Legal Resources for Settlement Workers in BC: Law Foundation of BC


Hello everyone. My name is Veenu Siani
and I’m here speaking on behalf of the Law Foundation of British Columbia. This
is a good time for- to be talking about the Law Foundation because it’s our 50th
anniversary year. We will create- the Foundation was created in 1969. We were
the first foundation in North America that was created to receive and
distribute the interest on lawyers’ pool trust accounts. Just to give you a sense
of how much money we’re talking about, in the last 50 years wi- the Foundation
has made grants totaling just of just under 600,000- $600,000,000. So, we are a provincial body. We were created- created by
legislation and, as I said, we were the first one. And since our inception there
are foundations or similar structures all in all jurisdictions in North
America. So – in the United States and Canada both. So the Foundation has a
board of 18, and the board members come from around the province, and a staff of
12 currently. And we’ve we have a mandate that includes five areas. And you
would have- all your organizations would have come in contact with majority of
the organizations that fall within that in some way or the other. So these are
legal aid, legal education, those are the two areas that often people come in
contact with in their frontline work. And then there are other ones including
legal law libraries, which we have a representative here from there. There we have- we
fund legal research and law reform. So legal aid being the largest area. Just
over 60% of the Law Foundation’s funding goes towards legal aid. And legal aid is
defined broadly by the Foundation. So it includes our largest grantee, which is
Legal Services Society. And then it also includes things such as community
advocates that are funded by the Foundation. And these are advocates that
are supervised by family- by lawyers in the communities, and provide front line services in various areas. There are two
main categories of these, and you might have come in contact with them. There is
poverty law advocates that help people with their income assistance, housing, CPP, disability, those kind of applications, and then there’s the family law
advocates who are helping people with their family law problems. So it’s also a
good time to be talking about the Foundation, because after about ten years
of tightening our belts we are in a fortunate circumstance of having
increase in our income. So you know whereas our income in the last few years
have been about $17,000,000 and we made- that’s roughly what
we made in grants. Last year we were able to increase just about all of our grants
so we made grants in the amount of $33,000,000. And this was in part because of the balances that pool trust accounts are fairly high.
And also there’s been a couple of increases and interest rates, as you
would know, so that- that benefits the Foundation in terms of its income. It may
not benefit you individually if you are carrying any debt load! So it’s also
helpful for the funded groups because just about everybody got an increase
last year who is funded on an ongoing basis. So majority of the Foundation’s
income goes towards continuing programs. These are the programs that have been
funded for a number of years. They still apply each year and are assessed, but
generally there’s an understanding that they’ll continue to provide services and
continue to be funded by the Foundation unless there are some major issues.
Approximately 5% of the money goes towards funding projects. These are time
limited things that we fund each year, and that is to make sure that we are able
to fund innovation and sort of emerging needs that are not ongoing in nature. So
er in high-income year we tend to do- we may tend to not only increase our
continuing programs, but also provide more time limited project funding as
well. So if you if you or your organization has ideas about,
you know, how to serve your clients better by creating some new programs or
projects, you can talk to me or one of my colleagues by calling the Law Foundation.
And also we have a major projects initiative. This is for projects that
could be multi-year in nature. They could be anywhere from $250,000 to up to a
$1,000,000. So we’re- the Foundation is hoping to fund, you know, impactful
projects that that would, you know, that are transformational in nature. So, you
know, more than public- producing publications or holding
workshops. We’re talking about things that can change, make major changes to
the system for your clients. So please talk to us if you have ideas like that.
So it’s myself, and I’ll be around after this, after this this later on this
morning, in case you have any questions about any of that. The Foundation is also
increased so we fund about 115 programs now. These are advocacy programs, no,
including advocacy programs. So we’ve expanded in two main areas that would be
of interest to you. One is poverty law. So, so far the Foundation until a couple of
years back we’re funding poverty law advocacy and just about every community
that has a population of 10,000 people. We have expanded that to add some new
communities where we knew the communities are smaller, but there is a
need to be need in the areas of poverty law. And similarly we have expanded our
network of family law advocates. We had six or so programs, and now we are up to
26 programs. And again these are in the Lower Mainland and also in smaller
communities in outside of the Lower Mainland. We are- our annual report is going to be up on our website in a couple of days, probably in about a week’s time, and you’ll see where all
these locations are. And you can also find the locations on our our website,
and also on PovNet’s website. There are other- a couple of other programs that I
want to talk to you about. We’ve also expand
in the area of mental health advocacy. And this is law related issues that
people with mental health, often self-identified, might be encountering.
And so those are those are at Kettle and they’re mostly in the Downtown East Side
at Kettle and, um [whispering] and First United. And then – Heather used to work with me – [laughing] We’ve also expanded a couple of
positions in immigration area. So these are immigration advocates. There’s one-
there’s been one at Mosaic. We’ve just- we’re adding to ISS and Kinbrace. So ISS I’m sure you’re familiar with. Kinbrace is a smaller agency
that provides assistance to refugees. In addition to funding these kind of
services we also have support for advocates. So, you know, and this is
something that might be of interest to you, there are a couple of positions.
There are two lawyers. One is here, Taruna, who will be talking about her work
with family law advocacy, and there is another one at CLAS. It’s called
Community Legal as- Community Advocates Support Line. [laughing] So these are lawyers that
are available in case you have questions about either poverty law or family law.
You can contact them and they’ll be able to answer your questions. We also do
training often and can’t- while we do it, our own training, and also with Legal
Services Society so that people providing legal services have the most
current information, so that they can help their clients the best they can.
There are a few public interest organizations we fund as well which you
may have come in contact with in your day to day work. These are the organizations
that deal with systemic issues that may come up in your work.
So there’s West Coast LEAF. There is BC Civil Liberties Association. There is
CLAS and BCCPAC. And then we fund some environmental group. So those- that- those
are the kind of- that’s sort of the breadth of our work. There’s there’s also
the public legal education organizations out now. We
just spoke about a couple of those. These are the organizations that either provide
workshops or do publications and things like that. So check out our website and
you may be able to find the resources you’re looking for there. If not you can
contact either myself or one of my colleagues or one of the panel members
here. There’s a wealth of information right here that you have in front of you.
Thank you very much!

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