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10 th. Annual Report. Edmonton Community Legal Centre. Edmonton Community Legal Centre

10 th Annual Report 2011 Edmonton Community Legal Centre Edmonton Community Legal Centre Our Board Donald Cranston, QC Chair Bennett Jones LLP Michael Phair Vice Chair Institute for Sexual Minority Studies
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10 th Annual Report 2011 Edmonton Community Legal Centre Edmonton Community Legal Centre Our Board Donald Cranston, QC Chair Bennett Jones LLP Michael Phair Vice Chair Institute for Sexual Minority Studies James McGinnis, QC Treasurer Parlee McLaws LLP Christine Pratt, Secretary Field LLP Wendy Danson, McCuaig Desrocher LLP Lanny Der, Alberta Aboriginal Relations Peter Faid, Community Services Consulting Ltd Marie Gordon, QC, Gordon Zwaenepoel Mark Heck, Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP Allyson Jeffs, Ackroyd LLP James Muir, University of Alberta Joanne Pawluk, Community Representative Debbie Yungwirth, QC, Family Law Lawyer Our Financial Supporters Ackroyd LLP Alberta Law Foundation Alberta Employment and Immigration (STEP) Alberta Solicitor General Alberta Culture and Community Spirit Alumni and Friends of the Faculty of Law Association Bennett Jones LLP Bishop & McKenzie LLP Brownlee LLP City of Edmonton Davis LLP Duncan & Craig LLP Edmonton Community Foundation Emery Jamieson LLP Field LLP Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP McLennan Ross LLP Miller Thompson LLP Parlee McLaws LLP Service Canada (Canada Summer Jobs) Union 52 Benevolent Society Witten LLP You ve come a long way, baby! The 1960 s slogan to attract women smokers has been conscripted innumerable times to mark milestones of growth, development and achievement. As tired and overworked as this slogan might be, it is still the appropriate sentiment to capture the changes in the Edmonton Community Legal Centre over the last ten years. It was in the early months of 2002 that the call went out to members of the Edmonton legal community asking them to volunteer their time and talents to the poor and disadvantaged in our community who desperately needed legal help, but would never be able to afford a lawyer. In its first year of operation, 27 volunteer lawyers, under the former banner of Edmonton Centre for Equal Justice ( ECEJ ) provided summary legal advice to 272 clients. This was no small feat given that the organization had very little in the way of funding or resources. The experience of the volunteer lawyer 10 years ago is very different than that of today. There was just one office that the organization operated out of one evening per week. The office was rather basic, but functional space located in the Baker Centre on 106 Street. All notes and reports were written by hand by the volunteer lawyers as there were no computers. With little by way of staff to help, pre-screening of clients was fairly rudimentary resulting in volunteer lawyers often experiencing surprises in what clients asked of them. And at the end of the interview the volunteer lawyer may have felt fairly helpless as there were not the referral sources and staff to assist with follow up that there is today. In fact there was just one beleaguered staff lawyer-- very overwhelmed by a workload large enough for several lawyers. In short, in the early years, it was a struggle just for ECEJ to survive. But some very dedicated people refused to let go of their vision of access to justice for those in need in Edmonton and really dug in to make the organization work. The result has been the development of something of which the original creators could only dream. Located in the heart of downtown Edmonton in a seven thousand square foot modern law office space, Edmonton Community Legal Centre ( ECLC ) now boasts a permanent staff of 13, including four staff lawyers. Last year 200 volunteers, including 135 volunteer lawyers, provided service, support and summary legal advice to nearly 2000 clients. The ECLC volunteer lawyer of today has the choice of providing his or her services in several locations in Edmonton on a number of different evenings or at the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton over a lunch hour or to help new Canadians at ASSIST Edmonton on a Saturday. The job of the volunteer lawyer has also been made easier, yet more effective, through the use of computers with a software program designed specifically for ECLC. The volunteer lawyer today receives the support of staff before, during and after their consultation with the client. Before the lawyers meet with the client, the clients have been carefully pre-screened and all of the qualifying paperwork has been completed. During the session with the client the volunteer lawyers have the assistance and support of nonlawyer volunteers and staff that provide all the necessary administrative services the lawyer could require. After the consultation, the volunteer lawyer knows that the ECLC staff is equipped to follow up on just about anything referred to them from an imminent eviction to immigration issues to issues of basic funding like AISH. The lawyers and staff of ECLC, both voluntary and paid, not only provide legal and other services on a one-to-one basis for their clients, but they also endeavor to promote self-help and an I can do it myself! attitude through presentations and seminars offered on a periodic basis covering everything from landlord and tenant issues, to bankruptcy and insolvency issues, to employment. ECLC has become such a tremendous success that it has been asked to lend assistance to like organizations developing in other Alberta communities. In 2011 ECLC took on providing administrative assistance to Grande Prairie Legal Guidance a summary legal advice clinic serving that community through the efforts of the volunteer lawyers in Grande Prairie. Despite the development and growth of this wonderful organization over the last ten years, there are two things that haven t changed. Firstly, there continues the insatiable need for legal help for the poor and needy in our community. Secondly, the desire, dedication and determination to help those in need continues to be provided by the staff and lawyers of the Edmonton Community Legal Centre. However, all people involved in ECEJ and ECLC, past and present, can stop and pause at this ten year milestone to reflect, and say: You have come a long way, baby! Reflections on Change by a Ten Year Volunteer, Brian Summers Our Community Partners The Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers (EMCN) provides support services through workshops and on a one-on-one basis for Temporary Foreign Workers in partnership with Catholic Social Services (CSS). The collaborative approach between EMCN, CSS and the ECLC to provide legal support to TFWs has been invaluable as there are currently limited affordable resources available in Edmonton. This year there has been an increase in the number of clients requiring legal services from the Edmonton Community Legal Centre. EMCN coordinated numerous referrals and requested legal assistance on a variety of issues and topics, including employment standards, landlord and tenant, and immigration. Clients have been happy with the services provided, and the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers has benefited from the collaboration by being able to provide more coordinated, informed, and cohesive services to TFW clients in need. The ECLC Program Coordinator has done an amazing job liaising with the clients and the programs. The commitment of knowledgeable and dedicated ECLC volunteers has really been incredible. In 2011, two ECLC volunteers delivered Permanent Residence and Legal Rights Workshops on a regular basis as part of the effort to educate clients about their legal rights. The strong attendance at these events, and the overwhelmingly positive responses from clients, is indicative of the need for these services. EMCN has also benefited from the knowledge received at the educational legal sessions presented by ECLC volunteers at Edmonton Public Library locations throughout the city, and clients have benefitted from individual clinic appointments with volunteer lawyers. Moving forward into 2012, clients and counselors are very excited and appreciative of the additional support from ECLC s newly hired immigration lawyer. Thank you for the good work that you do and your commitment to assist Temporary Foreign Workers. Terry Andriuk, Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers Clinic Services Volunteer Hours Clients Served Volunteers to ,640 10, Grande Prairie Legal Guidance 39 clinic dates 23 volunteer lawyers 105 volunteer hours 196 clients served Message from Board Chair Don Cranston The Centre over the past year has continued as a vibrant client first service for people with low incomes in need of legal services. The Edmonton legal community in particular and the Edmonton community at large can feel proud of the Centre s work. The year 2011 was again marked by an increased volume of services to low-income Albertans. New developments included taking on the administration of the Grande Prairie Legal Guidance summary legal advice clinic, and, toward the end of the year, hiring an additional lawyer focused on immigration services. With financial support of the Alberta Law Foundation, the Centre undertook and completed a study on the need for family law services for people with low income. The report has been issued and is receiving positive feedback. As always, my report would not be complete without offering special thanks to all of the many volunteers who have dedicated their time, free of charge, to the work of the Centre. I offer special thanks to all of the members of the Board of Directors, and to the excellent staff at the Centre. We continue to owe a debt of gratitude to the Alberta Law Foundation without whose financial support the Centre simply could not exist. Last year we saw four Board members complete their terms. I would like to extend our heartfelt appreciation and thanks to Roger Rosychuk, Yessy Byl, Brian Summers and Jon Faulds for their service as Board members. Volunteer Lawyers Joseph Angeles Wendy Danson Nana Karvellas Scott MacMillan Crista Osualdini Erin Skinner Heather Andre Karen Davison Bill Katz Doug Mah Don Padget Eric Spink Amy Abbott Allan Delgado Jodi Keil Scott McAnsh Rakhi Pancholi Shayna Staniloff Michelle Andresen Jose Delgado Kristjana Kellgren Dave McCaughen Patricia Paradis Stephanie Streat Carl Argo Mark Dolgoy Priscilla Kennedy Ross McLeod Lynn Parish Brian Summers Sharon Au Sarah Dolgoy Ritu Khullar Carman McNary Bonnie Parker Marc Sung Yoko Azumaya John-Marc Dube Janine Kidd Sheila McNaughtan Dawn Pentelechuk Michael Teeling Andrew Bachelder Morgan Edgar Derek King Debra Meakins Dan Peskett Wendy Thiessen Andrea Bandol Jonathan Faulds Jeananne Kirwin Ron Meleshko Nicole Pfeifer Michael Tilleard David Barker Nigel Forster Dale Knisely Naz Mellick Ed Picard Simon Trela Benjamin Black D.K. Fraser Sherry Kooner Kim Melnyk Nathan Po Holly Turner Doris Bonara Penny Frederiksen Brent Kornack Anne Montgomery Christine Pratt Winston Tuttle Jeff Bone Bob Gillespie Angela Kos Renn Moodly Matt Pruski Tess Van Weelden Lyle Brookes Alifeyah Gulamhusein Jeremiah Kowalchuk Dan Morrow Michael Pucylo Alex Varela Meagan Bryson Ron Haggett Bryan Kwan Allison Murray Will Randall Ken Whitelaw Tamara Buckwold Adam Halliday Cindy Lang Christine Murray Sharon Roberts Hugh Willis Janelle Butler Greg Heinrichs Julie Lee Jim Neilson Sarah Rossman Susan Wood Yessy Byl Chris Holmes Denis Lefebvre Vince Ng Terryl Rostad Matt Woodley Lisa Caines Derek Hopfner Stephanie Leung Lily Nguyen Grady Rowand Alex Yiu Clara Cerminara Ron Hopp Hang Liu Erika Norheim Alex Rozmus Christopher Young Arman Chak Yuk-Sing Cheng Jim Chronopoulos Vanessa Cosco Cheryl Hunter Loewen Andrea Jarman Allyson Jeffs Michelle Kai Julie Lloyd Brian Loewen Shelagh Lumsden Tyler Lypkie Ufuoma Odebala- Fregene Omolara Oladipo Walter Olinyk Monica Sabo Howard Samoil Keith Shustov Shawn Sipma Simon Yu Terri Susan Zurbrigg Our Staff Our Student Volunteers Rachel Bailie Helen Banks Perry Brown John Chandler Danielle Collins Alex Dimitroff Catherine Ewasiuk Katherine Fisher Lindsay Hanoski Taha Hassan Lyndsey Henderson Elsa Johnson Kim Ketsa Ellis Kim Adam Knisely Anna Kuranicheva Rebecca Lee Matt Lefleche Rhoda Lemphers Caroline Li Lavinia Marcu Freja McGetrick Kathryn McNeal Kristy Moore Lelia Munoz Kelsey Norton Sameena Sarangi Alyssa Sawa Milan Sharma Andrea Simmonds Bradley Smith Tiffany Stokes Elaine Sung Lana Tarnovetskaia Urvil Thakor Catherine Thi Brittney Thompson Administrative Coordinator Catherine Tan Zia Firdos Articling Student Danielle Collins Community Legal Worker Shelley McGowan Family Law Researcher Rachel Bailie Intake Coordinator Jackie L Hirondelle Legal Assistant Sandra Gmeiner Tammey Kezhis Law Clerk Mathieu LaFleche Kathryn McNeil Aaron Pegg Andrea Simmonds Tiffany Stokes Urvil Thakor Legal Supports Coordinator Connie Dykstra Staff Lawyer Sarah Eadie Tim Patterson Michael Power Program Coordinator Robyn Thomas-Heule Tanya Ruigrok (Grande Prairie) Program Manager Jordan Reiniger Executive Director Debbie Klein 21 staff, 13 Board members, and 178 volunteers provided service to 11,000 lowincome Edmontonians. Message from Executive Director Debbie Klein Happy 10th Anniversary, Edmonton Community Legal Centre! 2011 was the tenth year of operation of the Edmonton Community Legal Centre and our 2011 Annual General Meeting is an opportunity to celebrate not only the accomplishments of 2011, but also all that we have achieved over the past ten years. Almost 400 volunteers have contributed directly to the work of the ECLC over the past ten years; many of them have been involved since the early formative days. We celebrate those volunteers who continue to join us and shape our future, and those who have served us with such dedication over the past ten years. Ten years ago, the ECLC had a small staff including one staff lawyer. Now we have a permanent staff of twelve including four staff lawyers. Who are the Other Staff and what do they do? Like any law firm, we have administrative and management staff. We also have four staff members who provide direct service to clients experiencing difficulties which may contribute to their legal problems. Those staff members have a variety of educational backgrounds, but they share a commitment to serving the less fortunate in our community. From the beginning, as a project of the Edmonton Social Planning Council, the ECLC recognized that income was only one of the barriers to justice; culture, ethnicity, language, literacy, and disability This was the most helpful counselling I have ever received. I felt understood and supported. Thank you. are just some of the other barriers to accessing the justice system. For this reason, the ECLC s integrated model of service delivery, involving staff and volunteers dedicated to some of the root causes of legal problems, has set us apart from other legal service providers. When a client s hoarding problem has contributed to problems with their landlord, we recognize that their housing may continue to be in jeopardy unless they acknowledge and deal with their compulsion, and we attempt to provide that assistance, either directly, or by involving other agencies or professionals. Sometimes changes in circumstances can have unexpected consequences. A client who has completed the onerous process to qualify for social benefits may find themselves cut off for failing to file a tax return in time, due to injury or illness, for example. For some clients, this social benefit might be their only source of income, with immediate consequences in bill payments affecting employment, housing, and nutrition. The involvement of ECLC staff in not only negotiating with social benefits providers to reinstate these benefits, but also in arranging for emergency short-term income supports, can contribute to the prevention or resolution of a number of legal and family problems. Over the past few years, more and more ECLC clients are Temporary Foreign Workers, people who are temporarily in Alberta to provide a vital contribution to our economy and workforce. Most employers treat these employees fairly. Sadly, some do not. A newcomer to Canada, unfamiliar with our customs, laws, and language may not even recognize when they are being mistreated. If they do, they may choose to be silent, concerned about jeopardizing their employment, housing, and status in Canada, which could be to the detriment of the many family members who rely on them for the income from their Canadian job. The involvement of ECLC staff in negotiating with employers to explain to them their obligations and educating Temporary Foreign Workers about their rights and responsibilities may help to preserve the employment relationship. This behind the scenes work of dedicated ECLC staff has contributed over the years to negotiated solutions to problems that may have otherwise led to litigation in a long, confusing, and expensive court process. As the ECLC begins its next ten years of service we do so with a strong and dedicated contingent of staff and volunteers with a diversity of backgrounds and experience, all contributing to provide effective advocacy and access to justice in a supportive environment to persons living with low income. Thanks to all of you, and Happy 10th Anniversary. The lawyer was awesome; very informative and kind. A Client s Story A 55-year-old man who was chronically homeless suffered a violent assault. This physical attack included a life-threatening stab wound that required emergency surgery. Subsequently the assailant was charged with aggravated assault. Before his transport to the hospital the Edmonton Police tried to take a statement from the victim but were unsuccessful due to the man s injuries. In the early stages of recovery two detectives visited the man at the hospital but again he was medically unable to provide information. The detectives left a business card with instructions to call them. When the man recovered he made three attempts to contact the detectives but because of his homelessness it was difficult for the two parties to establish contact. The detectives noted the attempts in their file. The man then applied to the Victims of Crime Compensation Board for financial compensation. He was denied on the basis that Information from police indicates you were uncooperative and refused to provide a statement regarding the incident occurring on July --, As of April --, 20--, Edmonton Police Services have not heard from you regarding this matter. As such, I have determined you did not fully cooperate with the police investigation and your application is denied. The man contacted the ECLC for assistance in appealing the decision to the Criminal Injuries Review Board and was successful in being granted a hearing. The appeal was well prepared and was fortified with a letter from one of the detectives stating that the man had indeed made contact. The detective also offered the man his assistance with the matter, if required. By the hearing date, the client was very ill but determined to attend. The tribunal panel was so gracious with this gentle man and let him know that they were going to rule in his favour, but did not have the authority to determine the monetary amount. The man was relieved to know that he was to be financially compensated and made great plans to rent an apartment and establish a more stable relationship with his children and grandchildren. Sadly the man passed away before he received his cheque in the amount of $23,000. The family who are finalizing his affairs expressed their gratitude that the ECLC was able to help their father and brother. Our Process The ECLC is unique in its holistic approach to legal problems, situating the individual and family within the broader picture of their financial, personal, and social circumstances. Clients have an initial interview with a social worker who assists them to identify if they have a legal concern and provides appropriate referrals and information. Clients receive legal information and advice at no cost from a volunteer lawyer at an evening legal clinic. Volunteer lawyers may refer clients with complex issues for further follow-up by ECLC staff or free legal representa
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