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Introducing Alan Gaudette: Vernon local agent

Like Arthur Channer in Salmon Arm, who we introduced yesterday, Alan Gaudette has extensive family law experience. He has practiced law in BC since he was called to the BC bar in 1983, after graduating with a law degree from the University of Ottawa in 1981 and articling at Rieley Taylor in Kamloops for one year. Alan became an associate and partner at Barker, Gaudette in Vernon until 1986 and then worked at Kenny, Diebert and Gaudette in Vernon from 1987 to 1993. He then started Alan M. Gaudette Law Corporation in 1993, where he currently practises as a sole practitioner.

Over the past 25 years, Alan has accepted numerous LSS family law referrals, including many CFCSA matters.

Alan is also an active member of the Okanagan Collaborative Family Law Group and has experience as a practice supervisor for the Law Society of BC.

“We love the community and the people here,” Alan says.

In addition to the many years of legal aid experience these gentlemen both have to offer, they also have the support and knowledge of legal assistant Mary, who also worked for Sandra Sinclair, the former local agent, since 1998.

“Thanks to Mary, the foundation was there when Alan and I stepped in,” Arthur says. “She’s been an incredible help.”

To find Alan’s office or other local agent offices around BC, or to contact legal aid by phone, please visit the local agent office page on the LSS website.

Introducing Arthur Channer: Salmon Arm local agent

With decades of legal experience, local agent Arthur Channer has a lot to offer the community of Salmon Arm.

When Salmon Arm local agent Sandra Sinclair left to join the Crown counsel office, Arthur offered to fill in until a new local agent was hired, but decided to stay on because he enjoyed the role.

“As soon as I had said yes to filling in for those couple of months, it seemed appropriate to apply for the local agent job because I really enjoyed it,” Arthur says.

Arthur has been involved with legal aid, particularly in family law cases, since moving to Toronto from London, England in 1973. Arthur continued his work in legal aid when he moved to Calgary, where he was a Crown prosecutor as well as chairman of the Calgary John Howard Society, which provides rehabilitative and re-integrative services to released criminals. Arthur and his wife Maxine stayed in Calgary for 25 years before moving to Edmonton for four years, where he ran the Red Deer office for Legal Aid Alberta. From there, the couple moved to their current home in Salmon Arm.

Throughout the past six years in Salmon Arm, Arthur ran a part-time law practice and worked at the local pro-bono law clinic, providing services for a number of clients. Outside of the legal profession, Arthur is known for his work as director of the Shuswap Theatre and also as co-founder of SMART PL, a support group he formed with his wife for developmentally challenged kids and their parents.

Arthur Channer and Alan Gaudette

Arthur Channer (left) and Alan Gaudette (right)

Tomorrow, we will introduce Arthur’s counterpart in Vernon, Alan Gaudette, and legal assistant, Mary, who helps both Arthur and Alan with their legal aid duties.

To find Arthur’s office or other local agent offices around BC, or to contact legal aid by phone, please visit the local agent office page on the LSS website.

Hot off the press: Legal Aid Can Help You

Legal Aid Can Help YouThis redesigned and updated brochure is now available in traditional and simplified Chinese, English, French, Punjabi, and Spanish. Legal Aid Can Help You outlines in plain language what legal aid is, and how and where to apply for it. It also lists the phone numbers of all legal aid offices in BC.

LSS Outreach staff hold videoconference for healthcare workers

Last week, LSS staff made a presentation via videoconference to healthcare workers in communities across BC. The presentation covered public legal education and information resources, legal advice, and legal representation services, and told the story of an archetypal client (or “persona”), who has been called Amelia in previous workshops.

Staff delivered the presentation through the Provincial Health Services Authority’s Telehealth program, which runs a videoconferencing system with over 100 locations around the province. Presentations such as these are an important step in support of LSS priorities, which include collaborating with other service providers, like healthcare workers, to increase access to services. For some British Columbians, such as a woman caught in an abusive relationship, a person struggling with addiction, or a new Canadian without legal status in Canada, a hospital is one of the few places they may turn for help.

“This will make a real difference to helping our clients — even before they are our clients — navigate the system,” said Sherry MacLennan, director of Public Legal Information and Applications, about reaching out to healthcare workers.

The presentation was a good opportunity to inform people about accessing local services, such as the Clicklaw HelpMap and local agent offices, as attendees were located in Cranbrook, Invermere, Kamloops, Kelowna, Mission, Powell River, and Williams Lake, as well as the Lower Mainland.

Staff were impressed that the health professionals in attendance found time in their busy schedules and over their lunch hours to learn about the ways they can provide extra help to people in their communities.

Seeking community partnerships — Deadline reminder!

Legal Aid is seeking community partnerships with advocacy or service organizations, local Aboriginal organizations, and other suitable candidates to improve access to our services in rural, remote, and/or Aboriginal communities.

The application deadline to submit proposals for this opportunity is Friday, April 29, 2011, at 4:30 p.m., Pacific Standard Time.

If you have questions about the application, please email them to communitypartnerships@lss.bc.ca, attention Mike Delaney, community engagement coordinator. For more information and to access the application form, please visit our website.

Seeking community partnerships to help improve access to legal aid services

Legal Aid would like to improve access to our services in rural, remote, and/or Aboriginal communities. Our goal is to form partnerships with service providers who will become the face of legal aid in their communities, distributing PLEI, sharing their knowledge about legal aid, and helping people access our services.

The amount of the partnership contracts will be negotiated but are not expected to exceed $10,000 per year. Agreements will be initially for a term ending on March 31, 2012.

We are now inviting proposals for this opportunity from advocacy or service organizations, local Aboriginal organizations, public libraries, hospitals, schools and other educational institutions, neighbourhood houses, local agents and other suitable candidates.

To apply, interested candidates simply need to fill in an application form that is available on the LSS website and email it to LSS. Please note that the application deadline is Friday, April 29, 2011, at 4:30 p.m., Pacific Standard Time.

If you have questions about the application, please email them to communitypartnerships@lss.bc.ca. For more information, please visit our website.

Family duty counsel: How can they help?

In courthouses around BC, duty counsel lawyers work hard to help solve family legal issues as efficiently as possible.

Brad Beer

Brad Beer, family duty counsel lawyer

“The family duty counsel program is a really valuable service to the public and is an excellent bang-for-the-buck, so to speak, for the legal system,” says Brad Beer, a family duty counsel lawyer in Port Coquitlam. “We are providing a valuable service to families because we assist them in communication and understanding, and you can’t really put a price on that.”

In Provincial Court, lawyers like Brad provide the public with advice on family law issues that range from child custody and access to court procedure. They also speak to the judge about simple matters on behalf of clients. In Supreme Court, duty counsel can provide up to three hours of free legal advice as well as help clients in Chambers, where applications, not trials, are heard.

Duty counsel lawyers are available in all Provincial and Supreme Courts on a walk-in basis. In Provincial Courts in Vancouver, Port Coquitlam, and Surrey, and in Supreme Court in Vancouver, appointments, which are encouraged, can also be made.

Brad says his goal as family duty counsel lawyer is to help disputing parties reach an agreement, but if that doesn’t happen, he helps them and the court plan the next step in the process.

“Sometimes the parties are close to … an agreement and we can make a suggestion and help them avoid any further disputes about the issue,” Brad explains. “For example, we can help the parents agree on the living arrangements of the children for the time being. We’re not necessarily going to solve custody or guardianship issues, but hopefully we can at least get them to the point where they’re not jerking each other around and there’s some understanding in place.”

For more information about family duty counsel, please visit the LSS website.

More about the Kamloops local agent

We introduced the Kamloops local agent, Louise Richards, yesterday, and today, we’ll introduce her team.

Louise works with two local agent assistants, May and Janet, who were in the Kamloops office before Louise joined the team. Janet started working for LSS in 2003 at the Kamloops Regional Office. When that shut down, it was a natural next step for her to work with Louise. Shortly after, May (a former classmate of Janet’s in the legal secretary program at University College of the Cariboo, now Thompson Rivers University) joined LSS in 2004.

“Louise and the staff of the Elizabeth Fry Society have made us feel very welcome and all are enjoyable to work with,” Janet said. “We have settled nicely in to our new office and routine — the transition made somewhat easier thanks to the Starbucks next door!”

“They’re the real local agents here — I’m just a figurehead,” Louise said of her co-workers. “They’re the ones who keep things running and they do an amazing job.”

Introducing Louise Richards: Kamloops local agent

With almost 25 years of legal aid experience under her belt, Louise Richards brings valuable insight and knowledge to LSS as the new local agent in Kamloops.

After graduating from the University of British Columbia Law School in 1984, Louise was called to the bar a year later in 1985.

Louise Richards

Louise Richards

“From the beginning, I knew I was interested in legal aid access to justice issues,” Louise said.

Her legal aid career began with a position at Merritt Legal Services in 1986. This experience led to a job at the LSS office in Kamloops in 1989, which unfortunately ended due to downsizing in 2002. Still passionate about legal aid, Louise joined the Elizabeth Fry Society in Kamloops and is now the organization’s executive director, a position she still holds in addition to being the LSS local agent.

“In order to have a society in which people are equal, we all need access to justice,” Louise said. “The legal aid services provided as the local agent are a piece of that picture — it also fits in well with the poverty law advocacy services that we provide out of the same office.”

Originally from Castlegar, Louise is a fan of BC’s interior and the city of Kamloops. “Kamloops is just small enough that I can sometimes see changes and improvements on issues that I’m working on,” she explained. “And, everyone here is pretty friendly.”

Louise is involved with several groups, including the Poverty Law Advocacy Program, an Elizabeth Fry initiative that helps people with low incomes and legal issues. She’s also chair of the Kamloops Women’s Resource Group Society, which provides support and a safe place for girls and women.

Outside of work, the mother of two teenagers uses the abundant natural space in Kamloops for cross-country skiing and daily runs with her puppy Bella.

Legal Services Society (LSS) response to the report of the Public Commission on Legal Aid

The Public Commission on Legal Aid, established in June 2010 to gather input from British Columbians about their priorities regarding legal aid, released its final report, Foundation for Change, on March 8, 2011.

Mark Benton, QC, LSS executive director, made the following statement in response to the report.

“LSS is responsible for providing legal aid in BC. It was not a member of the commission. The commission was a joint initiative of the Canadian Bar Association (BC Branch), the Law Society of BC, the Law Foundation of BC, the BC Crown Counsel Association, the Vancouver Bar Association, and the Victoria Bar Association. None of these organizations is responsible for the delivery of legal aid.

LSS welcomes the opportunity that the commission’s report provides to begin a discussion about much-needed improvements to BC’s legal aid program. LSS endorses the commission’s conclusion that the current scope and availability of legal aid in BC does not adequately meet the needs of the public. LSS also endorses the recommendation that legal aid must be recognized as an essential public service and that significantly more funding is needed.

The report and its recommendations are based on submissions the commission received from the public. As the commission notes in the disclaimer on page 20, it accepted those submissions “at face value” and did not “review the submissions in light of the policies of LSS.” As a result, the information contained in the report does not necessarily reflect the current state of legal aid in BC. Up-to-date information about legal aid is available on the LSS website and the Family Law in BC website.

Many of the concerns mentioned in the report have been addressed, including the restoration of many services. LSS also established in 2010 a new community engagement department to ensure legal aid services meet local needs, particularly in rural and remote communities. See the LSS website for additional LSS comments regarding the report.

LSS looks forward to future discussions with the commission about what it sees as the priorities for publicly funded legal services in BC.”