West Coast LEAF has long believed that one of the best ways to advance legal rights is to support people to know their rights and understand how to use them. At the same time, we know that legal rights on paper are often painfully disconnected from people’s real lives. Legal recourse can be hard or impossible to access, especially for those who face the deepest injustices. And the colonial state legal system can be unwelcoming, irrelevant, or unsafe to those communities whose rights are violated the most frequently and severely.
We continue to value public legal education and information (PLEI) as an integral tool in our change-making toolbox, but we recognize that we need to keep growing and changing. As educators, we are also learners, and we have been wondering: How can we facilitate learning about the law in a way that lines up with the priorities and vision of our community? How can we be honest about the law’s potential and its failings? How can we equip people with realistic information to choose legal and non-legal strategies on their own terms?
Over the past year, we’ve been grateful to discuss these questions with members of our community who shared their rich expertise with us. Today, we are excited to release our report, Re-Envisioning Public Legal Education (PLEI), which pulls together what we’ve learned so far.
The report contains 36 pages of wise and ethical practices offered by our community that will guide West Coast LEAF as we plan our PLEI work for the coming years. We hope the report will also be of use to other PLEI practitioners, teachers, lawyers, youth workers, anti-violence workers, and others who aim to share information about the law in a learner-centred, accountable, and justice-seeking way.
We hope you will read the report and pass it along to others who can use it, and let us know what you think by filling out our online feedback form.
From the bottom of our hearts, we thank the youth workshop facilitator volunteers, workshop participants, teachers, youth-serving professionals, former West Coast LEAF staff members, and fellow PLEI practitioners and social justice educators who participated in this project! We also thank our generous funder, the Law Foundation of BC.
We have been learning that the path forward for PLEI is based on accountable relationships and community leadership. Wise practices for PLEI centre learners, their needs, and their self-determination. We look forward to our continuing learning journey as we embed these principles in our work.