If events play out as planned by the Law Foundation of B.C., then by next April, British Columbia will become the forth province in Canada to have an official office delivering legal services to one of the country's most vulnerable populations - children and youth.
New Beginnings After 12-Year Shutdown
The province had a children's law office years ago, but it was closed down in 2004 due to cut funding. But amid evolving social issues and growing concern for the legal rights of children, the Foundation has been asking non-profit organizations to submit proposals detailing their vision of a province-wide children's law office.
The submission deadline draws to a close by September 15. By November, the Foundation hopes to select a successful applicant and provide it with $600,000 to develop and implement the two-year pilot project. If startup plans move ahead on time, the office should be functional by April 2015.
Role Of The Children's Law Office
Ontario, Alberta and New Brunswick already have similar offices in place, each with their own range of services and levels of coverage. In B.C., the mandate will be to protect the legal rights of children, with particular emphasis on aboriginal, immigrant, refugee, LGBTQ and street children and youth.
The Office will hire lawyers on a case-by-case basis and will provide legal help across three areas of focus:
- Protecting children's interests in high-conflict family law cases
- Providing independent representation to ensure that children's voices are heard in child protection cases
- Legal cases involving social issues such as school, employment, housing, gang activity or bullying
The Foundation hopes that by the end of the two-year pilot, there will be sufficient data to help them evaluate the Office's efficacy and that increased funding for its continuance will follow.
The lawyers at Peterson Stark Scott are available to provide legal advice and representation to families seeking the best interests of their children during divorce and separation.