Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Anti-violence Training Webinars and Videos

The BC Society of Transition Houses (BCSTH) has launched five free webinars for anti-violence workers to help supplement their skills. 

Titles include:

  • Working with Mothers 
  • Working with Youth 
  • Working with Groups 
  • Resilience: Becoming Stronger After Trauma
  • Reducing Stress and Burnout: A Webinar for Anti-Violence Workers   
  • Listening Skills
  • The New Family Law Act - What's Happening
  • Other topics

Webinars are available via the BCSTH Online Community or their YouTube channel.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Case Law: Overview of findings for the Family Law Act

A Short Survey of Cases on the New Family Law Act

The following is drawn from a presentation I recently provided to the Legal Services Society / Law Foundation of British Columbia's 2014 Provincial Training Conference for Legal Advocates. It contains my extremely brief summaries of what the courts have had to say about the various provisions of the Family Law Act, between 18 March 2013, the date when the act came into force, and 31 October 2014.

  • Best interests, s. 37
  • Impact of family violence, s. 38
  • Guardianship, s. 39
  • Parenting arrangements, s. 40
  • Parental responsibilities, s. 41
  • Parenting time, s. 42
  • Supervised parenting time, s. 45
  • Relocation if no order, s. 46
  • Changing orders, s. 47
  • Appointment of guardians, s. 51
  • Terminating guardianship, s. 51
  • Orders for contact, s. 59
  • Supervised parenting time, s. 59
  • Denial of parenting time or contact, s. 61

Thursday, October 23, 2014

B.C. Child Protection Tips, Legislation and Resources

I am regularly contacted by people who have become involved in child protection proceedings with the local child protection authorities, here in B.C. this is the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD). 

I'm not able to provide individual advocacy, so I have put together this list of tips and resources to try to help people as they go through these situations. 

Child Protection Tips and Resources
  • Ensure that the child protection authorities provide both parents, and other relatives entitled to service, with all legal documents regarding the child(ren) in the case of child apprehension, or other court matters. 
  • Keep a log of dates, times, and subject matter discussed in meetings with child protection authorities, including any requests for you to address specific child protection concerns. 
  • Keep an organized file of all documents provided to you/your family by child protection authorities.
  • Ask your child protection worker to provide a detailed list of expectations, or a Risk Reduction Service Plan that clearly articulates what the identified child protection concerns are and what work they are asking you to do for them to be able to close your file, or in the case of a child apprehension, what you have to do to get your child(ren) back. 
  • As difficult as it can be trying to understand the child protection authorities' concerns about specific risk factors is very important. You can spend your time fighting against them, you can dispute things (something allegations should be disputed) and/or you can channel your energy into understanding their perspective and the concerns someone in the community had that led to the child protection report and put your energy into continuing to be the best, healthiest parent(s) you can be for your children. 
  • Try to build a respectful and cooperative relationship with your child protection worker. You don't have to like the worker, but if you can't find a way to work respectfully with them this will most likely be used against you in court, right, or wrong. In extraordinary circumstances, ask to speak to your worker's team leader to resolve issues, or in the most difficult situations, request a change of worker, after you have exhausted efforts to work with your assigned worker. 
  • This is a difficult one: take some time to deeply reflect about how things are going for you, as a parent, how your children are doing and if they need help in some areas, whether there are things that have become a problem for you, or in your family and consider what steps and action you are ready to take to improve things for everyone. 
  • Identify what supports and resources your child(ren), you and your family would benefit from and ask your child protection worker to help you access them. For instance, MCFD workers can assist parents in accessing child care subsidies, can advocate for increases in allowances for special diets for income assistance, can refer families to BC Housing and a host of other ways of providing supports. 
  • Keep documentation about ways that you are working on the risks the child protection authorities have identified. For instance, keep notes of all of your meetings with service providers and work you've been doing with them. 
  • Ask people you are involved with if they will write letters of support at the progress you have made.
  • Ensure you receive copies of all intake and assessment documents if you are engaging in services with contracted agencies. 
  • As you go through the legal process, MCFD will be required to provide you with disclosure of documents they have collected, stored and used to make decisions in your family matter. 
  • You can request your child protection file and MCFD records by applying through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). This can take a very long time. MCFD (and all other government Ministries) will have a Privacy Officer. If you want to request records held by Ministries, ask your child protection worker how to request your file and who to contact about this. 

Legal Representation
  • Try to obtain a lawyer. It can be very expensive to try to hire a lawyer to deal with child protection matters, but it is very important to have legal representation. Most parents are in a "David and Goliath" situation when child protection authorities become involved with a family. Having a lawyer can create more of an even playing field as family court is a very challenging environment with many confusing and arcane rules and ways of operating.
  • It can be difficult to obtain legal aid representation for child protection matter, but duty counsel are present at many court houses and most parents can speak to them, even briefly.
  • Ask your child protection worker how you can access legal aid for your matters, or if they can introduce you to duty counsel if you have to go to court. This is something they should be happy to support you with and it is good practice to ensure clients have legal representation. 
To find a lawyer, consult the Lawyer Lookup for your area:

Legal Services Society (aka legal aid)

This site explains what services are offered by Legal Services Society in B.C.

LSS Call Centre (legal aid applications)

Greater Vancouver: 604-408-2172

Outside Greater Vancouver: 1-866-577-2525 (call no charge)

Find out if there are Legal Aid offices in your community here: 

Legal Advocates

There are legal advocates at local agencies around B.C. who can help and support women who are going through the child protection process. They can help you understand and navigate the child protection system, attend meetings with you and advocate for your voice to be heard throughout the process. They can also provide emotional support and knowledge.

To find out if your community has legal advocates do an internet search for the following:

"legal advocate <your city>"

"women's centre <your city>" - If your community has a women's centre, or services for women, they may be able to direct you to legal advocates in your community.

Fathers may be able to find some support by doing internet searches for things like:

"father advocacy  <your city>" or "father child protection advocate"

BC's Child Protection Legislation

The Child, Family and Community Service Act (1996) is the legislation that governs child protection in B.C. Sometimes this is referred to as the "CFCSA." You can read through each section here:

Other Resources

Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD): Protecting Children
This page explains MCFD's legal mandate and child protection work: 

Family Law in BC from Legal Services Society (aka Legal Aid)

A Parent's Guide to Child Protection Law in BC


Child Protection Context

I worked in MCFD as a child protection worker for several years (and was a former elected union representative) and I still have colleagues who work in the system. I have a very good understanding of the context of child protection practice in this Ministry. BC's child protection and other systems of care have been under-resourced, under-staffed and are overwhelming for workers, as well children and families and many other stakeholders for many, many years. 

This Ministry almost always has the highest level of medical/sick leaves across the entire BC government due to the stress and unhealthy workplace conditions for workers. Many workers face the highest levels of stress on a daily basis due to the nature of child protection work. Over time, this depletes many workers' health and well-being and can lead to things like anxiety, depression, other mental health issues, physical health problems and burnout. 

MCFD also has a very high attrition rate of workers resigning from child protection jobs, going to work in other areas in the same Ministry, or leaving government altogether. This is why parents, children and others experience a very chaotic and challenging time dealing with Ministry workers, who can disappear at any time, with a new person being assigned your case. 

When I worked in MCFD I had the fortune to work with many long-term clients. Once we developed caring, respectful and supportive relationships (sometimes this took a while, sometimes it never happened), many clients were able to develop empathy and understanding for the chaotic and challenging workplace environment and context I was faced with, and why it was so difficult for me to always be able to provide what they needed. Anything to do with resources is often out of the workers' hands. In many respects, I helped clients in spite of the organization and system I worked for and within. 

In most cases, once we each had a clear understanding of the identified child protection issue, needs and concerns involved, we could work together toward the same goals: to enhance the safety, health and well-being of all family members and work toward positive resolutions, which is something different for every family I worked with. 

You won't hear about this on the 6 o'clock news, but MCFD child protection workers, working with parents, family members and others, are doing great, supportive and effective work. Due to that work children remain with parents and other family members while important change work is taking place. Kids and parents are also reunited after apprehensions. Due to privacy and confidentiality laws, policies and regulations, you will never hear about these positive stories. 

No child protection worker should ever take offense to you respectfully, and seriously, asking them "No offense, but what can we do to not have MCFD involved with our family anymore?" Or "What do we need to do to have our file closed?" Listen and consider the answer. Ask questions, including what kind of supports they have to offer? What this tells the worker is that you are a motivated parent, who is willing to do what it takes to be a safe, healthy and child-focused parent. You can still fight things out in court, but while the glacial slow legal system grinds away, you will be engaging in a more positive, strategic and possibly,more  effective process that will likely help everyone accomplish the same goals.

Sec. 2: Guiding Principles of the CFCSA

2  This Act must be interpreted and administered so that the safety and well-being of children are the paramount considerations and in accordance with the following principles:

(a) children are entitled to be protected from abuse, neglect and harm or threat of harm;
(b) a family is the preferred environment for the care and upbringing of children and the responsibility for the protection of children rests primarily with the parents;
(c) if, with available support services, a family can provide a safe and nurturing environment for a child, support services should be provided;
(d) the child's views should be taken into account when decisions relating to a child are made;
(e) kinship ties and a child's attachment to the extended family should be preserved if possible;
(f) the cultural identity of aboriginal children should be preserved;
(g) decisions relating to children should be made and implemented in a timely manner.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

'Deadbeats' across Canada owe more than $3.7B in support

'Deadbeats' across Canada owe more than $3.7B in support

Programs to monitor support called 'seriously underfunded'

Moore, H. (2014). CBC News. 

They're commonly called "deadbeats" — people who refuse to support their families after courts order them to pay — and CBC News has learned they owe more than $3.7 billion across the country for support orders. Nearly two-thirds of all support orders in Canada are in arrears.
In Ontario that number jumps to 80 per cent, although the provincial government says it has replaced an outdated computer system, and officials have collected more than $6.9 billion in support payments since 2003.

Experts and recipients say there aren't enough staff to do an adequate job of monitoring the nearly half a million open files across the country.

One debtor in Saskatchewan owes more than $580,000 in arrears. Prince Edward Island's worst debtor owes $240,000, and one delinquent in the Northwest Territories owes $238,000.

Rollie Thompson, a professor of law at Dalhousie University, says something needs to change.

"It's important to remember that every single one of these programs is seriously underfunded," he said. "There's no gold star program in Canada you can talk about."

​CBC's data reveal there are just over 1,600 full-time jobs devoted to managing more than 470,000 open cases.

Caseloads range from a ratio of one employee to 233 cases in Quebec to 725 cases per employee in British Columbia.

"Politicians who talk big about families and children are the same people who aren't prepared to improve the staffing of maintenance enforcement programs," Thompson said.

Provincial maintenance enforcement programs started in the mid-1980s as a way to collect outstanding child and spousal support. The vast majority of cases referred are for child support.

Deadbeats are technically divorced partners, and experts say that 97 per cent are men.

Only three jurisdictions reveal their worst offenders, and two publish their photos online. The other provinces won't reveal the highest amount owing.

'Such a shame and waste,' says parent

In Manitoba, arrears topped $58 million as of August 2014. One parent, Lianna Anderson, 47, of Leaf Rapids, Man., is owed thousands of dollars from her ex-partner.

She thought it would be simple to collect once she registered with Manitoba's Maintenance Enforcement Office.

"I quickly found out that it sounds really good on paper," she said. "I find it to be such a shame and waste of taxpayers' dollars."

She hasn't received any payments from the maintenance enforcement program since last year, and the arrears keep building. Her complaints to the provincial enforcement office brought no results for months.

Manitoba's maintenance enforcement office finally sent her a letter apologizing for the lack of service in August.

"Basically, they didn’t even provide me the minimal level of service that they’re supposed to be," she said. "It’s disturbing."

Shauna Curtin, Manitoba's assistant deputy minister of justice, admits that sometimes errors do happen, but she says an officer is in place to review files.

"It's not a frequent occurrence, but when it does happen, we own responsibility for it," she said.

'A living nightmare'

All maintenance enforcement offices have ways of forcing deadbeat parents to pay, including garnishments, property seizures, taking away licences and even imposing jail time.

But Alan Little of Sasqualit, B.C., a father of three, says the system is too rigid and treats all payers as if they are deadbeats.

He has paid tens of thousands of dollars over the years for his children, but he lost his job and he got behind on child support."They don't stop the payments," he said. "It's never wiped off the books."

Since 1997, federal guidelines have determined how much parents need to pay for child support, but Little said problems arise when payers try to change orders to amounts they can afford.

His order is with the Nova Scotia provincial court, which told him it would take a year to get his case heard. He ended up on welfare at one point and had his driver's licence taken away.

"What I experienced was a living nightmare," he said.

Little is currently paying back his arrears now that he has a stable job in the Royal Canadian Navy, and he's in contact with his children every day.

Curtin said child support debt, unlike other debt, is never written off no matter how the payer's situation changes, and that could explain why arrears are so high.

"Something special about the debt owed to a former partner for child support is that it doesn't die," she said, "It lasts forever."

She added that maintenance enforcement programs are sometimes targeting people who can't afford to pay.

"We are administering a program on people who perhaps don't have lots of money," she said. "It's a matter of finding a way for the person to remain committed to supporting their children to the best of their ability."

Anderson said she doesn't understand why the office couldn't collect on her payments.

"I'm just angry and so disgusted with that office," she said. "It really upsets me."

Curtin said all offices are focused on recovering money. She points out that in Manitoba, $56 million in child support has flowed to families.

"All of the programs have the same objective, all of them." she said. "The idea is to get money to families."

Thursday, June 26, 2014

New resources: Translations of Separation Agreements: Your Right to Fairness

Separation Agreements: Your Right to Fairness into five additional languages (Punjabi, Spanish, Tagalog, and Traditional and Simplified Chinese). The updated and translated versions of the booklet are now ready and available. Please feel free to share this resource with others in your communities.
Separation Agreements: Your Right to Fairness booklet seeks to provide crucial financial information to women who need it. The booklet was updated to reflect the changes to the law resulting from the new Family Law Act.
You can now download electronic copies of the updated and translated booklet from the Westcoast Leaf website: http://westcoastleaf.org/index.php?pageID=264&parentid=29

Hard copies of the booklet can also be ordered free from the Crown Publications Service

Thursday, May 15, 2014

How to Spot a Sociopath


A sociopath can be defined as a person who is at least 18 years old who has Antisocial Personality Disorder. This disorder is characterized by a disregard for the feelings of others, a lack of remorse or shame, manipulative behavior, unchecked egocentricity, and the ability to lie in order to achieve one's goals. 

Sociopaths can be dangerous at worst or simply very difficult to deal with, and it's important to know if you've found yourself with a sociopath, whether it's someone you're dating or an impossible coworker. If you want to know how to spot a sociopath, then you have to pay careful attention to what the person says or does. See Step 1 to get started.

Part 1 of 2: Reading the Signs

  1. Look for a lack of shame.
  2. See if the person is constantly lying.
  3. See if they are able to stay eerily calm in spite of circumstances.
  4. See if they are extremely charming -- at first.
  5. See if the person is exceptionally intelligent.
  6. See if the person is manipulative.
  7. Look for signs of violent behavior.
  8. See if the person has a huge ego.
  9. See if the person makes uninterrupted eye contact.
  10. Face reading.
  11. See if the person has few real friends.
  12. See if the person likes to isolate you.
  13. See if the person is immature.

Part 2 of 2: Getting Away

  1. Stay away if you can.
  2. Be immune to the sociopath's charms.
  3. If you're dating the person, then get out as quickly as possible.
  4. Warn others.
  5. Think for yourself.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Letter to the Editor: B.C. must act to save women, kids, from domestic violence

Letter of the Week: B.C. must act to save women, kids, from domestic violence

Young, T. (2014). The Province. Retrieved from: http://blogs.theprovince.com/2014/05/11/letters-b-c-must-act-to-save-women-kids-from-domestic-violence/

How many B.C. women must be bruised, bloodied and murdered by their male partners before the provincial government takes action in this domestic war against women?

How many children in B.C. must face a future where their mother will not get to be there to see them grow up?

In less than a month, numerous headlines have captured the picture of the extreme intimate-partner violence afflicting far too many women and children.

As your article points out, the Provincial Office of Domestic Violence is once again missing in action when it comes time to discuss what the office might be doing and what strategic and concrete action it is taking to make B.C. a safer place for children and women.

PDOV was formed in 2012 in response to recommendations from the Representative for Children and Youth, who completed reports on two cases of domestic homicide. Both of these cases were preventable tragedies if the systems involved had been paying attention and acting with conviction to keep the women and children involved safe from their abusers.

Reviewing the provincial domestic violence plan for 2014-2015, it is clear that there is no real action plan. There is only the appearance of having a plan based on “proposed actions” and scant details about how women and children will be safer.

It is time for the B.C. government to stop with the smoke and mirrors. Abuse, attempted murder and spousal homicide of their mothers should not be the memories children carry with them from childhood.

The dynamics of family violence are complex, but solutions are within reach. Other jurisdictions have seen improvements from taking real action, so it is time for the B.C. government to stop dragging its feet and listen to advocates for women and children and those who have experience in this area who have strategic, concrete ideas about how to improve the safety of women and children.

Tracey Young, Vancouver

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Statistics & Advice on Leaving an Abusive Partner

1 in 4 Canadians have tried to help a friend leave an abusive partner

Canadians would first look to a friend for help, although many would attempt to resolve abuse on their own

TORONTO, April 30, 2014 /CNW/ - A new study from the Canadian Women's Foundation reveals that 1 in 4 Canadians have tried to help a friend leave an abusive partner. Violence against women is prevalent in Canadian society, with women at higher risk of violent victimization by someone they know, like an intimate partner.

According to the survey, Canadians are most likely to turn to a friend first to report situations of verbal abuse (20 per cent) and emotional abuse (22 per cent). However, a relatively equal amount of respondents expect to resolve verbal and emotional abuse without outside help (28 per cent vs. 21 per cent, respectively), and a full 10 per cent would expect to resolve physical or sexual abuse on their own.  

"The fact that a quarter of Canadians have tried to help a friend leave an abusive partner underscores the prevalence of violence in this country," says Anuradha Dugal, Director of Violence Prevention, Canadian Women's Foundation. "Abusive situations can foster feelings of self-doubt, self-blame and humiliation, but attempting to resolve it alone can pose a great threat to the safety and well-being of the victim."

Although Canadians are likely to report abuse to their friends, 13 per cent of respondents do not have confidence that their friends would believe them. Canadians also worry that their family (16 per cent), doctors (15 per cent) and police or other authorities (28 per cent) would not take their reports seriously.

"It's alarming that so many Canadians are worried that their friends/family, doctors and even the police, would not believe them if they disclosed abuse. Living in a culture where speaking out about abuse is still taboo and where many blame the victim leads to many women believing that the abuse is their fault. Women are therefore less likely to come forward to report the assault or to seek assistance to escape the abuse," explains Ms. Dugal.

Other findings in the study revealed:
  • The majority of Canadians would first report physical abuse (55 per cent) and sexual abuse (56 per cent) to the police or other authorities
  • Close to half (43 per cent) of respondents are not confident that their HR department at work would believe them if they reported abuse
  • Almost one-third (31 per cent) of Canadians say that the financial toll that the legal process would take on their friends and family would be likely to prevent them reporting an abusive situation
  • A further third (31 per cent) of Canadians say having their story exposed to the public, friends and family members would likely prevent them from reporting abuse
The Canadian Women's Foundation's 10th Annual Campaign to End Violence against Women, ending May 11, raises awareness and funds for women who have experienced abuse. The funds raised help more than 445 shelters for abused women and their children and community violence prevention programs across Canada that break the cycle of violence.

If you know a woman in an abusive situation, the Canadian Women's Foundation offers the following ways that you can help:  

1. Be supportive
The most important thing you can do is listen and offer your nonjudgmental support. Tell them the violence is not their fault, and that they deserve to be treated with respect, no matter what. Let them know you do not blame them. If they decide to stay, do not judge them. The most valuable things you can offer a woman who is being abused are respect, taking her seriously and linking her to where she can get help.

2. Learn more about relationship violence
Recognize the warning signs of abuse and understand why many don't press charges against their abusers.

3. Be aware of the risks
Be careful about how you communicate with the victim, since many abusers closely monitor their victims (where they go, who they see, phone calls, email, Facebook etc.)

4. Ensure your own safety
Never confront an abuser or do anything that puts you in danger or feels unsafe. Take care of yourself by talking through your feelings about the issue with a supportive, knowledgeable friend or professional.

5. Find resources
Before speaking to a victim, get the phone number of your local shelter, crisis line, YWCA, or agency offering specialized services for victims of abuse. This way you can provide specific information, if and when they are ready.

6. Choose the right time and place
Be thoughtful about where and when to discuss your concerns. Choose a place where you will not be overheard or interrupted, and where they will have privacy. Don't choose a time when you feel unprepared, or when they seem distracted or are in a hurry.

7. Voice your concerns
Be sensitive. Don't give details about what you have witnessed, as she may feel the need to give excuses or deny what happened. Explain why you want to support her and tell her you're ready to listen whenever she is.

8. Put them in charge
Don't expect to know all the answers. Explore options with them. Don't try to take over or tell them what to do. Tell them: "I won't make you do anything you don't want to do." Ask direct, simple questions such as: "Do you want me to help you find someone to talk to?" or "Do you want to go somewhere safe?" If they aren't sure what to do, simply encourage them to talk, and listen without judgment.

To learn more about violence against women, read the Canadian Women's Foundation's fact sheet at canadianwomen.org/facts-about-violence.


From March 21st to March 22nd 2014 an online survey was conducted among 1,009 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to education, age, gender and region (and in Quebec language) Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

About Canadian Women's Foundation

The Canadian Women's Foundation is Canada's public foundation for women and girls. We empower women and girls in Canada to move out of violence, out of poverty and into confidence. Since 1991, we've raised money and invested in over 1,300 community programs across Canada, and are now one of the ten largest women's foundations in the world. We take a positive approach to address root causes of the most critical issues facing women and girls. We study and share the best ways to create long-term change and bring community organizations together for training and to learn from each other. We carefully select and fund the programs with the strongest outcomes and regularly evaluate their work. We have a special focus on building a community of women helping other women. Helping women creates safer families and communities, and a more prosperous society for all of us. We invest in the strength of women and the dreams of girls. For more information please visit www.canadianwomen.org

Editors Note: When referring to the Canadian Women's Foundation, please use the full name. Please do not abbreviate or use acronyms.

SOURCE Canadian Women's Foundation

For further information: For more information including interviews with Canadian Women's Foundation representatives: Molly Chudnovsky, Edelman, Molly.chudnovsky@edelman.com, 416-849-8914; Nina Godard, Edelman, Nina.godard@edelman.com, 416-850-0611             

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Intimate Partner Abuse Increases Postpartum Mental Health Issues for Women

Partner Abuse Ups Postpartum Mental Health Issues

By Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on April 29, 2014. PsychCentral. 

New research links a history of intimate partner abuse to postpartum mental health problems and suggests providers should heighten monitoring of new mothers.

Investigators examined associations of psychological, physical, and sexual abuse experienced by 100 English-speaking mothers in British Columbia, aged 18 years and older, in the first three months of their postpartum period.

The study is published online in the open-access journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth.

Even though the abuse was typically minor in nature, such as name-calling, any type of intimate partner abuse — before or during pregnancy — was linked to higher than normal levels of postpartum mental health problems.

Forty-seven percent of all women who participated in the study experienced at least moderate mental health symptoms.

The participants were largely from high socioeconomic backgrounds and were not considered at high risk of postpartum mental health problems.

“I think when people hear the word abuse they automatically think about physical abuse,” said Ashley Pritchard, a Simon Fraser University doctoral student who interviewed the study’s participants and helped recruit them.

“This research shows that different types of abuse have negative consequences and should be part of routine health checks for new mothers.”

In addition to questions about their general health and wellbeing, participants answered questions about their experiences of intimate partner abuse and about their mental health during their postpartum period.

Their symptoms, which included depression, stress, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), were above normal levels and were triggered by specific types of abuse.

For example, psychological abuse — verbal and emotional — was associated with stress and PTSD. 

Physical abuse was associated with depression, OCD, and PTSD. Sexual abuse was associated with OCD.

Multivariate modeling also showed that as the number of types of intimate partner abuse experienced increased — especially during pregnancy — so did the number of different types of postpartum mental health problems, and their severity.

The authors say their findings underscore the complex risks and needs associated with intimate partner abuse among postpartum women, regardless of socioeconomic background.

Recognizing that it would be challenging to achieve, the authors recommend that healthcare providers screen new mothers more intensely for intimate partner abuse.

“Educating both the public and health care professionals about the prevalence and effects of intimate partner abuse would help to diminish the stigma surrounding the issue,” said Pritchard.

“In addition to education, the development of strong rapport and trust between mothers-to-be and their healthcare providers would likely make it easier to discuss topics such as partner abuse openly.”

The authors advocate that further studies investigate intervention and prevention strategies.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Family Law Act Ruling: Unmarried Couples & Property Division

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.

How to Obtain a Court-appointed lawyer in Child Protection Cases


How to Get a Court-Appointed Lawyer for Your Child Protection Case

Legal Services Society. (2013).

This new publication is for people facing a complicated child protection hearing who’ve been denied legal aid but can’t afford a lawyer. The booklet explains in plain language (and appealing graphics) why and how you can make a “JG application” for a free court-appointed lawyer. The two necessary forms are included right in the booklet, clearly explained and perforated for easy removal. Also includes what to say and do in court at the JG application hearing.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Your Rights on Reserve: A Legal Tool-Kit for Aboriginal Women in BC

“Your Rights on Reserve” a Legal Tool-kit for Aboriginal Women in British Columbia

Led by Atira Women’s Resource Society’s legal advocate Amber Prince, this tool-kit was created by Aboriginal women, for Aboriginal women.

Thursday April 10th, 2014
 Media Contact:
Caithlin Scarpelli
T: 604-331-1407 x. 104 C: 604-813-0851
RE: “Your Rights on Reserve” a Legal Tool-kit for Aboriginal Women in British Columbia
Atira Women’s Resource Society is thrilled to announce the release of a legal tool-kit for Aboriginal Women in British Columbia.
Led by Atira Women’s Resource Society’s legal advocate Amber Prince, this tool-kit was created by Aboriginal women, for Aboriginal women.
Says Ms. Prince, “As Aboriginal women with varying experience with the law we have seen in our work and in our lives how gaps in legal information creates hardships for Aboriginal women in BC.”
The tool-kit aims to address some of the identified gaps in legal information for Aboriginal women.
“We hope this tool-kit will be of assistance to women, their families and their communities,” says Prince, “as well as for service providers helping Aboriginal women understand some of their legal rights in BC and especially as they apply on reserve.”
The tool-kit includes chapters on taxation, employment issues on Reserve, social assistance / welfare, education, Indian Status, Band membership, Reserve land and housing issues, wills and estates Issues, family law, relationship violence, Ministry of Children and Families Development and governance issues.
An Advisory Committee member for the Tool-kit, Donna Moon, notes, "I am excited for the launch and to have been a contributor to this important, much needed tool-kit!"
We are grateful to the Law Foundation of British Columbia for its support, as well as the Legal Services Society of British Columbia for donating staff expertise to the project. We would also like to thank our volunteers who contributed to the project, law student Robyn Gifford, and lawyer Mary Childs.
For more information on the tool-kit please contact our media contact above.

Monday, February 10, 2014

First child with 3 parents on birth certificate in B.C.

Della Wolf is B.C.'s 1st child with 3 parents on birth certificate

B.C.'s new Family Law Act is the first to allow birth certificates with more than 2 parents

By Catherine Rolfsen, CBC News,Feb 06, 2014.
A Vancouver baby has just become the first child in British Columbia with three parents listed on a birth certificate.
Three-month-old Della Wolf Kangro Wiley Richards is the daughter of lesbian parents and their male friend.
"It feels really just natural and easy, like any other family," said biological father Shawn Kangro. "It doesn't feel like anything is strange about it."
B.C.'s new Family Law Act, which came into effect last year, allows for three or even more parents.
Della's family is the first to go through the process, and they finalized the birth certificate registration last week.
B.C., which is celebrating Family Day on Monday, is the first province in Canada with legislation to allow three parents on a birth certificate, although it's been achieved elsewhere through litigation.
The new Family Law Act, which came into effect in March 2013, aims to clarify who is a parent and who isn't as more couples turn to assisted reproduction.
The act allow donors to be listed as additional parents, if the parents sign a written agreement before conception.
"The really big shift in the Family Law Act in terms of parents, is how you decide who's a parent," said findlay.
"In the old days, we looked at biology and genetic connections. And that's no longer true. We now look at the intention of the parties who are contributing to the creation of the child, and intend to raise the child. And that's a really, really big shift."
Della's parents say they've had overwhelming support from family, friends and their East Vancouver community.
"Of course there's the odd person who worries that we've stepped into something that doesn't have a precedent," said Richards.
"Now that it has come to fruition and people see that we're just this family doing our thing, it's real now, and it becomes much easier to digest for whoever had doubts."

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The role men can play in preventing violence against girls and women

   Bystanders, men have role in preventing violence against women, victim’s father says - ‘It’s just wrong, and I’m never going to shut up about it’

Cockburn, N. (2014). Ottawa Citizen. 

OTTAWA — One of the things that still haunts the father of Rehtaeh Parsons is that there were people who didn’t help his daughter.

“We know what happens now, when we do nothing,” Glen Canning said Tuesday. “It can drive a victim to suicide. We have to let victims know that people care, and of course the best way to do that is to try to prevent them from being victims in the first place.”

Parsons, from Nova Scotia, was taken off life support after a suicide attempt in April 2013 that her family says was prompted by months of bullying.

The 17-year-old girl was tormented after a digital photograph purporting to show her being sexually assaulted in November 2011 was distributed around her school, they have said. Two men, now 19, face child pornography-related charges connected to the case.

Canning, a writer and photographer, has been outspoken since his daughter’s death. He was in Ottawa on Tuesday to speak at a “community discussion” held by the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women.

During an interview with the Citizen, he pointed to high-profile cases such as that of a pair of high school football players raping a drunken 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio, “where there are people around, watching what’s happening, and none of them are saying or doing anything. They’re just letting it happen,” he said.

“I’m trying to reinforce the idea with people that that’s completely unacceptable. That’s just wrong — in my opinion you’re partaking ... in a sexual assault, if you’re just standing there, watching it happen without doing anything to stop it or to hold people accountable for it.”

Other advocates have worked to spread a similar message in Ottawa, particularly around the need for bystanders to step in if they see sexual assaults or harassment in transit stations and on buses.

Canning said men must play a role in ending violence against women, and in changing culture that encourages it or turns a blind eye.

“Violence against women is a men’s issue. We need men to start setting examples, we need men to start speaking out, we need men to start challenging the culture that goes around with rape and sexual assault of women, where people make jokes about it or make light of it,” he said.

People are part of the problem when they downplay incidents or cast doubt on victims and create an environment where victims don’t feel comfortable reporting an assault, he said.

“You’re perpetuating the issue where women just don’t bother coming forward at all because of how society looks at it. ... As innocent as that may seem to you, you are actually part of the problem. You are why women don’t come forward, and you are why sexual predators have victim after victim.

“It’s just wrong, and I’m never going to shut up about it,” Canning said.

The culture is ingrained, he said, referring to a chant at frosh week at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax that glorified the sexual assault of young girls.

“It can be a little bit frustrating, but the more the message is out there, the less people have an excuse,” Canning said.

The event was being held in Jean Pigott Place at City Hall from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.


With files from The Canadian Press

Webinar: Equality Values in Family Law

Webinar: Equality Values in Family Law

Think the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is irrelevant in family law? Think again! Join experienced family law lawyers Megan Ellis and Zara Suleman, retired BC Supreme Court Justice Donna Martinson, and West Coast LEAF Legal Director Laura Track for an informative and engaging workshop on the ways in which Charter equality values can inform your family law work. You’ll gain practical tips and insights for using Charter equality values in cases involving financial issues, parenting arrangements, family violence, and assessments of credibility. This course qualifies for 2 CPD credits.

Presented jointly by West Coast LEAF and the Trial Lawyers Association of BC.

February 27, 2014, 12:00-2:00pm


Register here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/equality-values-in-family-law-tickets-10555440607

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

New Article that Critiques the new BC Family Law Act & PDOV/MCFD released a new three- year, $5.5 million action plan

Rachel Treloar, Susan B. Boyd. Family Law Reform in (Neoliberal) Context: British Columbia's New Family Law Act International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family 2014; doi: 10.1093/lawfam/ebt017

Retrieved from: http://lawfam.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/ebt017?ijkey=PLUhZbbmHlOyqZ8&keytype=ref


Provincial Office of Domestic Violence has released a new three- year, $5.5 million action plan. The Action plan can be found on their website at http://www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/podv/pdf/dv_pp_booklet.pdf

N E W S R E L E A S E - Ministry of Children & Family Development

For Immediate Release
- 000134

Feb. 5, 2014

VICTORIA – Government’s extensive consultation with anti-violence groups has culminated in
the release of the Provincial Domestic Violence Plan. The new three-year, $5.5-million Provincial 
Domestic Violence Plan – co-ordinated through the Provincial Office of Domestic Violence (PODV) 
– delivers on government’s commitment to make B.C. a safer place for women, children and anyone 
who has been affected by domestic violence.

The plan is the result of public and anti-violence stakeholder consultations and includes the creation of 
additional specialized domestic violence units, programs for Aboriginal families, direct services for perpetrators,
and improved access to services and social housing for survivors in rural and remote communities
The plan also includes an Aboriginal response and specific approaches to address the unique needs of immigrant 
and refugee women and women with disabilities. Government will invest in direct services to address focus areas 
that were identified during the consultation process as key priorities.

Highlights of the plan:
 $1 million to help with the start-up and implementation of 
additional specialized domestic violence units, which will 
provide direct services to highrisk families.
 $2 million to develop and deliver programs specifically for 
Aboriginal women, men and children affected by domestic 
violence– including victims and perpetrators.
 $1 million to provide support and intervention for perpetrators
to hold them accountable and support changes in behaviour and 
 $1.5 million in direct supports to women and children for 
housing and transportation in rural and remote communities.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Precedent for Serving Court Documents via Facebook

Service of Documents by Facebook?

Gregory, J. (2014). 

An article in this week’s Law Times notes another court decision, this time in Ontario, approving substitute service by Facebook. In other words, counsel showed the court that there was no other reasonable way of getting the documents to the party to be served, and that sending to FB was likely to reach the party.

The author says that this should be the norm.
The requirement for hand-delivered document service, while historically sensible, is somewhat archaic in this electronic age. Successful service should be all about making sure that the person is aware of the document. For those of us who are more present online than offline, receiving vital information electronically is commonplace.
Does this make sense to you? How does one make sure that a person served via Facebook (or another social medium, such as Twitter, etc) is aware of the document? Suppose the person denies having received it, later. Is independent evidence of delivery available?
For that matter, many people on Facebook do not have pictures on their pages. How does one know one has the right John Smith, especially if such service becomes ‘the norm rather than an exception’?

Background & Legal case

Personal Injury Law: Service via Facebook should become the norm

Merkur, D. (2014). Law Times.

Ontario Superior Court of Justice that substituted service of a statement of claim on a defendant via Facebook was appropriate (see the unreported decision of Juzytsch v. Terlecki from the court in Barrie, Ont.). Other provincial courts have similarly allowed service via Facebook or similar Internet message board services, including in Alberta and British Columbia.

To succeed in any such motion, counsel must establish that the person’s whereabouts for personal service are unknown despite diligent investigation; the Facebook profile belongs to the person in question; and the person is an active user of Facebook such that the claim will likely come to the person’s attention.

While the case law has focused on service through Facebook, the courts could also consider substituted service through other popular social networking web sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Father ordered to pay $35,000 in ‘special costs’ due to poor conduct

After repeated warnings to reel in the insults, father ordered to pay $35,000 in ‘special costs’
By Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun January 19, 2014.

A father who represented himself in a custody dispute has been hammered with a $35,000 “special costs” fine for abusive behaviour during the legal battle.

In a scathing judgment against the virulence and rancour at the heart of a growing number of high-conflict family law cases, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Jeanne Watchuk lambasted the man known only by his initials — A.S.P.

She minced no words in her strident defence of civility as a necessary element of the Canadian judicial system.

The justice cited emails from the man such as — “What does a man have to do to get divorced from a wench?”

“The conduct of the father has consistently been rude, inflammatory, derisive, threatening, and disrespectful and insulting of the mother, her counsel and the court process,” said Watchuk in the stinging rebuke.

“It has not been situational or short-lived. It has been consistent over more than two years. It has included behaviour in the courtroom, and email communications to scheduling as well as communication with counsel for the mother continuing after the written submissions on costs were filed …. there is no justification for this behaviour in a court proceeding.”

This case involves a couple who married in 2007 and separated a short time later in 2009 before the birth of twins.

They have been arguing over the children since, though a divorce was granted Jan. 25, 2012.

The kids live with their mother, known in court documents as N.N.J., and her parents in Surrey; the father has a home in Surrey but is a U.K. citizen and travels frequently for business.

The legal fight lasted longer than the marriage.

The acrimonious proceedings consumed 26 days of court time: a 19-day trial, four applications heard in chambers, and two attempts by the father to reopen the trial, one requiring a five-day hearing and the second, two days.

The justice said A.S.P. has continued to threaten to report the proceedings to the media with a view to “intimidating the (mother) as well as her counsel …. has threatened to bring legal proceedings against counsel for the (mother in the United Kingdom … and) threatened to report the (mother) to foreign authorities while she is travelling with the children.”

After the recent decision, he sent me a note offering the “real story” on Watchuk. “Be patient, then,” he replied. “It was either you or The Guardian (I know the editor).”
I am still waiting.

Enormous court resources are consumed by these scorched-earth disputes and they are almost always conducted by self-represented litigants who lack self-control or objectivity.

Although Watchuk was willing to let both sides in this apocalypse cover their own legal costs, the father’s continuing belligerence overwhelmed her. She issued a “special costs” award — a punishment only imposed by a court for reprehensible conduct.

“The father does not demonstrate respect or the ability to communicate respectfully,” said Watchuk, itemizing the many requests to the man to cease his objectionable conduct and behave himself.

“The father’s communication through the mother’s counsel has been and continues to be vitriolic to the degree that it has become impossible.”
During one access meeting, the father swore at a cousin of the mother’s while holding his baby son. In an exchange with his wife’s lawyer, he made disparaging remarks about the man’s daughter and their Jewish traditions.

“The father rightly demands respect for his (Sikh) culture,” Watchuk said.

“It should go without saying that the culture and religion of all participants in the justice system are deserving of respect. The sanctity of the family of counsel is fundamental.”
In her mind, he was acting like “a malicious bully.”

The father maintained that his outrageous behaviour was the result of “unique, extended and extraordinary stress and strain, arising from a circumstance that had no end in sight,” that he had been left “in limbo for years.”

In his mind, a confluence of factors impaired every facet of his life — from his fundamental liberties, access to his children, ability to earn an income, and left him at one point without a home or furniture.

The justice had little sympathy.

“In the trial I first mentioned the necessity for respect and civility to the father,” Watchuk said.

“I then reminded him of it. I stopped the trial on at least two occasions when those instructions were wholly disregarded. I explained further that civility and respect for the mother and her counsel not only assisted the court proceedings but were fundamental to the ability of the process to achieve a result which was in the best interests of the children.”

He authored much of his own trouble, she added, and his intransigence pushed her to impose special costs.