December 15, 2022 – For Immediate Release
Vancouver, unceded Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) homelands—After five years of fighting to be heard, single mothers will finally have their day in court. Today, the BC Supreme Court granted Single Mothers’ Alliance (SMA) public interest standing in their constitutional challenge to BC’s family law legal aid regime. This decision is a big win for single mothers and access to justice.
SMA is suing the Province and Legal Aid BC (also called Legal Services Society) because family law legal aid in BC has been woefully inadequate for more than two decades. As a result, many people fleeing family violence are unable to get the legal support they need, putting them in danger of further violence or forcing them deep into debt.
“The BC government has tried to throw our case out of court time and time again,” says Raji Mangat, executive director at West Coast LEAF. “They tried to strike out our claims in 2018. They lost. Now, they challenged the Single Mothers’ Alliance ability to bring this case to trial. They’ve lost again. It’s time the BC government took single mothers’ concerns about family law legal aid seriously.”
The BC Supreme Court confirmed the importance of allowing public interest organizations, like SMA, to challenge unjust laws on behalf of community members so that people fleeing violence are not forced carry this enormous burden by themselves. This decision will have a major impact on the ability of public interest organizations to bring legal cases on behalf of marginalized communities.
“The health, well-being, and survival of some of BC’s most marginalized women and children are at stake,” says Viveca Ellis, executive director of SMA. “While this government stalls to evade accountability, people fleeing violence still don’t have access to the legal support they need to separate from an abusive partner, get custody and safety for their children, and restart their lives on their own terms. We’re looking forward to finally getting our day in court and securing fair access to justice for survivors of family violence.”
Single Mothers’ Alliance and its counsel West Coast LEAF look forward to bringing this case to trial and challenging the barriers to accessing justice faced by single mothers fleeing violence.
Manager of Communications, West Coast LEAF
About West Coast LEAF
West Coast LEAF is a non-profit organization formed in 1985, the year the equality guarantees of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into force. West Coast LEAF’s mandate is to use the law to create an equal and just society for all women and people who experience gender-based discrimination in BC. In collaboration with community, we use litigation, law reform, and public legal education to make change. For more information, visit westcoastleaf.org.
About Single Mothers’ Alliance
The Single Mother’s Alliance is a membership-based non-profit of female and gender-diverse lone-caregivers raising children in communities throughout BC. Founded in 2014, SMA’s mission is to alleviate the poverty experienced by female and gender-diverse lone-caregivers in the province and the children they care for. SMA conducts participatory action research into policy solutions and raises public awareness about the importance of a public policy approach. SMA advocates for law and policy reform and lobbies the government to implement policy solutions, including access to legal aid. To learn more, visit: http://www.singlemothersbc.org/.