We celebrate the launch of a new Child and Youth Legal Centre, a significant step to improve children’s access to justice in BC. The Legal Centre will provide direct legal services to children and youth.
The new Legal Centre is led by the Society for Children and Youth of BC, with support from the Law Foundation of BC, Law Foundation of Ontario Access to Justice Fund, the Law Society of British Columbia and the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth.
Children and youth in BC will be able to access legal services relating to: family matters, child protection, and other children and youth legal matters. There will be an emphasis on addressing the needs of vulnerable young people including immigrant and refugee, street involved, LGBTQ and Indigenous children and youth. Legal services will be provided at no cost to the child or youth, provided that legal services are not otherwise available.
The Centre is based out of Vancouver and its work is framed by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified human rights instrument in the world which provides a holistic framework for the healthy development of children and youth. Canada ratified the Convention in 1991 and Canadian Courts have cited and considered it in numerous decisions. Many of these decisions are highlighted in the Child Rights toolkit launched in May 2017 by the Canadian Bar Association to assist lawyers and others working with children to better understand how child rights are supported in Canadian law. BHM Lawyer Suzanne Williams wrote this resource and is an Advisor to the new Child and Youth Legal Centre.
The importance of access to justice for children was highlighted by the BC Court of Appeal’s Chief Justice Baumann in his remarks on, “Why Access to Justice for Children Matters“, delivered on May 11, 2017. His three essential points focused on access to justice for children:
- at the institutional level of our justice system and how it advances the rule of law
- in how it advances the goal of reconciliation which is at the heart of s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1867 and critical to protecting the rights of indigenous people
- as a matter of moral imperative where simultaneously children and youth are protected and empowered
We look forward to the Child and Youth Legal Centre building a strong foundation, advancing access to justice for children and youth, and extending its reach across BC.