Community members gathered in Prince George today to celebrate the official opening of the Parents Legal Centre (PLC). The centre, which helps parents when a child is at risk of being removed from the family home or has been removed by social workers because of safety concerns, began providing services earlier this year and is now fully operational.
At December 31, 2018, there were 514 children in care in North Central BC according to Ministry of Children and Families statistics. Of those, 423 were Indigenous.
“The PLC is our response to the crisis levels of children in care in BC, particularly Indigenous children. Prince George was identified as a location where we could potentially make an impact, by assisting parents in finding ways to keep their families together, whenever possible,” said Gail Murray, vice president of Indigenous Services at the Legal Services Society (LSS), which provides legal aid services in BC and runs the centre.
The centre uses a team approach. It provides lawyer services, such as legal advice and representation at court, mediation and other collaborative meetings. The centre’s Aboriginal community legal worker advocates on the parents’ behalf, supporting them throughout the process, providing information, and connecting them to other services such as counselling, addictions treatment or for housing.
The services are available to anyone who is eligible, but focusses on Indigenous communities because of the children in care in BC, 63% are Indigenous.
“We’re very happy to be able to offer these valuable services in Prince George,” said Murray. “We are continuing to build relationships with community members here, and strongly motivated to contribute to improved access to justice in BC for Indigenous peoples.”
The Prince George PLC is part of an expansion project that was first tested in Vancouver and Surrey. In addition to Prince George, LSS recently opened PLCs in Campbell River, Duncan, Kamloops, Smithers, Victoria, Williams Lake and Terrace.
PLCs are run by the Legal Services Society and funded by the Ministry of Attorney General.