After facing year after year of government inaction on family law legal aid, last year we launched a lawsuit against the BC government and the Legal Services Society asking for something very straightforward: a legal aid regime that gives women fleeing violence meaningful access to vital legal services. Women’s lives remain in the balance. This is why we fight.
Over the past year we, along with our incredible team of pro bono counsel, have been hard at work. Along with gathering documents and mapping out a case plan, we’ve been preparing our courageous clients – the Single Mothers’ Alliance and Nicole Bell – to face the Province and LSS in court. With the trial set to begin in February 2020, they are looking forward to finally having their day in court. They know the battle is uphill, but they remain committed to shedding light on the inequalities and harms they’ve endured in the legal aid system, a system that routinely compromises the safety of women and children.
Unfortunately, the Province and LSS remain unmoved. Worse still, they are trying to have the whole case thrown out by filing applications to strike the claims.
We fight because BC’s legal aid system discriminates against women and children, and increases their risk of experiencing violence and intense stress. We are fighting for a chance to prove this in court.
We know that the impacts of decades of funding cuts to BC’s legal aid system are severe, especially for women who are Indigenous, face language barriers, have disabilities, or have experienced violence. If the Province and LSS succeed in their applications, these plaintiffs and the women they represent will once again be deprived of their rights to safety and a just resolution of their family law matters.
Access to legal services can mean the difference between a woman staying in an abusive relationship or being able to leave to keep herself and her children safe. Safety should not be a privilege reserved for only those who can afford a lawyer. This is why we fight.
In the words of our inspiring client Nicole Bell: “Having the Province and the Legal Services Society undermine and dismiss the harms I and others have experienced by BC’s family law legal aid regime only exemplifies the need for systemic change in British Columbia. Discrimination and inequality against women and children within the law needs to stop!”
It’s time for the Province and LSS to fulfil their obligations to the women of BC. We believe we can resist this attempt to throw out the case. Equality isn’t optional. This is why we fight.