Legal clinics for women survivors of violence
Starting September 1st Pivot’s Jane Doe Legal Network will be offering legal advice clinics for women survivors of violence. Thanks to the generous support of the Canadian Women’s Foundation, family lawyer Adrian McKeown and immigration lawyer Lobat Sadrehashemi will be available to meet with women who have experienced violence and are navigating the legal system without representation. These services will help provide some women with much needed legal support in dealing with the legal system, but the Jane Doe Legal Network is also working toward a larger goal -reinvestment in public legal aid.
On the whole, British Columbians support public legal aid. An Ipsos Reid survey commissioned by the Legal Services Society of BC found that 97% of British Columbians agree that everyone should have access to the justice system. 78% of respondents also agree that government should give the same priority to funding legal aid as to other social services such as health care and education. But there is a deep disconnect between values revealed in the survey and the reality for many of the most vulnerable people in British Columbia.
Cuts to legal aid in BC have most profoundly affected coverage for civil law issues (family law, immigration, poverty law) rather than criminal law coverage. One result has been a disproportionate negative impact on women. How to best to address those impacts has presented some challenges for Pivot in terms of setting priorities. On the one hand, our mandate is to challenge the root causes of injustice and to focus our energy on achieving systemic change. On the other hand, we are presented with the reality that women are getting lost in the legal system, with profound negative consequences for them and their families.
Out of this challenge the Jane Doe Legal Network has developed a multi-pronged plan of attack. Through services like legal clinics for women who have experienced violence we are working to empower women by helping them navigate the legal system. We also work collaboratively with community agencies and the boarder violence against women sector to strengthen and coordinate services. Finally, we work with the lawyers, feminist organizations and individual women to identify and take action on systemic issues that negatively impact women’s safety and well-being such as the lack of adequate legal aid in BC.
If you or a woman you know is looking for legal advice check out Pivot’s Legal Helpsection to find out how to set up an appointment with Adrian or Lobat.