Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Imagining Courts that Work for Women Survivors of Violence.

Pivot Legal Society

This morning, we joined forces with Atira Women’s Resource Society, Battered Women’s Support Services, The YWCA of Metro Vancouver, Kiwassa NeighbourhoodDSC_0183.jpg House and WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre to launch our latest report: Imagining Courts that Work for Women Survivors of Violence.

This report is the result of a multi-year collaboration among the women who participate in Pivot’s Jane Doe Advocate’s group, which meets monthly to network, participate in legal education and to work on access to justice issues impacting vulnerable women. The catalyst for this project was an informal conversation at one of our meetings about whether specialized courts could better meet the needs of the women we work with.

Today’s report lays out concerns with the current criminal justice system response to violence against women, but the real focus of this project is on imagining an DSC_0102.jpgachievable alternative for British Columbia. None of the concerns raised in our research were unique to British Columbia, so we were able to evaluate a broad range of program and practice solutions from other jurisdictions in our quest for solutions.

In the report we make the case that BC is falling behind other jurisdictions when it comes to innovation in the area of violence against women. With the exception of a small pilot program in Duncan, British Columbia is one of the few jurisdictions in Canada without specialized courts mandated to hear cases involving violence against women in relationships.

BC is at a critical juncture on the path to developing an effective system response to violence against women. We didn’t plan it this way, but we are excited to be launching this report in the midst of the BC Justice Reform Initiative and less than two months after the new Provincial Office of Domestic Violence released its preliminary action plan.

There have already been calls for specialized courts in British Columbia, including from the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth and, more recently, from Geoffrey Cowper who suggests specialized courts in his report commissioned by the Minister of Justice as part of the BC Justice Reform Initiative.

Our research highlights the diversity of specialized court models and demonstrates that the most successful specialized courts rely heavily on partnerships with women-serving agencies that have a deep understanding of the dynamics of violence against women. As relative latecomers to the discussion on specialized courts, I believe we have an opportunity to draw on the best aspects of specialized courts in other jurisdictions in order to create the most effective justice system response to gendered violence in this county. In order to seize that opportunity we now begin the difficult work of turning a report into action.

We have sent copies of this report to the Minister of Justice and to the new Provincial Domestic Violence Office. Along with copies of the report, we have extended an invitation to government to meet with us to talk about the way forward. In so doing, we are presenting government with an opportunity to make the most of the Justice Reform Initiative by developing partnerships with women’s organizations and community-based agencies that have a wealth of expertise to contribute to project of ‘modernizing’ BC's justice system and creating courts that work for women survivors of violence.

Darcie Bennett
Campaigns director, Pivot Legal Society

P.S. Read the whole report by clicking here.
Our mailing address is: 121 Heatley Ave, Vancouver, BC V6A 3E9, Canada
Copyright (C) 2012 Pivot Legal Society All rights reserved.

Love Doesn't Hurt: Family Violence & How Kids Can Get Help

Love Doesn't Hurt 
Public Service Announcement Featuring Ryan Kesler 

Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks is featured in a new Public Service Announcement aimed at breaking the silence on children's exposure to violence against women.

All children have a right to be safe. If violence is happening in your home, know that:
• Violence Is Not Your Fault
• You are Not Alone
• There are People Who Can Help

For more information go to www.bcsth.ca



For help call the Children's Helpline: 1-800-668-6868

Call the Representative for Children & Youth,
or visit the website link here: 


The Rep and her team of advocates makes sure that young people under the age of 19 who are receiving services from the government, including children and youth in care, are treated fairly and have their voices heard. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Transforming Our Future: Public Legal Education Advocacy Workshop

West Coast LEAF is excited to offer a Transforming Our Future workshop in Surrey at the end of November Transforming Our Future is a two-day practical public legal education course designed for activists, advocates, and community service providers to learn about the Canadian justice system, human rights law, equality rights, and how to develop legal strategies to address the impact of systemic discrimination. 

When: Monday, November 26th and Tuesday, November 27th 10:00 am – 4:30 pm

Where: Room 418, Surrey City Centre Library (10350 University Drive, Surrey – at the Surrey Central Skytrain station)

Cost: $100 – Subsidies available upon request – please contact Deanna at education@westcoastleaf.org or 604-684-8772 ext. 114 for more information

The goal of Transforming Our Future is to provide community advocates and activists with a strong understanding of how to use and implement legal strategies for dealing with some of the systemic issues that you deal with on a day-to-day basis. It also, and perhaps what I found most useful when I took it for the first time, provides a thorough overview of the justice system in Canada. The program is very hands on and learning is mostly done through activities. The program provides attendees with two guide books as well as a training booklet that will help them in bringing their learning back to the organization and sharing their knowledge with others. 

If you are a Law Foundation funded advocate, course fees can be a part of your professional development benefits. Please contact the Law Foundation of BC for more information.

West Coast Women's Legal Education & Action Fund
555 - 409 Granville Street, Vancouver, BC V6C 1T2
tel: 604.684.8772 ext.112 fax 604.684.1543 toll free in BC: 1.866.737.7716
West Coast LEAF's mandate is to achieve equality by changing historic patterns of systemic discrimination against women through BC-based equality rights litigation, law reform and public legal education. Please invest in women’s equality by making a tax-deductible donation at: www.canadahelps.org

Although we do our best to keep up to date on legal developments, since the law changes so often, West Coast LEAF cannot guarantee the legal accuracy or completeness of the contents of this email. Any information provided is for general knowledge only. It is not meant to be used as legal advice for specific legal problems. If you need legal help, please contact a lawyer or advocate.

Don’t miss our fabulous fundraiser: an exclusive performance of Dickens’ Women at The Cultch on November 14 2012.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

New Family Law Resource on Separation Agreements

West Coast LEAF is proud to announce our recent publication entitled "Separation Agreements: Your Right to Fairness". 

This plain language family law resource gives a general overview of the financial issues surrounding separation, ranging from preparing a financial statement to when it might be possible to apply to the courts to change or cancel a separation agreement. This 12 page booklet is intended for anyone interested in learning more about the financial issues surrounding separation.

The booklet can be downloaded free of charge from our website, and is part of a larger three year project that aims to enhance women's knowledge of their rights in family law. The project stems from our successful intervention at the Supreme Court of Canada in the Rick v Brandsema case. In that case, the parties entered a separation agreement that left Mr. Brandsema with substantially more assets than Ms. Rick after 27 years of marriage. The Supreme Court of Canada found that the parties' separation agreement was unfair and invalid because Mr. Brandsema exploited Ms. Rick's vulnerabilities and purposely misled her about the state of their financial affairs.

After Rick v Brandsema concluded, West Coast LEAF received numerous calls from women and advocates faced with the challenge of needing the courts to review unfair separation agreements. For these women, legal representation is often unaffordable and inaccessible, particularly since family law legal aid is very rarely available in BC for such an issue.

We believe that the most effective ways to address the pressing need for legal representation for women in our current legal aid climate is to enhance community-based legal services and provide educational opportunities for advocates on important issues concerning women's rights in family law. We are currently developing workshops for advocates and service providers to help deepen their understanding of separation agreements, to assist them in walking women through "Separation Agreements: Your Right to Fairness", and answer commonly asked questions that might arise. We intend to begin delivering these workshops around the province in the second half of 2012.

West Coast LEAF’s mission is to achieve equality by changing historic
patterns of systemic discrimination against women through BC-based
equality rights litigation, law reform and public legal education.

New Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) Safety Resources from Legal Services Society

Legal Services Society

A Lawyer's Guide to Relationship Violence

·       A resource for lawyers and advocates which describes relationship violence, signs of abuse, and risk factors. It also provides information about safety planning and where your clients can get help, and also direction as to where one can find more information and resources.

Two new “Live Safe – End Abuse” fact sheets


Negotiating Domestic Violence: An Exploratory Study

Operations Support Officer, Langley RCMP Detachment, Langley, BC, for the Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia, May 2011. © Richard Konarski.