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general interest

Tell your story: Representing yourself in court

A unique research project is collecting the stories of people who represent themselves in court. Julie Macfarlane of the University of Windsor Faculty of Law is studying the growing number of self-represented people. She is looking for personal stories — how people ended up representing themselves, what happened as they moved through the legal process, and whether their expectations of justice matched the results.

Funded by LSS and the Law Foundation, her study gives self-represented people a chance to share their experiences in the legal system, including forms, processes, procedures, and interpreting legal language — as well as personal stories and emotional journeys. They are a critical part of the legal system. This project encourages them to share their stories with policy makers, judges, and others in the justice system.

Information about the people who share their stories is kept confidential. Interviews are scheduled at their convenience.

If you or someone you know has self-represented in court in a family or other civil (but not criminal) matter, please contact the project to share your experiences. To participate or learn more about the project, check out the website, send an email to representingyourself@gmail.com, or call 1-888-775-8125 (toll-free).

BC launches a new justice reform website

As part of the recently announced BC Justice Reform Initiative, the BC government has launched a new website — www.bcjusticereform.ca.

The site provides a space for the public, and stakeholders, to voice their opinions and provide input about how BC’s justice system can become more efficient, transparent, and accessible. The public can participate in the dialogue through the site’s blog, social media updates, and through regular surveys.

Feedback from the site will be used by Geoffrey Cowper, QC, as he leads the Justice Reform Initiative in looking for ways to deal with the challenges facing the BC’s justice system.

You can also connect with the BC Justice Reform Initiative on Facebook.

Reply to Open Letter to LSS

LSS received an open letter in response to one of ten fact sheets in our award-winning Live Safe End Abuse series, an information sheet for men abused by their female partners. Although written in gender-neutral language, the balance of the fact sheets are intended to meet the needs of abused women. Concerns had been brought to LSS in the past regarding the exclusive focus of our Legal Information for Battered Women series and the Live Safe End Abuse series was intended to address those concerns. We agree with feedback that it would be appropriate to address abuse of a woman by her male partner with gender-specific language, particularly as we have addressed the issue of men’s abuse by women. Accordingly, we have now posted a fact sheet with gender-specific language for women abused by men.

As to our publishing priorities, we are aware of the scarcity of resources and take care to avoid duplication of public legal information. In planning the scope of the Live Safe End Abuse series, we were informed by our Report on a Community Review of LSS Publications on Violence against Women in Relationships, available on our website.  Somewhat surprisingly, considering the topic was violence against women, the need for a publication for men abused by women emerged.  The report also flagged a need for information regarding abuse for the LGBT community. During our follow-up research, we found no BC publications for men abused by women, but did find resources for the LGBT community. Rather than duplicate information, we linked to the EVA website which has a compilation of resources. The issue uncovered in our Report seemed to reflect a lack of awareness of existing resources rather than an absence of resources. To further improve accessibility, we added additional links to EVA’s site, and worked with Qmunity, adding direct links to their website and Abuse in Same Sex Relationships and Transgender People and Relationship Abuse publications.  We are committed to continued work with community agencies to identify and fill gaps in public legal information.

Our fact sheet for men was, and is, consistent with government-produced Canadian public information on the topic. The men’s publication has been well received by victim serving agencies that work with this demographic. The appreciation expressed and the demand for this information confirms LSS is on the correct track in providing it. However, concern was raised that the original publication could be used by abusive men to further abuse women. While a seemingly small possibility, because we could both respect that perspective and still provide relevant information for men, change was made. In addition to addressing that primary concern, other suggested minor changes as referenced in the open letter were introduced. Our next steps include additional legal and social science research to further consider points raised in the open letter and consultations to ensure that both men’s and women’s information needs are met by the newest fact sheets.  Interested agencies will be kept apprised and provided opportunity for feedback.

Sherry MacLennan
Director, Public Legal Information & Applications
Legal Services Society

LSS has now joined Facebook!

Today LSS joined the 16 million Canadians who use the social network to connect with each other and share information. Facebook allows us a unique opportunity to deliver our resources and information to groups that we may not have been able to reach before. As we expand into this new field we hope you’ll join us and help create a vibrant and engaged community that helps us reach our goal of a British Columbia where all people are able to find timely and lasting solutions to their legal issues.

Come take a look at our page. Like, share, and post to your heart’s content. We hope to see you there!

Don’t forget that you can also follow LSS on Twitter and Youtube.

FASD 101: Free information session on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

LSS Aboriginal LogoLinnette Farmer will be providing a free information session on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), “FASD 101.” The information session, which is open to lawyers, advocates, and LSS staff, will take place on September 21, 2011 in Vancouver. (See our flyer for the time and location. Please note that the September 20th information session described on the flyer is full.)

Linnette has been the Interior Region FASD Coordinator since 2006 as part of the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s FASD Key Worker and Parent Support Initiative. With her passion for sharing information in an interactive and dynamic style, Linnette will increase your understanding of FASD to help you build positive and constructive relationships with clients who have FASD.

Space is limited, so you need to RSVP to guarantee your spot!

Incapacity Planning: Changes to legislation relating to Representation Agreements and Enduring Powers of Attorney

Representation agreements and enduring powers of attorney are legal documents that allow individuals to plan for possible future incapability to manage their own affairs. These are tools that allow an individual to name another person to manage his or her personal and health care needs and financial matters in the event they are not able to do so on their own.

Amendments to legislation relating to representation agreements and enduring powers of attorney came into force on Sept. 1, 2011.

To learn more, please visit the BC Ministry of Attorney General website for information about representation agreements and enduring powers of attorney, useful forms, and links to resources and related legislation.

Today is World Refugee Day!

Celebrate World Refugee Day today. World Refugee Day has been officially adopted by the United Nations, and also marks the anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

For those of you in the Lower Mainland, the Surrey/North Delta Settlement Consortium has partnered with the City of Surrey, which has the largest refugee population in the greater Vancouver area, to host an event to celebrate refugees and welcome new residents. The Surrey/North Delta Settlement Consortium includes Options Community Services Society, Progressive Intercultural Community Services (PICS), S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Foundation, and DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society.

Location: Guildford Recreation Center, 15105 – 105 Avenue, Surrey
Date and time: July 20, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

For more information on World Refugee Day, visit the United Nations website.