Access to justice nearly impossible in thousands of family law cases: report

VANCOUVER - A women's advocacy group is proposing two ways to address a critical lack of family law services in B.C., saying cuts to legal-aid funding have made access to justice nearly impossible for vulnerable citizens.

West Coast LEAF says women in particular are at a huge disadvantage after the breakdown of a marriage, especially if violence, low-income and child-custody issues are involved.

The agency recommends two pilot projects — one with lawyers working in community agencies so legal services can be integrated with those of other professionals such as counsellors, social workers and interpreters.

The other proposal is for a women's clinic led by student lawyers who would provide free and low-cost family law services in the Metro Vancouver area, with a travel and technology budget to serve remote regions.

The agency says its recommendations are based on a year of consultations in 16 urban, rural and remote communities across B.C.

A comprehensive report done for the provincial government three years ago said the social and economic costs of inadequate access to legal services in the province are too high to postpone fundamental change.

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