BWSS Legal Services and Advocacy Program will now offer full representation by a practicing lawyer

For the past 26 years, the Legal Services and Advocacy Program at Battered Women’s Support Services provides 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.  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. Through accessing 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, able to have a voice in mediation proceedings and very importantly having access to legal representation in their legal cases.

BWSS Legal Services and Advocacy Program will now offer full representation by a practicing lawyer

“I couldn’t find a lawyer that wanted to take on my family case, there is simply not enough money involved with Legal Aid to make it worth their time”

Legal representation an opportunity for women to feel safer, not only physically but emotionally for herself and her children, especially when she is in court.

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.  The virtual elimination of Legal Aid in British Columbia and the complicated acceptance process has resulted in an increase of women who are having to self represent in family law, immigration and refugee cases. Over 80% of women accessing our services identify at least one legal issue where they require information.

2d1de70Vicky Law is a practicing lawyer at BWSS and the Legal Services and Advocacy Program Coordinator. She supports women who have experienced violence and are involved in the legal system. Prior to working at BWSS, Vicky offered legal representation to women at a women’s legal clinic in Toronto in the areas of family, immigration and refugee, and child protection law. Vicky has been working in this area of law for the last 5 years to assist and support women fleeing violence.

The BWSS Legal Services and Advocacy Program Coordinator will take on full representation files in the capacity of a practicing lawyer in addition to her current job responsibilities. Representation files will be taken based on, but not limited to, the current caseload, availability of time, the number of law students volunteering at BWSS, and the complexity of legal issues.

Both the BWSS Legal Advocate and the BWSS Manager of Direct Services and Clinical Practice will discuss and assess when legal representation will be offered. Cases will be taken on a case to case basis. The factors that will be considered include, but not limited to:

  • The woman has been denied by Legal Services Society for legal representation;
  • The woman has appealed the Legal Services Society’s decision of denial and the appeal was unsuccessful;
  • There are multiple barriers that prevent the woman from self-representation, including language, disability, complexity of legal issues, gender orientation, and impact of trauma;
  • The use of the court system by the abuser as way to intimidate or harass or to continue any form of violence;
  • The inability to privately retain a lawyer, such as financial difficulties; and
  • The legal issue is either a family law, child protection or immigration law matter.


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

Legal Advocacy Workshops April 7, 2016 – June 9, 2016, every Thursday 10am – 12pm at BWSS office

  • The workshops are aimed at women who have or are experiencing violence in their relationships and require legal support with the resulting family law and other legal issues. Lawyers from the community with experience in family law will facilitate all workshops.

BWSS Women’s Family Law Clinic

  • BWSS provides summary legal advice clinics in family law every month with volunteer lawyers from the community. These clinics are able to offer necessary summary legal advice to women on a continuous basis while they are un-represented in the family law system.
  • BWSS continues their partnership with Access Pro Bono to provide monthly in-house pro-bono clinics in family law.  This partnership offers women legal advice while complementing the work of the legal advocacy program.

BWSS and Amici Curiae

  • BWSS has partnered with Amici Curiae Paralegal Program to provide assistance to unrepresented women with affidavit drafting in the family law proceedings. Many unrepresented women need to make applications and supporting affidavits in order to resolve their legal issues. As a result, affidavits are important evidence to present all the relevant facts of the case. BWSS Legal Advocacy program, in partnership with Amici Curiae Paralegal Program, are providing one clinic per month to assist women in drafting affidavits. Each month, this clinic will support four women.

Pro Bono Students Canada – UBC Chapter

  • The BWSS Legal Services and Advocacy Program is in partnership with Pro Bono Students Canada – UBC Chapter to provide mentorship to law students and additional services for women. UBC Law students work closely with women accessing the Legal Services and Advocacy Program.

Legal Internship Program

  • BWSS Legal Services and Advocacy Program includes law students who provide services to women navigating the legal system through an internship. Legal interns interview women, assess and analyze legal problems, assist in resolving legal issues, prepare women for court, prepare documents and provide court accompaniments.


( L-R) Heather Wojcik TLFBC, Ruth Lea Taylor, BWSS Supervising Lawyer, Veenu Saini, TLFBC, Kelly Hardman, BWSS Board of Directors, Angela Marie MacDougall, BWSS Executive Director, Jan Lindsay, QC, TLFBC Liaison Governor, Rosa Elena Arteaga, Manager, Direct Services and Clinical Practice, Vicky Law, BWSS Legal Services and Advocacy Program Co-ordinator

For the past 26 years, BWSS has had a Legal Services and Advocacy Program because we know that for women leaving abusive relationships, the complication of dealing with the power/control issues of a violent spouse, makes dealing with legal system more difficult. Many women are the primary caregivers of children, and as such, may not work outside the home. Many women who do work outside the home do not make enough to pay for a lawyer but their income makes them ineligible for legal aid. They are then forced to represent themselves if they cannot find an advocate or a pro-bono lawyer. Some women give up and stay with their abuser because it is easier than leaving.

“It would have been easier to stay with the abuser and not deal with the courts and the painful separation”.

Women leaving abusive relationships have to make many critical decisions such as: where they will live after they leave, find protection for themselves and their children and start a new life. From the first decision to leave, a woman has to determine how she will support herself and her children. Women may also have the additional impact of a former spouse using the courts against her. In many of the cases seen at BWSS, abusive partners use the court process to harass, degrade and force women to concede to their demands.  Often women are navigating several areas of the law concurrently and often at opposing purposes.

“I was told [by a lawyer] to be quiet about the abuse and just settle so I could get child support, meanwhile providing access to my child violated a peace bond I had stemming from the assault charges against my abuser”



Without legal training, without lawyers, without English everyday women are standing in court with their abusive partners standing a few feet away from them and they present their cases in front of a judge.

The outcomes for women when they do not get proper and supportive legal representation and advice are:

  • women are forced to provide unsafe access to their children with their violent ex-spouses,
  • women must share custody with violent, unpredictable ex-spouses who often know where they live,
  • women do not receive fair or just child support and spousal support payments to provide themselves and their children,
  • women are threatened with deportation by their violent spouses,
  • women are forced to take hours of time to access different types of support services to get preliminary advice (working women are losing income in order to access support services),
  • women are forced into mediation services when the power and violence issues make them susceptible to more abuse,
  • women must research and use self-help resources for complex legal problems that should be handled by a lawyer, and
  • women who do have Legal Aid report that they deal with lawyers who do not take violence seriously and leave it out of the proceedings when it is integral to fair legal outcomes for battered women.


Power&ControlThe Dynamics of Power and Control After Separation in Relation to the Family Law Processes

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. Through court-related abuse and harassment, abusers are able to use the significance of a child to continue his abuse towards the child’s mother.

Read the full article here


We are grateful to our partners

APBlogo AClogo PBSClogo




We are grateful for our funding partners The Law Foundation and My Sister’s Closet our social enterprise

Law-Foundation-Logo-BW-1-360x201 2