West Coast LEAF is very pleased to welcome Zahra Jimale as the newest member of our staff team. As Director of Law Reform, Zahra will lead our efforts to recommend changes to laws that impact the legal rights of women, as well as conducting critical research, public legal education resources and materials, and the in-depth policy analysis that together drives our work for change.

A lawyer, mediator, and educator, Zahra most recently ran a successful private practice focusing on family law. Currently completing her Masters in Law in Alternative Dispute Resolution at Osgoode Hall Law School, she is dedicated to social justice, equality, and access to justice. Zahra’s transition to nonprofit work is motivated by a deep desire to effect transformative change at a systemic level. West Coast LEAF’s focus on access to justice, specifically in family law, will continue to expand under Zahra’s leadership.

Recently, West Coast LEAF partnered with other social justice organizations, including Pivot Legal Society, the BC Civil Liberties Association, and Community Legal Assistance Society, to call for a number of urgent reforms to BC’s justice system. The resulting report, Justice Reform BC, made specific recommendations to ensure the family law system respects and promotes the rights, safety, and well-being of women and children. Significant investment in our broken legal aid system, for example, must be a priority for BC’s new government; Zahra’s leadership will be critical in achieving the necessary reforms.

In addition to her work on various law reform projects and initiatives, she will be working with a variety of stakeholders to ensure that BC’s justice system takes necessary action to develop binding and consistent standards for those professionals doing psychological assessments of mothers, particularly in the context of domestic violence, and ensuring that all assessors have comprehensive and community-informed training on the dynamics of family violence.

She will also be working on pushing forward amendments to social assistance and disability assistance laws to better support women’s financial independence. The current definitions of “dependent” and “spouse” put women at heightened risk of relationship violence, undermine their independence, and interfere with their ability to enter new relationships.

Zahra and the rest of the West Coast LEAF team would love to meet you! Please join us at this week’s AGM and panel presentation on what we’ve been up to recently. The event is free, and everyone is welcome. We hope to see you there!