categories. Our booklet A Guide to Aboriginal Harvesting Rights won in the category One-of-a-kind (print), while the LSS Service Plan 2011/2012 – 2013/2014 won in the category Public Services (reports).

A Guide to Aboriginal Harvesting Rights explains what your options are if you’ve been charged with a harvesting offence (such as illegally hunting or fishing), including where to get legal help. It also tells you what happens in court during a harvesting rights trial, and what you can expect from your lawyer.

Our LSS Service Plan 2011/2012 – 2013/2014 describes how we plan on delivering legal aid to those in need and what our priorities are over a three-year period. It is available on our Annual Reports and Service Plans page.

What do you think of ELAN?

ELAN was launched in February 2011, and in the past year and a half we have helped more than 8,000 people keep up to date on legal issues in BC. Just as laws evolve, we want ELAN to evolve too. We want to improve the blog and make sure that we’re delivering the information you need in a way that is helpful. That’s why we’re asking for your feedback.

Please take a minute to fill out this short survey so that we can keep working to improve ELAN.

Cheers

— The ELAN team

Keeping up with ELAN and LSS

If you’re reading this now, then you’ve found ELAN and are interested in keeping up to date on legal issues and resources in BC. Here are a few ways that you can access ELAN and up-to-date information from LSS that you might find helpful.

Blog and RSS feed

We regularly post short entries about changes to the legal system, resources available, new publications, and events on the ELAN blog.

If you don’t want to have to visit the site to check for updates, you can always use our RSS feed to have the latest posts delivered straight to your inbox. Just copy the URL above and add the feed to your Outlook, Google Reader, or any other RSS reader that you use.

You might also be interested in these other RSS feeds from LSS:

Quarterly newsletter

Every quarter, we send out a “best of” newsletter that contains the most relevant and topical ELAN stories from the last 3 months. If you just want the most important information and don’t mind waiting, then this may be the option for you. Fill out this form to sign up for the newsletter.

Facebook and Twitter

You can also find us on both Facebook and Twitter, where we share information and updates that don’t appear in ELAN. These could be anything from events, to highlighting publications and services, to sharing information from other legal aid organizations in BC.

YouTube

If you go to our YouTube channel, you can find a number of videos about family law, what the court experience is like, and other bits of useful information.