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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.

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.

First Nations Court expanded duty counsel has a new phone number!

Rob Frederickson, expanded duty counsel for First Nations Court in New Westminster, now has a new toll-free number: 1-877-601-6066. He can still be reached at 604-825-1861 for those of you in Greater Vancouver.

Duty counsel are lawyers who give free legal advice at court, the day of court, while expanded First Nations duty counsel are lawyers who help people apply for First Nations Court and give legal advice on or before the day of court. You or your client can call Rob Frederickson at 1-877-601-6066 (no charge) or 604-825-1861 for information about applying to have a sentencing hearing in First Nations Court.

First Nations Court is located at the New Westminster Provincial Court, and is presided over by Judge Marion Buller Bennett. First Nations Court takes a holistic, restorative, and healing approach to sentencing, with a focus on rehabilitation whenever possible. The court sits once a month and hears criminal and related child protection matters. The court can hear cases referred to it from all over BC.

For more information about First Nations Court, Gladue rights (Gladue refers to the unique consideration judges must give an Aboriginal person when sentencing or setting bail), and more, check out the LSS fact sheet Are You Aboriginal? Do You Have a Bail Hearing? Are You Being Sentenced for a Crime? Do You Know About First Nations Court?

The Violence Against Women in Relationships policy — Updated!

The Violence Against Women in Relationships (VAWIR) policy, prepared by the BC ministries of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Attorney General, and Children and Family Development, has recently been updated. The new policy focuses on integrated services; that is, the need for a coordinated response to domestic violence among all agencies involved.

The ministries identified the need for change following the Lee/Park coroner’s inquest and the Representative for Children and Youth’s report on the death of Christian Lee. The report recognizes a number of factors that contributed to an uncoordinated response, including a lack of consistent policies and tools for responding to domestic violence situations across all systems. The updated VAWIR policy attempts to address some of these factors.

The VAWIR policy recognizes that most domestic violence is carried out by men against women and that women are at greater risk of more severe violence, but the strategies in this policy are intended to apply equally to all domestic violence situations regardless of the offender/victim’s gender. The policy also looks at unique considerations for groups of women who face greater risk of violence than others, including Aboriginal and immigrant and visible minority women.

The VAWIR policy was first developed in 1993 to revise and expand the original 1986 Ministry of Attorney General Wife Assault policy, and has been updated several times over the years to reflect applicable legislative changes (including Criminal Code and provincial legislation) and changes to operational policies.

Family law advice — Only a phone call away

TelephoneAfter only three months of service, legal aid’s new family law telephone advice line is producing positive results. The line provides “next step” advice on family law issues such as custody, access, guardianship, child support, spousal support, property division, family agreements, adoption, and court procedures.

“It saved my life,” says a recent client who called the Family LawLINE and spoke to one of the legal aid lawyers.
“[The lawyer] gave me some information, I used it and everything worked out 100 percent,” explains the client, whose identity is confidential. “Within two days, I had my issues worked out — he did a really good job.”

“Our clients seem to be extremely satisfied,” says Kenyon McGee, who has a practice based in the small Kootenay community of Winlaw and is one of six lawyers providing advice for the service. “A lot of callers are worried, frightened, and don’t know where to turn. At the end of the call, they’re calmed down and pointed in the right direction.”

Since November 2010, the Family LawLINE has received about 140 calls a month with an average wait time of only three minutes.

McGee says he experiences several scenarios that include the client who needs funds for a lawyer, the client who can move forward without a lawyer, and the client who needs counselling resources rather than legal help.

“No matter what the situation, I have resources at my fingertips to guide them in the right direction,” he says.

“Most of the callers are grateful to have someone listen to them,” says Linda Thiessen, coordinator of civil law service and projects for LSS. “They are used to getting shunted around from one place to the next with no one taking the time to actually listen to them.”

Please visit our website for more information about the Family LawLINE.