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Hot off the press: Your Welfare Rights

Your Welfare RightsWe’ve reprinted our popular booklet Your Welfare Rights. There have been some changes to the law since the booklet was last printed in April 2012. These changes are highlighted and explained at the beginning of the booklet. Previous versions of the booklet and/or update insert should be recycled.

This booklet explains in plain language:

  • who can get welfare,
  • how to apply for welfare,
  • what benefits are available,
  • your responsibilities while on welfare, and
  • how to appeal a decision about your benefits.

The booklet also has detailed information on who can help you and where to get more information.

Hot Off the Press: Six New French Translations

LSS is committed to providing PLE publications in French for both our francophone community here in BC and, of course, for all French-speaking newcomers to BC.

We have six new French translations available: our new child protection publication, How to Get A Court-Appointed Lawyer for Your Child Protection Case, and five of our criminal law booklets. These include four titles in the new Defending Yourself series, meaning that all six booklets in this series are now available in French. The French version of Representing Yourself in a Criminal Trial was also re-translated to match the recent English revision.

All the new translations are available online (only) on our website.

Thank you to the Francophone Affairs Program in BC for funding these translations, made possible through the Canada–British Columbia Official Languages Agreement on French-Language Services.

See our website for a full list of all our French PLE publications.

Comment obtenir un avocat commis d’office pour votre dossier relatif à la protection de la jeunesse How to Get A Court-Appointed Lawyer for Your Child Protection CaseComment obtenir un avocat commis d’office pour votre dossier relatif à la protection de la jeunesse
How to Get A Court-Appointed Lawyer for Your Child Protection Case

Comment vous défendreComment vous défendre pour possession de biens criminellement obtenus d’une valeur de moins de 5 000 $

Defending Yourself: Possession of Property Under $5,000 Obtained by Crime

Comment vous défendre pour possession d’une drogue illicite
Defending Yourself: Possession of an Illegal Drug

Vous représenter vous-même lors d’un procès criminal

Comment vous défendre pour un méfait
Defending Yourself: Mischief

Comment vous défendre pour violation d’ordonnance du tribunal
Defending Yourself: Breach of a Court Order

Vous représenter vous-même lors d’un procès criminal
Representing Yourself in a Criminal Trial




Hot off the press: Family Law in BC: Quick Reference Tool translations

QRT translationsWe’ve translated this popular set of postcards into Chinese (simplified and traditional), Punjabi, and Spanish and made them available in print.

This set of postcards covers the key concepts of family law, while highlighting the changes due to the March 2013 Family Law Act. The tool is meant to provide a helpful overview before readers move on to more comprehensive resources.

Finding BC laws online

Starting April 2, 2014, you can now find all BC laws on www.BCLaws.ca. This information is publicly available for no cost.

Previously, BC legislation was split between BC Laws and QP LegalEze. BC Laws had only current legislation and had limited functionality. QP LegalEze was meant for lawyers, with all BC legislation and many other documents related to legislation. It was also a more full-featured site that required a subscription to access.

Under the new system, all the content on QP LegalEze will be available for free on BC Laws.

Personal Credits for Indian Residential Schools Survivors

Indian residential school survivors who got a Common Experience Payment are also eligible for Personal Credits. Personal Credits are available for educational purposes, and cover up to $3,000. Family members of eligible people can also use these credits.

To use your Personal Credits, you must submit your Personal Credits Acknowledgement Form. This form was sent in the mail to anyone who got a Common Experience Payment. The deadline to submit your Personal Credits Acknowledgement Form is October 31, 2014.

Once your Personal Credits Acknowledgement Form has been processed, you will get a Personal Credits Redemption Form. This form must be post marked no later than December 1, 2014.

To request a form, or for help with filling out your forms, call 1-866-343-1858. If you’re hard of hearing, call 1-877-627-7027 (TTY).

For more information, see the Indian Residential Schools Settlement — Official Court Website.

Where to find our publications on Crown Publications

Crown publications quick linkIf you regularly order our publications from Crown Publications, you may notice that the “quick link” to LSS publications is missing. You can now find our publications via the BC Public Legal Education & Information link.

Over the last few months, we have been collaborating with People’s Law School BC to help them move from their in-house ordering and shipping system to using Crown Publications. Starting April 1, 2014, you will find both LSS and People’s Law School publications via the BC Public Legal Education & Information quick link.

All of our publications, and those of People’s Law School BC, are available for free from Crown Publications. You can find instructions on how to order publications on our Publications page under I want to get a publication.

Consolidating the ordering system for both our organizations’ publications makes it easier for users to find and receive the information they need. Any other public legal information providers that are interested in having their publications distributed by Crown Publications can contact us at distribution@lss.bc.ca for help and advice.

The law: let me Google that for you

There’s an interesting anomaly when you look at how young people use the Internet. They use it for everything: to shop, socialize, waste time, find jobs, and pretty much anything else you can think of. What they don’t seem to use it for is to help them to solve their legal issues.

Catrina Denvir from the University College of London set out to look at this anomaly, and has released her initial findings. It’s fascinating, especially since we spend so much of our time and energy making legal information available online. To talk about this though, we’re going to have to pull the current back a bit and share some of our experiences making legal information websites.

The study

Ms. Denvir’s preliminary work looked at 100 students aged 18–24 from the University College of London. Participants were given six questions based on a hypothetical scenario (having to do with either housing or employment) and asked to try and answer them without the help of the Internet. They were then allowed to use the Internet to either verify or revise their answers.

So, how did they do?

The good

The Internet did increase the students’ knowledge and helped them answer the questions. On average, the students answered more questions correctly when they were allowed to use the Internet.

This is fantastic! Considering how much legal information we put online, it would be really disheartening if the opposite was true.

The bad

Students typically spent less than 10 minutes searching for answers. When you look at legal questions — and we don’t know how complicated the questions the students were asked were — 10 minutes doesn’t seem like a long time. From our perspective though, this isn’t too surprising. People’s attention spans are short on the Internet.

Some participants didn’t consider jurisdiction when looking at information. The Internet rarely recognizes borders. Search engines can lead people to sites outside their own jurisdiction, which is why it is so important to identify that our information is about the law in BC.

When students went to look for answers, they focused consistently on search engines. They rarely browsed through sites or used search functions in sites. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it isn’t good either. It means that sites need to make sure that they are in the top Google search results for pretty much everything they cover. For example, being on the first page of Google for “divorce” isn’t good enough; you need to try and cover as may iterations of questions around divorce as possible. That isn’t an easy task.

The ugly

Just because they could use the Internet to find information about the law and their rights didn’t mean that the participants knew what to do next. Despite knowing what their rights were, they often couldn’t identify what next steps to take. In a bit of serendipity, this is a problem that we’ve been mulling over for a while now. User testing of print and online information is critically important to make sure that people can take action. We are increasingly aware that you can have a fantastic pamphlet explaining the law, but if it doesn’t explicitly lay out what the next steps are, people will often flounder. We’ve been including clear steps in many of our publications — our self-help guides for example— and we’re working to include more of that in the future.

What does this mean?

It means that the Internet can be an effective tool for helping people solve their legal problems, but you need to meet users — not just youth — on their own terms. It’s a bad habit to think that just because these people have a legal problem, they will adapt and consume the information the way that we want them to. It’s not an easy process, but it’s an important one. Lately we’ve been putting more and more effort into putting ourselves in a room with the people who use our publications and finding out what works for them and what they want to see. That is ultimately the lesson that we need to take from this.

Catrina Denvir’s full report will be available early in 2014.

–Nate Prosser, Online Outreach Coordinator

Which publication is right for me?

LSS Readability ListWhen more than one publication covers the same topic, how do you decide which is best for you or someone you are helping? To answer this question, we created a readability chart. It lists publications by subject and then ranks them by level of complexity — levels 1, 2, and 3.

Level 1 publications are the easiest to understand. They:

  • require no legal understanding,
  • cover the basics of the law and first steps to take, and
  • are written for people who have no experience with the law.

Level 2 publications cover the topics in more depth. They explain the law in plain language, but the reader may have to read, understand, and make decisions about what to do next.

Level 3 publications assume that the reader has a basic familiarity with the law. They are designed to help advocates and intermediaries; other people should be able to understand these publications if they have good literacy skills.

If you have any feedback about the readability chart — or any of our publications — please feel free to contact us at publications@lss.bc.ca.

FLA case law, property division and unmarried couples

When the Family Law Act (FLA) was announced at the end of 2012, many people pointed out a quirk in the law that would effect unmarried couples who split up between March 18, 2011 and March 18, 2013. As a general rule, laws do not affect events from before they came into force. However, the way the FLA was written means that it applied to unmarried couples who split up as far back as March 11, 2011.

Up until now, it has been unclear whether the court system would interpret the act this way. A recent ruling, Meservy v. Field, has confirmed that this is indeed how the law will work.

The old Family Relations Act did not consider unmarried couples to be spouses under any circumstances, and so did not allow them to follow those rules for dividing property. Instead, they would have to start a Supreme Court case under the existing rules about unjust enrichment to try and divide property when they split up.

The FLA considers unmarried couples to be spouses as long as they have been living in a “marriage-like” relationship for at least two years. It also gives couples two years from the date they split up to start an application with the court to divide property. This means that unmarried couples who split up before the FLA came into force (on March 18, 2013) could file for the division of property using the FLA rules as long as they:

  • split up after March 18, 2011, and
  • it hasn’t been more than two years since the split.

Bulk orders: how many free LSS publications will I receive?

Starting March 1, 2014, when you’re ordering LSS publications in bulk, you will receive them in sets of 25 copies. Crown Publications (our distributor) is making changes to streamline their ordering and shipping process. The changes only affect you if you have set up an LSS customer account so that you can order multiple copies.

You can still order one copy and mail it to yourself or a client. After March 1, if you order more than one copy:

  • and you order less than 25 copies, you will receive 25 copies.
  • and you order more than 25 copies, you will receive the nearest multiple of 25 (for example, 25, 50, 75, etc.).

All our publications — and the shipping — continue to be free, and these changes do not affect LSS’ distribution costs.

If Crown Publications ships more copies than you need immediately, please keep them on hand for future use, or give them to your LSS local agent, community partner, public library, or another social service that can make good use of them.

If you have any questions about account applications or order quantities, please contact LSS at 604-601-6000 or by email.