Legal Services and Advocacy Program at Battered Women’s Support Services

Legal systems are complex and justice can be elusive for women. The Legal Services and Advocacy Program at Battered Women’s Support Services helps support women through the legal process.

  • The Legal Services and Advocacy Program (LAP) at BWSS provides support, advocacy, information and accompaniment to women who have experienced violence and who are involved in the legal system.
  • LAP provides legal information, research, advocacy and support for battered women in family, child protection, immigration, criminal, civil, and poverty law matters.
  • LAP provides legal information and support over the telephone or in person
  • LAP provides legal workshops and pro-bono legal info sessions for women
  • LAP provides legal representation to women who have multiple barriers and have been denied by Legal Services Society for legal representation

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

The Legal Services and Advocacy Program at Battered Women’s Support Services is funded by The Law Foundation of British Columbia and My Sister’s Closet – social enterprise of Battered Women’s Support Services

Download the poster here

Legal Advocacy

Webcast: Women Seeking Justice Forum ~ International Women’s Day 2015

International Women’s Day 2015

Battered Women’s Support Services Legal Services and Advocacy Program Presents:

Women Seeking Justice Forum

Women Seeking Justice Forum convenes a former judge, researchers, academics, lawyers, legal advocates, and feminist thinkers to illuminate pressing legal issues for women in law practice and policy including international, Indigenous, immigration, refugee, criminal, family, and poverty.


MC Niki Sharma – BWSS Board Member and Lawyer

Opening and Territorial Welcome – Audrey Siegl, Musqueam Nation

Word from Sponsors

Jennifer Johnstone President and CEO Central City Foundation

My Sister’s Closet

Word from Battered Women’s Support Services

Angela Marie MacDougall Executive Director


The Honourable Donna Martinson

First Panel

Aboriginal Women and Girls on the International Agenda

Sharon McIvor, Nlekepmux, from the Lower Nicola Indian Band, Activist, Lawyer, College Professor

Preliminary Findings from a BC Study of RCMP cases of Intimate Partner Violence: Does Gender Symmetry Exist?

Dr. Margaret Jackson, Professor Emerita, School of Criminology and, Director, the FREDA Centre for Research on Violence against Women and Children at SFU

Legal Advocacy and Violence Against Women

Vicky Law, BWSS Legal Advocate

Q & A

Second Panel

Toward a Sanctuary City: Reflections from Lucia Jimenez Coroner’s Inquest 

Rosa Elena Arteaga, Manager, Direct Services and Clinical Practice, Battered Women’s Support Services

Conditional Permanent Residence: The Dangers of Making Immigration Status Conditional on Living with your Spouse

Lobat Sadrehashemi, Staff Lawyer at BC Public Interest Advocacy Office

Women and Homelessness: Challenging Apathy in Policy and Practice

Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director, Battered Women’s Support Services

Violence Against Women and the Family Law Act: Early Jurisprudence

Susan Boyd, Professor of Law and Chair in Feminist Legal Studies, University of British Columbia

Q & A

Niki Sharma Closing Remarks

Webcast is in effect and brought to you by The Law Foundation of BC and My Sister’s Closet – a social enterprise of Battered Women’s Support Services

Please email during the webcast if you have questions for the presenters or if you have technical difficulties.

Legal Advocacy – How you can assist women’s access to justice and equality under the law

International Women’s Day 2015 provides a great opportunity to highlight the ways in which women fleeing abusive relationships seek safety and justice through the legal system.

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. (Read more here)

If you could do something to end violence against girls and women, wouldn’t you?


A Journey to Freedom

A Journey to Freedom: Supporting Refugee Women Who Are Dealing with Violence
By Rosa Elena Arteaga, Manager, Direct Services & Programs

At BWSS we have been supporting a number of refugee women who have experienced violence and who are going through their refugee process. During the last twelve months a high percentage of the women who accessed our services and who were going through their refugee process had their claims accepted.

It has been a long journey for the women to reach an official answer that acknowledges that they have the right to protection and freedom from abuse. Each woman has a journey that stems from their strength to escape from their abusive partners, from their country of origin, to the strength to come to an unknown country with the only hope to finally become free from violence. However, at their arrival, they had to face a system that does not understand violence against women and its effects as well as a system that does not understand the migration of abuse across the lifecycle, which follows girls and women through infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and as elders.

What did it take for the women to succeed with their claim for freedom? For some of them, it took the support from a family member, a friend, or a neighbour who helped them to escape to Canada. In Canada, it took the support of an anti-violence women’s organization, BWSS, which assisted them to access the right lawyer, the right interpreter, and the right counsellor. BWSS team supported each by identifying and understanding the range of needs from forced migration, sexual violence, and intimate violence to the spectrum of cultural needs. It took an approach which identifies the strength, barriers, needs and support needed from settlement to empowerment.

It took the consistency and commitment of the BWSS team to support each woman’s journey through its programming such as legal advocacy, Stopping The Violence counselling, language specific support groups, and employment program. For the majority of the women their refugee process took more than a year and during that year they were consistently accessing BWSS programs. In addition, it took the willingness of their immigration lawyers to learn and understand about the impacts of abuse. The lawyers became aware that women’s lost of memory, lack of trust, and their overwhelming fear does not relate to their intellectual capacity, cultural background or the veracity of their story, rather it relates to the impact of the violence that they have experienced though their whole life.

Finally, it took the women’s strength and resilience to escape from violence, to expose themselves to strangers and tell their stories, their consistency in contacting their friends, neighbours, family, women’s organizations in their countries of origin so they could gather evidence and expose that gender violence is a social issue and that women’s right to protection is not merely granted.

After a long and painful journey each woman has identified her unique strength, her value, her success and her right to live free from violence. We at BWSS stand and work in solidarity with all women who are on a journey to freedom.

How BWSS Legal Advocacy Empowered Me

In 2009 I found the courage to escape my abuser shortly after discovering I was pregnant. When I left, I was so traumatized that I couldn’t even carry a proper conversation.

Next began the daunting task of rebuilding my life, which included the legal system. I had never dealt with anything like it before and felt powerless. I spent a lot of time crying and complaining about how unfair the process was. Finally, I came to the realization that no one was going to do this for me. If I wanted my life back, I would have to take action.

I started doing research. I looked into countless resources and eventually found Battered Women Support Services. Their legal advocacy services were probably the most important support I had. They put me in touch with appropriate representation and helped me acquire knowledge on how to navigate the legal system.

This gave me some control over my situation and began a snowball effect. I started to regain my confidence. I began to feel empowered and knew my voice had to be heard. As my self esteem grew, I became motivated to make positive changes in my life, including pursuing my education. All of these things have been important not only because they’ve help me improve my life, but they also gave me creditability in court. I gained the strength to stand up to my abuser in court. I knew that I would be believed!

My battles in court are still ongoing and it is possible that I may have to do this many more times in the future. However so far I have done well and my abuser has yet to gain access to my daughter. Had I not had help from legal advocacy and become informed, I am certain the outcome would not have been as positive. Although this experience may be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever been through, it has also been the most valuable. It has taught me that I am capable of success and that I can protect myself and my child.

2011 Legal Advocacy Worskhops

Updated dates for BWSS 2011 Legal Advocacy Workshops have been announced, click here for a complete list of session dates and information.

Workshops will be held Wednesday from 12 noon to 2 pm

Location: Battered Women’s Support Services in Vancouver (for confidentiality purposes please call us to obtain the address)

In Attendance: The BWSS Legal Advocate, a volunteer lawyer (may be male) and women who need support with their current legal cases.

Format of Workshop: These workshops are designed for women who are ineligible for legal aid and/or in need of legal support for their cases. Lawyers and other professionals with experience on the topic will facilitate all workshops. Women may bring forms or relevant paperwork to the workshop for their own self-reference.

What is provided?

  • Legal information, strategies for specific legal issues/topics
  • Resources
  • Coffee/tea

For registration and information call the Intake Line at 604-687-1867