Legal Aid Alberta staff lawyers Jessica Chapman and Ruth Williams join Global News Morning Edmonton to shed light on family violence, the overlaps for those in immigration matters and the supports available.
November is Family Violence Prevention Month. It can happen to anyone, and it’s important to work together to spread awareness, educate and provide resources to support those facing domestic violence situations.
Legal Aid Alberta family lawyer Jessica Chapman and immigration lawyer Ruth Williams joined Global News Morning Edmonton on this month’s segment of Ask a Lawyer to talk about family violence, what happens when it overlaps with immigration law matters, and how Legal Aid Alberta can help.
Join us to learn about Emergency Protection Orders and how Legal Aid Alberta can help you protect yourself or a loved one.
Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2023
Time: 12 – 1 p.m.
This webinar is part of Legal Aid Alberta’s 50th Anniversary Public Education Series.
Transcript of the program:
Vinesh Pratap: Welcome back everyone. November is Family Violence Awareness Month, and with us today to talk about the ways that Legal Aid Alberta helps people who face domestic violence are staff lawyers Jessica Chapman and Ruth Williams. Thank you so much for both being here today.
Jessica Chapman and Ruth Williams: Thank you for having us.
Vinesh: So this is still a very important issue, even though we talk about it, we still don’t talk about it so Jessica, I’ll start with you. Talk to us about the services that Legal Aid provides.
Jessica: Legal Aid Alberta has a number of ways that they help people who experience domestic violence. First of all, we have an extensive Emergency Protection Order Program and that is a free service that is offered to both claimants and respondents in various centres in the province, and then we also have family law lawyers that provide services to people who are going through domestic violence, and we also have criminal and immigration lawyers who are involved in that as well.
Vinesh: OK, so Ruth let’s talk about immigration because that’s your forte – so talk to us about the challenges especially for newcomers or people who are just still new to this country in terms of accessing the services or even knowing about the services you provide.
Ruth: I think the biggest challenge is knowing about the services that are provided. A lot of people are listening to information that they get in the community, and sometimes that’s wrong. And also, people are coming from situations where they have learned or they’ve experienced not to trust the police, or trust authorities because they’re not trustworthy and they can be corrupt. The first issue that people often face is knowing where to get help and how to get help, and that it’s OK to get help, because they’re afraid that that if they do reach out, they are compromising their immigration situation and might find themselves not being able to stay in Canada which is absolutely not true.
Vinesh: Exactly. It’s really important to point that out. So, talk to us even though, yes, they are in Canada, and they might be learning English, English may not be their first language – how do you break that barrier?
Ruth: So, for the language barrier, people are very resourceful and they’re lucky to come to a place where the community is incredibly welcoming. I found with my clients that, yes, they struggle with English when they first arrived, but in a short period of time, there’s lots of classes they’re accessing in the community and Edmontonians are great neighbours, so there’s always someone who is willing to take them under their wing, spend time with them, spend time with their family and help them be able to acclimatize.
Vinesh: “It takes a community,” that phrase. Just talk to us again, as I mentioned we talk about domestic violence, but we don’t talk about some of the challenges that we still face in the legal community, that we face in 2023.
Jessica: I think the legal community suffers from lack of education around family violence and about trauma-informed (lawyering) and understanding how people are going to react in different circumstances, there’s no one way to react. I also think there’s a barrier where people who are going through violence in their home feel so alone, and it’s such a common problem, there’s some many people. Chances are, you know lots of people who are suffering from domestic violence but they’re not talking about it, and people are scared to come forward even if they’ve grown up in Canada. So those are probably two of the biggest barriers that we face.
Vinesh: For both of you, take us through the steps of what Legal Aid is doing to break down those barriers to just have this as open as possible so that people who need the service can get it?
Jessica: Well in Edmonton and Calgary we have people at the courthouse who can assist with making applications for Emergency Protection Orders and that’s a free service as I said, and so people can go to the courthouse. There is also telephone applications available. This was something that started during COVID [pandemic] and the government and the courts have kept that going, which really makes it way more accessible for people. So you don’t necessarily have to travel into town or the city, often people can’t leave their homes in the moment, so that’s really made it more accessible. Legal Aid provides services at the Court of King’s Bench level when it comes time to review the EPOs and so people are not going to be by themselves going through the system. Legal Aid is there to help the people going through this.
Vinesh: Ruth, can you talk to us about the upcoming webinar?
Ruth: Yes. So we have a webinar on Emergency Protection Orders coming up on November 15 between the hours of 12 noon to 1 p.m. People will be able to find all the information they need and sign up, it’s absolutely free on our website.
Vinesh: And you recommend anyone who has questions, just sign up, they’ll get a lot of information there.
Vinesh: Well, Ruth, Jessica, thank you so much for coming in and the work you do in helping people who are in very vulnerable situations; it’s greatly appreciated. Well, the free public webinar on Family Violence and Emergency Protection Orders will take place on November 15 at noon, and for more information, you can visit them online at legalaid.ab.ca.