The COVID-19 coronavirus has brought changes in both government policies and court operations that affect peoples’ rights and responsibilities. Because the situation is so fast-moving, changes are being made almost daily.
BC’s legal information providers have stepped up to meet the challenge of providing clear information during the coronavirus pandemic. This eNews describes some of the online sources of legal information about issues related to COVID-19, offering both written information and chat or Q & A services to answer questions.
Legal Aid (formerly the Legal Services Society)
Legal Aid BC’s Family Law in BC website has compiled frequently asked questions about legal situations in the state of emergency. These FAQs deal with family law issues and more – they include questions like:
- I've lost my job, what are my options for paying my mortgage?
- Will my refugee claim hearing with the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) go ahead?
- Do I have to send my child to their other parent for parenting time if my child and I are self-isolating?
As new information becomes available, the questions are being updated and more are being added.
The Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC website also has a FAQ page covering COVID-19 related issues important to the Indigenous community.
If you need more information, the Family Law in BC website lets you chat online with legal information experts by clicking on the chat button on the top right of the homepage. They can help you find the information needed to solve your legal issue. This service is available weekdays between 9am and 4pm.
Another Legal Aid resource is MyLawBC. Its guided pathways provide an interactive way of leading you to the legal information that applies to your issue. They can help you work through issues such as separation, missing mortgage payments, and writing a will. All of these pathways are being updated with new information on COVID-19.
The site also features the Family Resolution Centre, an online service to help parents going through separation or divorce create a parenting plan for their children. Up to 5 hours of free, professional mediation are also available to help parents who find that they can’t agree on every issue.
Legal Aid BC is now providing all their usual services over the phone or online. Their website has up-to-date information on how to get this help when you need it. You can still get over-the-phone legal aid, talk to a lawyer to get their advice, and learn about your rights and responsibilities.
Peoples Law School
The People's Law School website features practical guidance on the everyday legal problems British Columbians experience. It focuses on topics that aren’t widely covered in online legal information – including consumer problems, money and debt, work, home and neighbours, wills and estates, and health. The site offers step-by-step guidance, interactive elements, and tools like template letters to help people take action to resolve common legal issues.
To help with issues related to the pandemic, the Peoples Law School has added Coronavirus to its Q&A sections where visitors can browse answers from volunteer legal professionals to questions posed by others or ask their own question. “Work-it-out features” help you figure out which COVID-19 benefits you’re eligible for, the steps you need to take to apply, and how to prepare a valid will during coronavirus, while staying safe.
Courthouse Libraries BC has added a wikibook, Covid-19 Resources for British Columbians, to the comprehensive coverage of legal topics on their Clicklaw website. Courthouse Libraries BC’s mission is to provide the public and legal professionals with legal resources, librarians’ expertise, and informed referrals in order to help them research and manage their legal issues.
Curated and organized by a team of librarians, the wikibook offers trusted sources of legal information related to the pandemic. It focuses on resources for members of the public and supports the work of intermediaries helping their communities navigate through the changes necessitated by the pandemic. The wikibook platform provides the flexibility needed for the team to work collaboratevely and expand pages easily, in response to our rapidly changing environment.
Content includes legal information from Clicklaw contributor organizations and community-specific resources. Listings cover issues arising most frequently during the pandemic – like employment, residential tenancy, and family law. There are also resources on privacy and human rights, non-profits, and small businesses.
With physical distancing in place, events are moving online. The Clicklaw Blog’s “monthly events” posts provide a list of public legal education webinars to add to your “must watch” list. You can subscribe to receive the latest posts.
Clicklaw’s HelpMap is also being updated with information on how to access legal help programs during the pandemic.
Updated daily, the site gathers current information from more than 20 organizations, providing an online gateway for people to understand their changing legal rights and responsibilities due to COVID-19. Along with announcements from Government of Canada and various BC Government agencies, the site consolidates information available from Legal Service Society, Peoples Law School, PovNET and many other BC legal services organizations. Topics include: health and safety, work, housing, family, and more.
The site also features ‘Ask JES’, a live help, information, and referral service. In addition to searching COVID-19 questions and answers on the website, users can ask their own questions. ‘Ask JES’ provides personalized legal help by phone, live chat or text, weekdays from 10am to 2pm. During offline hours, users can leave their phone number or email address to get an answer to their question the next business day.