Summary of Activities for the Child-centred Family Justice Fund 2003-2009

Public Legal Education and Information/Professional Training

The third component of the Fund included Public Legal Education and Information and Professional Training (PLEI and PT). The objective of this component was to enhance the knowledge of families, the judiciary, lawyers, court staff, enforcement staff, mediators, and others about family law issues concerning parenting arrangements, child support guidelines and support enforcement measures. The focus was on ensuring that target groups, were well informed about changing services and legislative reforms in family justice. Unlike funding under the Family Justice Initiative and the Pilot Project components, funding under the PLEI and PT component was only available to non-governmental organizations. The goal of this funding was to support initiatives that would enhance the knowledge of Canadians, including the legal community, about family law issues concerning parenting arrangements, child support guidelines, and support enforcement measures. Examples of funded activities are described below.

Public Legal Education and Information and Professional Training

Nova Scotia

The Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia (LISNS) received funding to carry out the following activities:

Prince Edward Island

The Community Legal Information Association (CLIA) of Prince Edward Island, Inc. undertook a “Going to Family Court” project, to help professionals educate their clients about parenting arrangements, child support and maintenance enforcement measures that included information sessions and other material delivery alternatives. This project was targeted at anyone thinking of going to court to resolve their family disputes. It was particularly useful to unrepresented litigants and to those who did not understand the court process. It was designed to build on work previously done in Prince Edward Island in an effort to improve access to the legal system for all Islanders. Materials developed during this project will be maintained and used in future work by CLIA.

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland (PLIAN) received funds for the following projects:

New Brunswick

The Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick (PLEIS-NB) produced an informative guide to address family law concerns and related law information questions from unmarried teen parents and young parents. The purpose of this guide was to consolidate information that individuals previously had to search out from numerous different sources. The guide presents the information in a clear, concise manner, using vignettes and examples to explain possible outcomes. It also dispels common myths about the rights and responsibilities of parents, and promotes responsible parenting by emphasizing the entitlements of the child, and the obligations and responsibilities of the parents.

PLEIS-NB expanded on this project with the creation of dynamic one- or two-hour workshops on popular family law topics associated with the guide. A cadre of experts was mobilized to deliver the sessions and monitor outcomes. The sessions with service providers enabled those service providers to discuss some of the issues flagged in the guide, such as paternity, child support, custody and access, and to provide supplementary resources, referrals and explanations. These discussions enhanced the ability of the service providers to use the guide with their clients. The sessions with young parents and pregnant teens explored common myths about the rights and responsibilities of parents while emphasizing the entitlement of the child. They also offered greater detail on certain law information topics and provided numerous tips on finding information and getting help.

PLEIS-NB also updated and revised other family law guides, particularly those dealing with divorce and child support. Additional new family law materials were developed to ensure that accurate legal information was available and that it was clearer and more understandable to all individuals attempting to access family law legal processes. To complement their existing materials, PLEIS-NB also produced two new bilingual products related to family law, namely, Interjurisdicitonal Support forms and guides, to assist separating and divorcing parents. Those products were developed in consultation with the federal Department of Justice and provinces and territories.

In 2008‑2009 (PLEIS-NB) undertook to revise, enhance and republish the self-help guide called “Doing Your Own Divorce in New Brunswick” which was in high demand in New Brunswick. The guide is available to libraries and service provides and on the PLEIS-NB Website. Having educational guides for people using the courts in family law matters helps them navigate the process and reduces the time of court clerks when they are filling papers.

The Association des juristes d'expression française du Nouveau-Brunswick received funding to produce materials required for training sessions for francophone lawyers. The sessions were intended to enhance the ability of francophone lawyers to provide French family law services such as out-of-court conflict resolution.

Manitoba

The Community Legal Education Association (CLEA) of Manitoba produced a workbook of five to six case studies, targeted to children aged 8 to 12. These case studies were based on research and interviews with young people that were supplemented by observations from parents, social workers and after-school-care staff. Younger children were found to need help from teachers with some sections of the workbook, but it was otherwise successfully received. As there is still very little in the way of legal information written for children, CLEA intends to further address this gap by developing new materials and approaches to educate youth.

CLEA also worked with the Association des juristes d'expression française du Manitoba to publish a French guide to family law and hosted two workshops in French, one in Saint-Boniface and the other in Saint-Pierre-Jolys, entitled “La séparation et le divorce”.

In collaboration with the Association internationale francophone des intervenants auprès des familles séparées (AIFI)In November 2008, the Association des juristes d'expression française de common law inc. (FAJEF) organised a national symposium on family law in French. The symposium took place in Moncton in November 2008. The first of its kind in Canada, the symposium sought to expose family law stakeholders to juridical terminology in French, and to offer them training in French about family violence and the impacts it could have on children by example. Part of the fund was also used to produce summaries of 17 court decisions related to parenting, child support guidelines and ordinance enforcement support. Those summaries were produced in French and were distributed to stakeholders and presented to the symposium in November 2008.

Alberta

The Children's Legal and Educational Resource Centre(CLERC) used funding to improve the position of children in relation to the legal system. The funding supported the creation of handbooks and question-and-answer cards directed at young people. Input from youth was incorporated in the design and content of these materials, which addressed the goal of refocusing “adult” issues in a manner that would be understandable to the young people affected by such issues.

The Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Alberta received funding in 2008 to develop and produce French-language information material on family law for francophones in the province, and to elaborate on information for people who were representing themselves. The Association also held a series of six information sessions on family law in order to inform and educate francophone parents and youths who were going through a divorce. They also developed a new Web site section on family law pertaining to separation and divorce.

Saskatchewan

The Public Legal Education Association (PLEA) of Saskatchewan used funding to research and develop a bilingual “Parenting Responsibilities” booklet for parents. The booklet provides information on case law, parental duties, parenting arrangements and recent trends, with the goal of creating family dialogue and ensuring parents are aware of their responsibilities. It also includes a pullout for children.

In a separate project, PLEA developed an electronic, intermediary training module to give individuals in the human services profession the knowledge and skills they need to help their clients find legal information to deal with their specific problems. In this sense, the module enables users to act as legal intermediaries. The legal writers, working with the Association's Web designers, developed an electronic training module for intermediaries, based on PLEA's Family Law Intermediary Training Guide. The training module is interactive, with an emphasis on the use of plain language and ease of use. An on-line evaluation form was also developed, for intermediaries to submit to PLEA once they have completed the training module.

The legal writers also developed an issue of The PLEA newsletter on parenting responsibilities. This information was written specifically for young people (Grades 7 to 12), and presented in a format that engaged this audience in the topic. The PLEA Parenting Responsibilities Issue was distributed to all schools in the province in late January/early February of 2005.

Because of changes to provincial legislation, PLEA of Saskatchewan received additional funding to revise their publications “Single Parents” and “Custody and Access”. These publications were included in the Department of Justice Family Law Kits and were distributed to intermediaries across Saskatchewan who deal with clients from hard‑to‑reach groups, such as Aboriginal peoples, immigrants, low-income earners, those with low literacy skills, rural and northern residents, abused parents, and young or teen parents.

In 2008, the Association des juristes d'expression française de la Saskatchewan received funding to develop a simple French-language guide and then deliver a series of information sessions targeted at immigrants, young francophones, and educators to inform them about their rights and the law.

Ontario

The Northumberland Child Development Centre (NCDC) received funding to develop a “Positive Parenting from Two Homes” program. The program was developed in response to the need for information and support for parents who were parenting from two homes. The concept of delivering this program was initiated in Prince Edward Island. NCDC used the materials from Prince Edward Island and adapted them for Ontario residents. Nine sessions were delivered by facilitators throughout Northumberland County. The objectives of the program were to provide information for parents about mediation, legal and court processes; provide information about community and government resources; provide education about the mental and emotional aspects of divorce and separation; and encourage dispute resolution processes in order to reduce on-going conflict and lengthy litigation in custody and access cases.

The Peel Family Mediation Services made an effort to improve on the mediation services available in the province of Ontario. They attempted to reach out to diverse communities in the Peel region through a campaign of education and the translation of family law materials into a variety of different languages. This was part of an attempt to increase trust through increased exposure to family law services in the community, with the goal that increased trust, as well as translated materials, would facilitate increased access to family justice for members of minority communities. This project also allowed for research into those communities to be gathered to better service them in the future.

The Réseau de chercheures africaines used funding to conduct a research project entitled Les femmes francophones des communautés ethnoculturelles et droits de la famille. Researchers conducted interviews with regional minority individuals concerning their access to the legal system and what might make them more aware of their rights and responsibilities. They also held information sessions to explain the structure and function of the justice system to groups who might not otherwise have had access to this information. In 2008, the Réseau des chercheures africaines held a series of approximately 10 educational discussions to better inform francophones from Ontario about family justice, child support, visitation rights, etc. The goal of this research and the educational discussions was to make it possible for the organization to better overcome the obstacles that prevent francophone visible minority women from accessing services that could benefit them.

A similar research project was conducted by the Alliances des femmes de la francophonie canadienne into the situation of francophone women with regards to family law. This survey of 41 organizations about the services and resources available in French determined that there was a clear need for Web sites and workshops that offered information on family law. A particular need for Web sites that target young people was identified.

Dogstar Film and Video Productions produced two videotaped sessions of the 311 Open Bar Series for educational purposes both in Ontario and internationally. (The series of sessions operated under the sponsorship of the Toronto Family Lawyers' Association and The Family Court Judges of the Ontario Court of Justice in the Toronto region). The topics of the two videotaped sessions were “Enforcement of Orders” and “Spousal Support”. Both sessions were videotaped at the Family Court House in Toronto on February 7, 2005 and March 7, 2005 respectively and are 72 minutes in length. The “Enforcement of Orders” session was chaired by Justice Brownstone. This session included a discussion of contempt proceedings, default hearings, costs, remedies under the rules for failure to comply with court orders, as well as garnishments and other remedies under the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act. The “Spousal Support” session was chaired by Justice King. Recent developments in this area were discussed, including entitlement, variation (both prospective and retrospective) and quantum.

Quebec

Several Quebec agencies received funding for a variety of public legal education and information projects. For example:

British Columbia

The Law Courts Education Society of British Columbia (LCES) engaged in a series of projects with financial assistance from the PLEI and PT component of the Fund.

As with similar organizations in other provinces, the Association des juristes d'expression française de la Colombie-Britannique provides support for francophones in British Columbia. The Association received funding for three separate projects, as follows:

Professional Training

Alberta

The Legal Education Society of Alberta received funding for their “Child Representation Project.” The aim of the project was to develop, deliver and evaluate a three-day training program to educate legal professionals around the adequate and effective legal representation of children. Combining legal, non-legal and community interest into one deliverable model, the project was guided by the principle that the voices of children must be effectively heard in legal proceedings affecting them.

Ontario

The National Judicial Institute received funding for four distinct projects between 2003 and 2008.

Manitoba

The Child-centred Family Justice Fund partnered with the Justice Partnership and Innovation Fund in a project undertaken by the Institut Joseph Dubuc, of the Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface to develop and deliver a new French language legal course with reference to wills and estates, divorce, child custody and share of assets and real estate transactions.

Other Projects

Two family law experts, Professors Carole Rogerson and Rollie Thompson, received funding to further the development and implementation of Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines.