In the News

PRESS RELEASE: Rights group in court to defend right of Single Mothers’ Alliance to challenge BC’s family law legal aid regime

Hearing on Single Mothers’ Alliance public interest standing will take place at the BC Supreme Court August 23-25, 2022.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022—For Immediate Release

Vancouver, unceded Coast Salish homelands—Today, West Coast LEAF is in court to defend the public interest standing of Single Mothers’ Alliance (SMA) in their constitutional challenge to BC’s family law legal aid regime.

In an outrageous attack on access to justice, the Province of BC is attempting to have SMA’s case thrown out by arguing that the organization does not have the legal capacity to take the case to trial. Canadian courts have recognized the problem of unequal access to the legal system by allowing organizations to bring legal challenges on behalf of individuals in the public interest.

By challenging SMA’s standing as a public interest plaintiff, the Province is trying to crush the ability of organizations to sue the government and challenge unjust laws and government actions. These kinds of standing challenges by the government are themselves an immense access to justice barrier. They trap public interest organizations in years of expensive litigation and stop the communities they represent from getting their day in court.

SMA is suing the Province and Legal Aid BC (formerly Legal Services Society) because family law legal aid in BC has been woefully inadequate for two decades, resulting in many people fleeing family violence being unable to get the legal support they need. Charter challenges, especially systemic cases like Single Mothers’ Alliance v BC, require extensive evidence from experts and lay witnesses to show the injustices at the heart of an issue and what the impacts are on a group of people. SMA is prepared to prove its case at the trial currently scheduled to begin in February 2023.

“For many years, the Single Mothers’ Alliance has heard how harmful and debilitating the lack of access to legal aid has been for low-income mothers and their children escaping gender-based family violence,” says Mai Eaglespeaker, board member, Single Mothers’ Alliance of BC. “The health, well-being, and survival of some of BC’s most marginalized women and children are at stake. The province of BC has failed these women and children when they are most at risk and require legal representation, access to justice, protection, and safety. We will do everything in our power to ensure their stories, voices, and experiences are heard, discrimination against them ceases, and their right to access justice in family law is upheld in full.”

“The BC government has been trying to have this case thrown out of court for years. Attacking SMA’s public interest standing is their latest tactic to stop this critical case from moving ahead to trial,” says Raji Mangat, executive director at West Coast LEAF. “While this government stalls to evade accountability, people fleeing violence still don’t have access to the legal support they need to separate from an abusive partner, get custody and safety for their children, and restart their lives on their own terms.”

“The Single Mothers’ Alliance has heard from lone mothers that they are harmed by not being able to adequately access BC’s family law courts,” says Viveca Ellis, executive director at Single Mothers’ Alliance of BC. “Funding cuts, restrictive eligibility criteria out of touch with reality, and one size-fits-all legal aid services have harmed generations of low-income mothers and children who needed assistance and support when they were most at risk. These women and mothers deserve their day in court; we will never back down.”

“By attacking the standing of Single Mothers’ Alliance, the BC government would like to shut the courtroom doors to our client before the trial even begins,” says Kate Feeney, director of litigation at West Coast LEAF. “Rather than confronting the reality of a broken family law legal aid system, this government expects people fleeing violence to carry the enormous financial burden and emotional trauma of a constitutional challenge all on their own.”

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Media Contact:

SMA:

Viveca Ellis, executive director, Single Mothers' Alliance

[email protected] or 604-366-1008

Westcoast LEAF:

Iman Baobeid, manager of communications, West Coast LEAF
[email protected] or 604-684-8772 ext. 226

Read the Public Interest Standing backgrounder.

Read the filed notice of application and application response.

 


 

Please find below a compilation of media coverage that provides a brief history of our activities in the past.

Mai Eaglespeaker's Speech at Why Your Vote Counts: Women's Equality & BC's Provincial Election on April 1st, 2017, published in the Georgia Straight online.

Kendra Milne, keynote speaker at Why Your Vote Counts: Women's Equality & BC's Provincial Election on April 1st, 2017, sister speech framing Mai's lived experience with facts and info, published in the Georgia Straight online. 

SMA Co-Founder represents BC CEDAW Group at UN In Geneva for women's rights review of Canada in October 2016, published in Metro News 

The Guardian coverage of CEDAW Committee's review of Canada in October 2016 

SMA member and spokeswoman Amanda Mackay spoke with The Globe and Mail about life on welfare and the recent changes to the MSP for single parents and children and addressed BC's need for a comprehensive poverty reduction plan.

The End of the Clawback

Vancouver Sun article interview with the Single Mothers' Alliance

CBC BC article on SMA, child poverty

CBC Early Edition, SMA, with Rick Cluff

Georgia Straight online editorial/transcript of SMA First Call press conference speech

Anna Chudnovsky: First Call speech on child poverty at Strathcona Elementary

CBC radio: BC Almanac clawback feature and call-in (clawback story starts at the 20 minute mark)

Becky Bodo, and SMA in the Globe and Mail, Wendy Stueck

Daphne Bramham on child poverty, the Vancouver Sun

Adrienne Montani, The Province, editorial

Ed Broadbent: Editorial, Globe and Mail, on child poverty

Jim Sinclair, Editorial, raising minimum wage to $15.00 an hour

Breakfast television: 'Single moms sue the government'

The Vancouver Sun: 'Single moms suing government over support payment claw back'

The Tyee: 'Single Moms Sue BC', October 15th, 2014

Barbara Fitzgerald: 'Children Need and Deserve Our Help'

Thursday, August 6th: SMA co-founder Frances Stone on CKNW Morning Show with Jay Durant 

August 6th/7th: Single Mothers' Alliance in The Georgia Straight

July 29th: Trish Garner's editorial in The Georgia Straight 

The Vancouver Sun's recent two-part series on $10-A-Day-Childcare in BC:

Sunday, July 19th, 2014: http://bit.ly/1lsibqi

Monday, July 20th, 2014: http://bit.ly/1rznkV5

Vancouver Sun: ‘B.C Government has dropped the ball in protecting human rights for women’ 

#EndtheClawback Campaign Coverage:

Will the conversation actually start

Constituents in Maple-Ridge Pitt Meadows push for Liberal clawback discussion

Liberal convention stirrings, May 26, 2014

Gary Mason in the Globe and Mail, May 27, 2014 on BC's child poverty record 

Mother's Day BC Acorn End the Clawback rally

BC Acorn Ministry of Social Development Rally April 22, 2014

Keith Baldry, April 18, 2014 North Shore News

Times Colonist editorial on 'cheapskate' clawback policy, April 15, 2014

Government Factsheet on the FMEP and the Clawback

Vaughn Palmer, Van Sun, April 10, 2014: 'What one hand of government gives, the other takes away"

Times Colonist, single mothers in the legislature, April 9, 2014

Hansard poverty discussion, April 7th, 2014 (starts 1100)

 

BC Acorn's Rachel Goodine on clawback, single mothers, PWD

Politics Respun: 'BC's Child Support Clawback Hurts Kids'

The Tyee: ‘With Disability Clawbacks, “It’s panic all the time’ 

 

Single Mother Issues

BC's poorest family group

The Tyee: Single Mothers' Alliance Co-Founder Frances Stone. November 26, 2014

The Tyee: 'BC single moms the poorest of them all'

The Georgia Straight: 'Single mothers face uphill battle in Gordon Campbell's British Columbia'

Single Mother Stigma Watch 

 

$10 A Day Childcare Campaign News 

The Georgia Straight: 'B.C. child-care advocates say sector is in crisis'

The Georgia Straight: 'Rita Chudnovsky: Plan for $10-a-day childcare striking a chord in B.C.'

 

BC Poverty Reduction Act Advocacy Progress

Bill M212 Poverty Reduction and Economic Inclusion Act tabled, May 6th, 2014

Policy Note: 'Poverty Reduction Act tabled by Opposition in the BC Leg'

The Valley Voice: 'How Poor is Poor?  Poverty group wants action on impoverished BC families'