Our public legal education programming has been providing people with information about colonial law for more than 20 years. Since then, West Coast LEAF has gone through many important changes, including shifting from a women’s organization to a gender equality organization and committing to decolonizing.
We offer legal education that is based on our feminist and social justice values. In addition to providing information about law, our approach includes analyzing power and privilege, critiquing the law, and valuing non-legal pathways.
We offer this statement of our intentions and values in the spirit of transparency. We want to share who we are and where we’re coming from when we offer our education programming. We invite you to read the statement to learn more about our work and decide whether our programming is a good fit for your organization, group, or classroom. Our programs are facilitated by our staff members Cecile (she/her) and Alana (she/they), with occasional support from trained volunteers.
A note on terminology: When we say “colonial law” and “colonial legal system,” we mean that the laws imposed by the governments of Canada and BC are based on legal traditions that were brought here from Britain, and that there are also Indigenous laws that have existed on these lands for many thousands of years. The power of British legal traditions on these lands is based on colonization, the process of stealing Indigenous lands and resources, and using violence against Indigenous bodies, cultures, lands, and waters. Colonization continues today.
To learn more about colonization, check out these resources:
- Pulling Together: Foundations Guide by Kory Wilson and Colleen Hodgson (MNBC)
- Violence On The Land, Violence On Our Bodies: Building an Indigenous Response to Environmental Violence by Women’s Earth Alliance and Native Youth Sexual Health Network
- “What Is Colonialism? A History of Violence, Control and Exploitation” by Jamila Osman, Teen Voices
We want to provide people with honest information about the colonial legal system and legal processes so they can make informed decisions. We know that legal pathways, such as filing a human rights complaint, can be meaningful—and we also honour and respect choosing non-legal options.
We want to share information about the law that is practical, useful, and relevant, like:
- How the law applies to everyday life
- Which kinds of problems are legal problems
- The legal options available for legal problems
- What it is like to engage in a legal process, including the potential financial, personal, and emotional costs
We hope that when people engage with our public legal education and information programs, they feel:
- Empowered to make informed choices
- Valued, cared for, and respected
- Affirmed in their knowledge from their life experience
We value relationships, and our work is centred around people.
- We know that learning happens best when we work together to build trusting relationships.
- We value learning based on cooperation, not individual competition.
- We aim to create spaces where people feel welcome, valued, and as safe as possible.
- We know that lived experiences of trauma and violence are common, and we aim to use trauma- and violence-informed practices.
- Humility, cultural humility, and cultural safety
- Humility: As we help others learn about the law, we understand that we are learners too. There is always more for us to learn, and participants in our workshops teach us a lot.
- Cultural humility: Drawing on the work of David Trowbridge, we recognize the importance of reflecting on our ourselves and our own identities, challenging imbalances of power, and being accountable.
- Cultural safety: We strive to engage respectfully with communities, and we value different worldviews.
- Accountability, mutuality, and solidarity
- We have a responsibility to be accountable to the people we work with. This means being clear about what we can offer, making sure that what we offer is useful, following through on our commitments, and adjusting our work based on feedback.
- We know that we are most powerful when we work together. We all have a responsibility and a role to play in creating a more just world.
- We embrace our collective responsibilities by building and maintaining strong relationships.
- Dismantling structural barriers to participation
- We recognize that access to learning opportunities is unequal because of ableism and other injustices in society.
- We strive to offer different ways of accessing learning and participating in our educational programming. We know that there is no right or wrong way to learn.
- We know it’s important to work to meet access needs, use plain language, and make sure that our resources are relevant.
- Honouring the diversity and complexity of communities and cultures
- We understand that communities are diverse. People don’t agree on everything just because they come from the same community or have similar identities.
- We respect the ways people understand themselves and their lives.
We believe in transformation.
- Long-term social change
- We know that social change work will continue past our own lifetimes, and that our own work is built on foundations laid by previous generations.
- Honesty about power and injustice
- We have a responsibility to tell the truth about oppressive systems like racism, misogyny, colonization, and others, including institutions like the colonial legal system. We know that the colonial legal system does not always value or respect everyone, and that it often causes harm.
- We encourage people to reflect on how personal experiences connect with injustice in society.
- We aim to challenge beliefs that blame people for the injustices they face. Instead, we look at the root causes of harm in society.
- Critical hope
- We believe that a better world is possible. Through education programming, we try to build hope that things can change, while also acknowledging painful realities.
- We value grief and anger. These emotions can be teachers, showing us that something is wrong and must be changed. At the same time, we know that we must tap into other emotions like hope and joy to help us keep going.
- We know that it’s important to learn from people who have faced injustice and fought for change throughout history, and who still fight for change today.
- We value the power that comes from supportive and caring communities.
- Reflection, curiosity, and learning
- We come to this work with curiosity. We know that reflecting, learning, and taking action for change are lifelong processes.
- Flexible and imperfect processes
- Tema Okun has described perfectionism as a characteristic of white supremacy culture. When we let go of perfectionism, we get space to explore different ways of doing things and adapt to shifting needs.
- We know that focusing only on outcomes and rushing through processes can harm people. We value processes that focus on relationships and learning.
Video version of this statement
You can watch or listen to this statement as a YouTube video.