Individuals and families needing assistance with legal matters will soon have a one-stop-shop to access the justice system in Victoria.
Attorney General Shirley Bond announced a $1.5 million investment to create a Justice Access Centre within the Victoria Law Courts, where people attempting to navigate the justice system have access to a multitude of support, knowledge and information.
“When you’re trying to sort out how to deal with matters like child custody issues, or divorce, property issue, or debt, it can be an emotional and pretty stressful period of time,” Bond said.
She said one of the goals of the new centre is “finding ways to resolve problems that don’t necessarily require litigation. That’s a lot better for families.”
Among the agencies offering services at the province’s two existing centres are Access Pro Bono, Credit Counselling Society, Legal Services Society and Mediate B.C.
Unique to the Victoria centre, set to open in fall 2013, is a partnership with the University of Victoria, as its law centre will be co-located on the site, at 850 Burdett Ave.
“The creation of Victoria’s new Justice Access Centre, and its co-location here with our law centre will improve access to justice,” said Donna Greschner, dean of UVic’s faculty of law.
“Access to justice is one of the critical issues of the day, and this new centre will go a long way towards improving access to justice for people in Victoria who otherwise would not be able to get the legal help that they need.”
The law centre is the clinical legal program for law students to assist people who can’t afford a lawyer,” added Bond.
“This opens the door to new opportunities for collaboration, and our goal is the same. We want to find better ways to serve individuals and families in the Capital Region.”
Two Justice Access Centres operate in Nanaimo and Vancouver. Statistics from the Vancouver Justice Access Centre show that only one-third of its clients have had to go to court, with most of those resulting from the other party initiating the matter.
Overall, about 75 per cent of clients at the Vancouver and Nanaimo centres have come for help with family issues, although the number of civil cases is increasing.
For more information on the centres, visit http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/justice-access-centre.