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Contributed by Jean-Pierre Desrocher on behalf of the Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Alberta.
Filling the gaps in access to justice is a pressing concern in our province today. Part of this task requires us to understand the direct needs of the public, and the barriers that exist preventing the public from accessing the system. For many francophones living in Alberta, language remains one of these barriers. Since its inception, the Campus Saint-Jean, the University of Alberta’s multidisciplinary French-language faculty, has been indirectly instrumental in helping francophone and French-speaking Albertans receive the legal services they need in their own language. As the francophone and French-speaking population of Alberta continues to grow, Campus Saint-Jean’s role in helping to provide access to justice is becoming even more important.
Alberta has one of the fastest-growing francophone populations in Canada. In fact, according to the 2016 census, the number of Albertans reporting French as their mother tongue has increased by more than 30% since 2001. This places Alberta as the province with the third-largest French-speaking minority population in the country after Ontario and New Brunswick.
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Rédigé par Jean-Pierre Desrochers de la part de l’Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Alberta.
Combler les lacunes en matière d'accès à la justice est une préoccupation urgente dans notre province aujourd'hui. Une partie de cette tâche exige que nous comprenions les besoins directs du public et les obstacles qui existent et qui empêchent le public d'accéder au système. Pour de nombreux francophones vivant en Alberta, la langue demeure l'un de ces obstacles. Depuis sa création, le Campus Saint-Jean, la faculté multidisciplinaire de langue française de l'Université de l'Alberta, a contribué indirectement à aider les Albertains francophones et de langue française à recevoir les services juridiques dont ils ont besoin dans leur propre langue. Alors que la population francophone et de langue française de l'Alberta continue de croître, le rôle du Campus Saint-Jean en matière d'accès à la justice devient encore plus important.
L'Alberta a l'une des populations francophones qui augmentent le plus rapidement au Canada. En effet, selon le recensement de 2016, le nombre d'Albertains déclarant le français comme langue maternelle a augmenté de plus de 30 % depuis 2001. Cela fait de l'Alberta la troisième province du pays en termes de population minoritaire francophone, après l'Ontario et le Nouveau-Brunswick..
By Ali Abel
When Alberta’s courts closed in the third week of March to help slow the spread of COVID-19, the important work of Student Legal Assistance (SLA) came to a standstill. Physical distancing meant that student caseworkers were unable to meet with their clients, and paper files made working on files remotely nearly impossible.
“When the University of Calgary shut down campus it meant the law student caseworkers were no longer able to access client files, which were all on paper,” says Susan Billington, LLB’85, associate professor and executive director of SLA. “Essentially, all of our work providing access to justice to some of Calgary’s most vulnerable citizens was suspended.”
A non-profit organization staffed primarily by University of Calgary law students, SLA provides free legal information and representation to low-income residents of Calgary and the surrounding area. About 100 student caseworkers work on a variety of files such as impaired driving offences, theft and trespassing, small claims, child support and guardianship, bylaw or traffic offences, and landlord/tenant matters.
After years working solely on paper, clinics makes transition to online files
In June, SLA earned “critical research status.” This enabled SLA staff members to return to the SLA office in Murray Fraser Hall who then worked tirelessly to transition all paper files to an online legal software platform, and to begin serving existing clients again. Student caseworkers have continued to work remotely, but have been able to visit the SLA office in file teams to access hard-copy files, prepare trial books, and liaise with administrative staff on client matters.
“We have daily morning meetings on Zoom, client file team meetings on Teams, and our upper-year students hold daily online sessions to provide guidance and mentorship to our first-year caseworkers,” explains Louanne Moriarty, a third-year student and the clinic’s student director. “We have also been able to connect with our advising lawyers over Zoom, and the screen-sharing option has provided a new way to review critical documents.”
By Chris Weibe
In September 2020, the Mayor of Edmonton Don Iveson called on the Governments of Alberta and Canada to help the City buy hotels or apartment buildings for housing unhoused Edmontonians. This was a necessary action. It is the latest effort in a decades-long struggle to use scarce public resources to help unhoused people. It forced members of the taxpaying working poor, middle, and upper classes to consider: how much of our public resources should we spend to ensure our unhoused neighbours’ safety? And should we spend more during a pandemic?
Readers should continue asking themselves these important questions. But readers – especially legal professionals and elected officials like Mayor Iveson – should also ask themselves another important question: how much do our publicly-funded institutions unjustifiably harm our unhoused neighbours?
This blog post offers some answers to that question by looking at how laws in Alberta, and in particular Edmonton transit bylaws, have harmed unhoused people.
UAlberta research centre empowers Indigenous communities to apply federal Indigenous child welfare law
By Sarah Kent
A research centre at the University of Alberta is helping Indigenous communities navigate and implement a law that affirms Indigenous Peoples have inherent jurisdiction over the welfare of their children.
The Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge, a joint initiative of the Faculties of Law and Native Studies, has produced a library of guides and a series of workshops that unpack “An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families,” formerly known as Bill C-92.
The Act, which came into force January 1, recognizes the inherent jurisdiction of Indigenous communities and nations to write their own laws regarding child and family services and also sets national minimum standards.
“We want Nations to feel empowered by the legislation,” said Koren Lightning-Earle, legal counsel for the Lodge.