Battered Women’s Support Services welcomes dynamic new leaders to our access to justice work

Niki Sharma takes up her duties as Manager of Legal Services and Advocacy Program on May 17, 2017.

Niki Sharma received her law Degree from the University of Alberta and was called to the Bar in British Columbia in 2006. Niki’s focus has been on reducing unjust barriers in society. For 10 years, Niki managed her legal practice focused on Indigenous law.  A significant part of her practice consisted of representing women survivors of residential school in their attempts to find justice.

Niki’s arrival signals a new chapter in Battered Women’s Support Services ongoing work to build legal systems that work for all women wherever violence against women interfaces with the law.

We are also pleased to announce that Harashada Deshpande has joined our team in the role of Lawyer and begins June 7, 2017.

Harshada joined BWSS in 2012, as a Crisis and Intake volunteer and later as a Legal Intern. She completed her Juris Doctor from the University of British Columbia and her Bachelor of Arts from Simon Fraser University. Harshada believes in making justice accessible to women and supporting them in their journey towards healing and self-empowerment.

As staff lawyer, Harshada will take on full representation files in the capacity of a practicing lawyer, provide information, support and advocacy to women dealing with legal issues at the intersection of gender violence and family law recognizing that legal issues routinely extend into other areas of the law including immigration, criminal, and child welfare.

For 27 years, Battered Women’s Support Services has provided legal support to women who have experienced violence in intimate relationships, helping women navigate the Canadian legal system.  Our supervised staff, interns and volunteer lawyers provide legal information, accompaniment to court and legal appointments, we appeal when legal aid has been denied and we provide assistance for documents and affidavits preparation.

Our legal services and advocacy work spans family, immigration, refugee, and criminal law as well as the Indian Act. It cannot be underscored enough how important access to justice and our Legal Services and Advocacy Program are for women’s long term safety and freedom from violence.

Approximately 80% of the women who access our services do not have legal representation because they are not eligible to receive government funded legal aid and do not have the money to privately retain their own lawyers.  We think it is unconstitutional that there has been a virtual elimination of Legal Aid in British Columbia combined with a complicated acceptance process which has resulted in an increase of women self-representing  in family law, immigration and refugee cases. Over 80% of women accessing our services identify at least one legal issue where they require information.

BWSS Legal Services and Advocacy Program provides a matrix of legal services for women experiencing violence and interfacing with the law.

  • Legal Advocacy Workshops
  • BWSS Women’s Family Law Clinic
  • BWSS and Amici Curiae Affidavit Clinic
  • Pro Bono Students Canada – UBC Chapter Clinic
  • Legal Internship Program
  • When Battered Women are Arrested
  • Gender Persecution, Immigration Law and Deportation
  • Violence against Indigenous Women and the Indian Act

We are grateful for our funding partners The Law Foundation of B.C., My Sister’s Closet, a social enterprise of BWSS, and generous donors like you.