Access to Justice, An Intersectional Approach

Legal Services and Advocacy Program at BWSS

For 40 years, BWSS has provided legal advocacy for women survivors of violence. We receive over 11,000 requests for services annually; over 80% of these requests identify at least one legal issue which requires BWSS to provide legal information or to take legal action. 
Wherever gender violence intersects with the law, access to justice in the Canadian legal system is a complicated task for survivors.  In order to ensure the legal systems provide social protection survivors have a better result when they have a benefit of a legal advocate or a lawyer. 
At BWSS we have both a Legal Advocate and a Lawyer, and we are thrilled to announce Sharon Kearney as Manager, Legal Services and Advocacy Program. 

Sharon comes to BWSS with over 30 years of legal experience in administrative law, with a special focus on human rights issues. Sharon has worked in the private sector with two large national law firms, and in the public sector with the provincial government.

Sharon also had the honour of serving as Vice Chair (Adjudication) with the BC Labour Relations Board.  With years of supervisory experience, Sharon has supported teams of lawyers, outside counsel, administrative assistants and paralegals.

As seasoned counsel, Sharon has litigated a multitude of arbitration and human rights hearings, and has advised on numerous cases before the  BC Supreme Court, the BC Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court of Canada. As an adjudicator, Sharon has authored hundreds of decisions and settlement agreements. Sharon’s legal work has also included drafting policy and law reform. Sharon is also a trained educator and creates curriculum, delivers courses and workshops on Administrative Justice.

Sharon joins our Legal Advocate, Mayra Albuquerque, along with the rest of the legal team at BWSS which includes legal interns and volunteer lawyers, all of whom approach the legal work at BWSS from an important intersectional and decolonial viewpoint.

Legal systems are complex and justice can be elusive for women. The Legal Services and Advocacy Program (LSAP) at BWSS helps support trans/women and femmes through the legal process. BWSS legal services and advocacy work spans family, immigration, refugee, and criminal law. 

Access to justice and our Legal Services and Advocacy Program are key for long term safety and freedom from violence.

For more information about Legal Services and Advocacy Program at Battered Women’s Support Services call 604-687-1867 or email 

#SomeMenBreakMoreThanHearts – World Health Day 2019

BWSS initiative #SomeMenBreakMoreThanHearts is designed to raise awareness of violence against trans/women and non-binary folks in intimate relationships, and provide resource kit to family physicians throughout B.C. to help doctors better identify and respond to those who may be experiencing violence in their intimate relationship. Because violence in relationships is a health issue.

The statistics about violence against trans/women and non-binary folks in intimate relationships are staggering—and general practitioners are often the first person the violence is disclosed to.

– Over 50% of all women in Canada have experienced physical or sexual violence.

– 40% of the women who have experienced intimate partner violence reported physical injuries, including bone fractures and internal injuries.

– More than half (54%) of trans women and non-binary people experience some form of intimate partner violence, including acts involving coercive control and physical harm.

– In BC, an average of 232 women per year are admitted to a B.C. hospital for severe injuries from intimate partner violence.

– 1 in 5 women make their first disclosure of violence in an intimate relationship to their general practitioner

– But many women are afraid to tell anyone: only 21% of women reported intimate partner violence to a nurse or a doctor during their lifetime.

The resource kit for general practitioners, available here, is designed to help doctors better identify and respond to those who may be experiencing violence in their intimate relationship; and offer resources that are available for support, including immediate safe places to go, crisis support, and ongoing counselling.

Earlier this year, Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director at BWSS presented at a seminar for UBC Medical School Residents in advance of their graduation. The presentation provided concrete steps that general practitioners can take when supporting patients who have experienced gender-based violence. 

Book a presentation or workshops for your organization, class or group here. 





What You Should Do When Someone Is Being Sexually Harassed on Public Transportation

Joanna Chiu, Canadian journalist, recently shared an experience of witnessing sexual harassment on a flight via Twitter, sparking a discussion on the role of bystanders. You can read the full thread below which includes an excellent resource created by BWSS on what bystanders can do when someone is being sexually harassed on public transportation. Joanna also wrote about the experience in the Vancouver Star and spoke to Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director at BWSS, about what people can do as bystanders when they witness harassment on public transportation. “Ask the woman,  ‘Are they bothering you?,’ loudly saying ‘ugh, that is so gross,’ making eye contact with some other bystanders and ask, ‘What should we do to help?’ Often people don’t know what to do”.

Despite the high levels of incidents, sexual harassment remains mainly unreported. That’s why, as Angela notes, “…People might think ‘It’s not my problem, it’s not a big deal.’ It comes from the fact that a lot of this behaviour is so normalized and we’ve only just started to address this publicly on social media”.


At BWSS, we don’t believe that harassment is an unavoidable part of our daily commute.  We believe that we must be able to move about and occupy the public space without being placed in danger or threatened.  It’s a fundamental freedom. Safe public transportation is about recognizing our experiences and needs.

We all have the right to feel safe. Let’s make this a priority.


Together We Are Stronger

In commemoration and celebration, BWSS collaborated and participated in events during the week of International Women’s Day 2019. Here is a look at some of the amazing events, bringing community together for the advancement of gender equity!

Every day, our over 150 volunteers bring their heart, soul and compassion to their work supporting survivors through our crisis line and support groups, strengthening our eco-fashion movement and much more. On March 7th 2019 BWSS held our annual Volunteer Recognition Dinner at Federico’s Supper Club in recognition of our committed volunteers. We thank all the volunteers who play such an important role at BWSS and My Sister’s Closet, social enterprise of BWSS.

On the same day, Chicha Vancouver held an International Women’s Day celebration hosted by Andrea Warner, author of Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Authorized Biography with partial proceeds going to BWSS.

The event included female speakers from all backgrounds, industries, disciplines to share their stories, their music, and their positivity and hope for an equitable future including our Angela Marie MacDougall.

Angela Marie MacDougall, BWSS Executive Director joined Riaz Meghiji on City TV’s Breakfast Television the morning of International Women’s Day reflecting on the 40 years of ending violence work of BWSS.

BWSS powerful awareness initiatives Home Sweet Home and Peephole were also shared during the interview which you can view here and here.

2019 also marked the 2nd annual Women’s Institute by BC Teacher’s Federation where teacher’s from every school district in BC are invited.The conference facilitates storytelling, creativity, wellness, and learning from one another.

Our, Angela Marie MacDougall and Rona Amiri co-facilitated two Consent 101 workshops. Focusing on looking at sexual violence within a context, delving deeper into understanding the historical and contemporary social context of sexual violence in Canada while exploring what it takes to build a culture of consent.
And Ileah Snell, Women’s Support Worker and Brooklyn Fowler, Transitions Service Coordinator represented BWSS during the “Living Library”—a group of inspiring leaders in a variety of fields sharing about their work.

13 years in the making Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre opened a 24 hour women’s shelter on International Women’s Day! We were delighted to join to the mark the occasion and recognize the activists who worked hard since 2006 to make it happen.

Our Rosa Elena Arteaga, Manager of Direct Services and Clincal Practice attended our sister organization West Coast LEAF annual Equality Breakfast. This years’ speaker was Dr.Willie Parker, an advocate of reproductive health in the United States.

BWSS and Options for Sexual Health collaborated on a presentation and preimere of Her Story (in three parts) a film anthology by Camille Hollett-French.

Following each of the short films, Charmaine De Silva, hosted dialogue panels covering the topics of each film, abortion, sexual violence and gender based violence. The dialogue panels delved deeper into the nuances of each of the issues that the films captured.

Samantha Kearney Manager of Development and Social Enterprise at BWSS spoke at SEC Conference: The Ripple Effect as part of a panel on March 9, 2019. The panel focused on gender based violence and the power of social enterprise as a tool for prevention and empowerment. Samantha shared the huge positive social and environmental impact of My Sister’s Closet.

The work for gender equity continues with our Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director at BWSS, attending the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women by the United Nations in New York.

BWSS is in attendance to talk about Canada’s response to social protection systems, access to public services, sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.

For more on events happening at CSW 63 follow BWSS on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

The Honorable Maryam Monsef, Minister of International Development and Minister for Women and Gender Equality with Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director of BWSS at the reception for the Canadian delegation at the Canadian consulate in New York City.


Take Action this International Women’s Day

Support women’s access to justice and family law this International Women’s Day.


Learn about the barriers to women’s access to justice in the legal system.

It is commonly known that violence escalates when a woman decides to separate from her abusive partner. After separation, an abusive partner will try to maintain his power and control through many ways. One form of control usually appears in the family law process, especially when children are involved. Read more about the barriers here.

Meet our Legal Advocate

Mayra Albuquerque is the Legal Advocate in the Legal Services and Advocacy Program (LSAP) Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS).

LSAP at BWSS provides legal support to women who have experienced violence in intimate relationships helping women navigate the Canadian legal system. Learn more about LSAP here.

Advocate for women’s access to justice in the legal system

Domestic homicide is Predictable and PreventableOver 80% of women accessing our services identify at least one legal issue where they require information. Email to gain updates on access to justice issues and you can advocate.



Donate to help increase women’s access to justice in their legal cases

With the support of our Legal Services and Advocacy Program women are able to leave their abusive relationship, receive more fair custody and access orders increasing the safety for the children and have access to legal representation in their legal cases.

If you would like to support women’s access to justice please make a donation today.


Access to justice work by our partners and government


B.C., Attorney General, David Eby, has released a report developed by practising lawyer Jamie Maclaren, QC, with recommendations to improve legal aid service delivery in British Columbia. Read the report here.




West Coast LEAF is representing the Single Mothers’ Alliance of BC and Nicole Bell, a Fraser Valley, B.C. woman who is personally affected by the inability to access family law legal aid, in a constitutional challenge against the province and the LSS.



The Jane Doe Network is a coalition of advocates, lawyers and community based organizations who meet to discuss community needs and take action on issues of equality, gender based violence and systemic change. For more information or to join Jane Doe Network email


Women’s History Month, Speaking Truth to Power

Like many of you, we watched MP Jody Wilson-Raybould testify at a hearing of the Commons justice committee and we were riveted and grateful for her and all women who take personal risks to confront power in their every day lives, in their communities and at the systemic level.

Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality Maryam Monsef will take on international development as part of her duties. Monsef tweeted,

“I’m excited to take on these new responsibilities complementing the work I do as Minister for Women & Gender Equality…There is still much to do to achieve gender equality here at home and around the world and I’m looking forward to continuing that work – because when women succeed, everyone benefits.”

This June, Minister Monsef is set to speak at Women Deliver 2019 in Vancouver. Billed as the largest conference on gender equality, health rights and wellbeing of girls and women in the 21st century. The goal of conference is to accelerate progress for women and girls everywhere.

We spoke to Mayor and Council on Women Deliver 2019 at Vancouver City Hall on January 28th about Women Deliver. BWSS is part of local organizations called Feminists Deliver who are convening and hosting events that will run parallel to Women Deliver June 3-6. For more information or to join Feminists Deliver email

International Women’s Day 2019

Each year BWSS participates in and hosts a number of special events during the week of International Women’s Day. Check out the events below and join us as we celebrate and commemorate!

BWSS CORE Training

In support of groups, organizations and the community BWSS offers CORE Training through our social enterprise Strategic Interventions. CORE Training is an interactive, five day professional development opportunity for front-line workers, social service providers, community organizers and managers. CORE training is inspiring, highly informing, builds on existing skills and teaches new tools and approaches based on BWSS 40 years of front-line work.

Over the last week, BWSS has provided Women’s Advocate training for members of the the BC Teachers Federation with Day 4 and 5 of training taking place on March 3rd and 4th.

To book CORE training or for more information email

International Women’s Day with Andrea Warner and Chicha Restaurant


Andrea Warner, author of Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Authorized Biography hosts the Annual Chicha International Women’s Day on Thursday, March 7th starting at 5:30PM. Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director at BWSS will speak at the event with partial proceeds going to BWSS.

Tickets include a reception, beverage, canapés and light snacks and many strong, passionate, innovative, creative, caring female leaders from all backgrounds, industries, disciplines to share their stories, their music, and their positivity and hope for an equal and caring future.

Purchase tickets here.

BWSS Volunteer Recognition Dinner


Each year BWSS celebrates our committed, compassionate and wonderful volunteers during the week of International Women’s Day through our volunteer recognition dinner. On March 7th we will gather, inviting our over 100 volunteers, to join us at Federico’s Supper Club for dinner, appreciation, and dancing!

Breakfast Television International Women’s Day Panel

On March 8th, tune into CityTV Vancouver Breakfast Television to catch Angela Marie MacDougall on their International Women’s Day panel.


Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre Shelter Opening

On March 8th at 2pm we will join our colleagues at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre for the opening of their new women’s shelter.




BCTF Women’s Institute Conference


March 7-9 BCTF Women’s Institute hosts a conference for women teachers from all over the province at  Pacific Gateway Hotel in Richmond. The conference will facilitate storytelling, creativity, wellness, and learning.

Our Angela Marie MacDougall and Rona Amiri will co-facilitate Consent 101 workshop.This workshop looks at sexual violence within a context, delving deeper into understanding the historical and contemporary social context of sexual violence in Canada while exploring what it takes to build a culture of consent.

And Ileah Snela, Women’s Support Worker and Brooklyn Fowler, Transitions Service Coordinator will represent BWSS during the “Living Library”—a group of inspiring women who are leaders in a variety of fields who would be willing to sit down with other women, tell their stories, share lessons learned in their careers.

Championing Choice & Safety: A Womxn’s World in Three Part


Options for Sexual Health and Battered Women Support Services are pleased to partner in the presentation and Canadian premiere of the series ‘Her Story (In Three Parts), a short film anthology by local writer/director/actor Camille Hollett-French.

Join us March 8th 7PM-9PM at the Djavad Mofwfaghian Theatre at the SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts in Vancouver (149 West Hasting St., Vancouver) for the screening and dialogue panels moderated by journalist Charmaine De Silva, the event aims to centre women’s resilience and the role that community supports and services can play in creating safety through choice.

International Transgender Day of Visibility


International Transgender Day of Visibility is on March 31st dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination and transmisogyny that they face. BWSS supports, advocates and provides services for Trans, Non-Binary and Two-Spirit survivors of violence. Learn more here.

For more on events happening on International Transgender Day of Visibility follow BWSS on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.