Legal Aid BC’s Parents Legal Centre (PLC) in Vancouver marked its fifth anniversary of helping families and children on February 23, 2020.
Backed by provincial government funding, initially as a pilot project, the PLC opened its doors at the Provincial Court at Robson Square in downtown Vancouver in 2015. Since then, its staff of four has supported 480 clients in not only resolving legal matters, but also in addressing underlying issues, such as housing or addictions. Nearly half of the PLC’s clients are Indigenous and 85% are women.
The PLC’s Managing Lawyer Todd McPherson said the centre’s biggest accomplishments are helping keep families together and the speedy and safe return of children to their parents. Families like this one.
“This is especially rewarding in Indigenous families, considering the terrible history of residential schools, the Sixties Scoop and systemic racism,” said McPherson.
The centre is planning to expand its outreach efforts to help more families as it moves forward.
“We want to ensure there aren’t parents out there who are having stressful communications with social workers and who don’t have any assistance,” explained McPherson. “Social workers have lawyers to advise them and parents should too.”
The PLC currently helps several dozen clients every month, representing clients in court on Wednesdays, and assisting as duty counsel for others. In between court dates, staff help clients increase access to their children, attend mediations, family case planning conferences and other collaborative meetings.
Legal Aid BC operates 10 PLCs across the province. Taking a holistic approach early in the child protection process, the centres help parents and people standing in for parents facing the possible government removal of children from the family home as well as those who have already had their children removed.