When the pandemic first hit, the provincial courts were closed for a few months, unless it was an urgent hearing. While courts have resumed some in-person processes, family duty counsel services that used to be provided in-person in courthouses are now provided remotely by telephone. Court appearances that family duty counsel assists with are all conducted remotely, by phone or MS Teams.
Yong* thought it was ironic that she was seeing a family lawyer on Valentine’s Day. On that day in 2020, a few weeks before Legal Aid BC (LABC) put in-person appointments on hold due to COVID-19, she met co-Lead Family Duty Counsel Susan Loney.
Yong came to Canada from Korea on a student visa a couple of years ago with her daughter. She had concluded some legal paperwork with her estranged husband in Korea, which outlined his child support responsibilities and granted Yong permission to bring their daughter to Canada. Yong now wanted to end the marriage, but feared her husband would never agree to a divorce. He had not paid child support nor communicated with her for several years.
“As we spoke, it became very clear to me that Yong’s spouse was abusive and controlling, and was continuing to be that way from a distance,” recalled Susan, who explained no-fault divorce to Yong.
Yong’s husband had been evading being served in person with the divorce documents, but with Susan’s help, Yong was able to get an Order to serve her husband by an alternate method so the documents could be served by email. Although Yong’s husband still did not respond, Susan assisted remotely with the next step of documents to conclude the divorce.
This was not the end of Yong’s struggles. In the fall of 2020, she learned that the federal government would not process her permanent residency application without a legal document from a Canadian court confirming her guardianship over her daughter. Susan met with Yong again, this time remotely and helped her with her court application.
Yong eventually got the orders and the guardianship was confirmed. She was now free to pursue her dream of permanent residency and eventual Canadian citizenship.
A year later, on Valentine’s Day 2021, Susan received a thank-you email from Yong.
“What you gave me was more than just legal help,” wrote Yong. “Getting Canadian permanent residency is not easy for me, and [there’s] still a long way to go, but I am hoping someday I’ll be Canadian and give people back what I was given.”
*To protect the client's confidentiality, we have not used her real name.