Low-income individuals in Kamloops and the surrounding area who need access to legal services, but who cannot afford it, will be able to get help from a new legal clinic at the Kamloops and District Elizabeth Fry Society.
The provincial government is providing $250,000 for the clinic via a grant awarded through the Law Foundation of BC. It means that low-income clients who, if they could find a lawyer at all, often had to get assistance and advice over the phone from lawyers in Vancouver, will be able to get legal aid face-to-face in Kamloops.
The Law Foundation grant of $2 million will fund eight advocacy clinics, including the Kamloops one, around the province. Experienced lawyers and staff who can offer legal advice to clients and act as legal counsel in proceedings will be hired, and the foundation will provide coaching, tools, and support to enhance the services provided by the society, all at no cost to clients.
The Elizabeth Fry Society is a community-based non-profit agency that offers programs and services related to housing and community, with a focus on women and youth. The society provides programs, services, and public education aimed at building a healthy and safe community by minimizing barriers, meeting the needs of marginalized people, and fostering personal growth and self-sufficiency.
“The new poverty law clinic significantly improves access to justice for low-income individuals in our community,” says Cassandra Schwarz, executive director, Kamloops and District Elizabeth Fry Society. “Many of our clients were previously forced to access lawyers outside our community, creating barriers to services that many do not have the ability to overcome.
“The addition of a poverty law clinic in our community is a great step forward in reducing these barriers and supporting the rights of low-income individuals.”
Brandy, a client of the Kamloops and District Elizabeth Fry Society, says that when she needed help from a lawyer, she had to contact one in Vancouver and talk to them by phone.
“I like talking face-to-face, not over the phone. Being a visual person, I find it better to have the personal contact. Having everything in one spot saves time, whether it is searching for the legal provider that can address my needs, meeting regularly with my representative as my case progresses, or making it easier, financially and physically, to provide evidence and documents in a timely fashion.
“This is an awesome idea.”
For more information, go to the Kamloops and District Elizabeth Fry Society website at https://kamloopsefry.com/.