In response to massive legal aid cuts in 2002, West Coast LEAF launched an affidavit campaign where we collected affidavits of women in BC whose lives had been devastated because of their lack of representation in court.
Why this project?
Access to the family law legal system is a key issue for women’s equality in Canada. These affidavits illustrate the devastating effects that a lack of legal representation brings to bear on women’s lives as they interact with the family law system.
What we did
We collected the 13 stories below, which stem from the sworn testimonies of women who cannot access the judicial system. They are losing custody of their children, abandoning valid claims to child and spousal support, and facing relentless litigation-harassment from well-represented ex-spouses.
All stories are collected with consent. Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.
#1: A’s Experience
“During the trial, A had to stand up alone, without legal representation, against her former abuser.”
#2: N’s Experience
“N feels that the family law system favours men who can understand, play by, and manipulate the rules without emotion. In N’s experience, the system does not understand the way abuse works.”
#3: S’ Experience
“S qualified for legal aid at this time but because she lived in a small community there was no family law lawyer available to her for at least 3 weeks.”
#4: V’s Experience
“V has been referred to many lawyers who turn down her file because they have too heavy a workload, the file is too complicated and legal aid does not pay them enough.”
#5: K’s Experience
“K retained a legal aid lawyer to assist her with the ex parte order. That lawyer dropped her case the night before she was scheduled to appear in court.”
#6: T’s Experience
“T did not qualify for legal aid as a result of funding cuts and had to represent herself in court.”
#7: R’s Experience
“R went to legal aid and was told she would not be eligible if she left her husband because she was not suffering from extreme violence. If R had access to legal aid she would proceed with a separation.”
#8: W’s Experience
“Now, since the 2002 legal aid cuts, W no longer qualifies for legal aid because she is not in a violent relationship and her children are not in danger.”
#9: D’s Experience
“D has not applied for legal aid because she believes her income level is too high and thus would not qualify.”
#10: E’s Experience
“E applied for further legal aid representation stating that she feared for her children’s safety. This time E was denied and represented herself in court.”
#11: B’s Experience
“B attempted to get legal aid and was denied. She also sought legal assistance from a number of community organizations and contacted her MLA for assistance. B received no help.”
#12: P’s Experience
“In May of 2003, P went to legal aid and was told she was ineligible for their services. She applied anyways, asking for emergency services, and was denied coverage. However, she is also unable to afford her own legal representation because she is a single parent with two young children.”
#13: M’s Experience
“M has no knowledge of the legal system, has no legal support and speaks little English. As a result, she has not been able to proceed with any legal action.”