Posts Tagged "aid"


B.C. announces $300 monthly aid for people on income, disability assistance during COVID-19 | CBC News

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The provincial government is temporarily adding $300 to the monthly amount people on income and disability assistance receive to help them during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction said roughly 250,000 people are automatically eligible to receive the benefit on top of their regular support cheques for the months of April, May and June. 

Minister Shane Simpson said the benefit will come with the next round of cheques on April 22, with no application required.

“We know that COVID-19 is having a serious impact on all British Columbians. We know that people are concerned and they’re scared. We know that people who are living in poverty and living vulnerable are even more scared and concerned as they move forward,” Simpson said Thursday.

The supplement will also go to low-income seniors who receive the B.C. Senior’s Supplement and people who receive income or disability assistance and live in a special care facility.

A single person on disability currently receives $1,183 a month, which will become $1,483 after adding the new supplement. A single parent with two children currently sees $1,609 a month, receiving $1,909 with the benefit.

In a separate measure, the ministry said people who receive assistance from the province will not see money clawed back from their cheques if they qualify for the new $2,000 Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

Meanwhile, those on assistance who are part of the B.C. Bus Pass Program will have a $52 transportation supplement added to their income cheques as B.C. Transit and TransLink are not currently charging bus passengers. That money will also be included on the next cheque and will continue until the companies reinstate fares.

A woman waits for a bus on a near empty Robson Street in Vancouver on March 30, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The measures are part of the province’s $5-billion financial aid plan to help British Columbians as the pandemic paralyzes the economy.

The plan included a monthly rebate for renters up to $500 a month. Simpson said those on disability and income assistance will not be eligible for that grant. 

The minister acknowledged there are people who might not have internet access to learn more about financial aid available to them because public spaces, like community centres and libraries, have been shut down.

In those cases, Simpson said the ministry is asking the public not to come to their offices for help, but instead reach out by phone. He said the ministry is also working with local agencies who directly support people on assistance to connect them with support.


B.C. launches talks with taxi industry about fees to aid disability services

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Taxi drivers in B.C. will soon be able to purchase the same kind of insurance available to the ride-hailing industry, the transportation minister said Thursday.

Claire Trevena said talks are also underway with the taxi industry to ensure sustained and improved services for passengers with disabilities.

The province has been working for several months with the Insurance Corp. of B.C. and the taxi industry to provide insurance based on the per-kilometre distance travelled with passengers in their vehicles, which is equivalent to what is offered to ride-hailing vehicles, she said in a statement.

“In the near future, taxi drivers who want this new product will be able to switch their insurance, with coverage beginning in the spring. Drivers who wish to keep their current form of coverage will not be affected.”

Trevena said talks are underway as well with the taxi industry to ensure sustained and improved services for passengers with disabilities. Those discussions involve providing the taxi industry with a portion of the 30-cent trip fee that ride-hailing companies must contribute toward a passenger accessibility fund because their licences don’t require them to provide vehicles for disabled passengers.

The minister’s announcement follows petitions filed in British Columbia Supreme Court by the Vancouver Taxi Association alleging unfairness over the licence approvals for ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft.

Meanwhile, Uber has filed an injunction application in the Supreme Court after Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum said city bylaw officers will ticket the company’s drivers operating there.

The taxi association documents, which ask the court to quash the licence approvals for Uber and Lyft, say the rules that require taxi firms to provide costly wheelchair accessible vehicles do not apply to the ride-hailing companies. A hearing is set for Tuesday in Vancouver.

In an interview Tuesday, Trevena said it was “unfortunate” passengers with mobility issues could face service issues connected to disputes over the introduction of ride-hailing in B.C.

“We want people with mobility challenges and accessibility challenges to have as many options for transportation as possible,” she said.

Taxi association lawyer Peter Gall said the companies will argue in court that Uber and Lyft have unfair advantages over the taxi industry. The advantages include no restrictions on vehicle numbers or charge rates and no requirements to provide wheelchair accessible taxis, he said.

“If we’re going to do something which costs more, they should either have to provide the same service, which they can’t, or they should be contributing to the cost of the service,” he said.

Gall said taxi drivers will continue to pick up passengers with disabilities.

Trevena defended the government’s approach to ride-hailing after a contentious first week in Metro Vancouver.

“While efforts continue to ensure safety and fairness, I am proud that our government refused to back down against pressures to abandon our regulatory measures on ride hailing,” she said in the statement. “As a result, British Columbia now has the highest safety standards in North America.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2020.


Brian Young: How legal aid works in B.C.

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B.C. has an excellent legal aid system. Given a local high profile murder case and the announcement by the provincial government of a new framework agreement and an increase in funding last year, it’s helpful to understand just how legal aid works in this province.

Unlike many states in U.S., B.C. does not have legal aid offices full of lawyers anxious to jump on cases. The myth around those types of offices is they are for lawyers who can’t quite make it in the real world. Many wrongly believe legal aid is synonymous with lawyers from the bottom of the barrel. Fortunately, that’s not the case in B.C. Legal Aid here means you can have any lawyer you want, assuming its a lawyer wants to take the case.

B.C.’s legal aid system is based on rules and financial qualification set out by the Legal Services Society (lss.bc.ca). Generally, legal aid is for people who possibly face jail, a conditional sentence, could lose their job, or face an immigration proceeding and deportation. Legal aid is also available due to a physical condition, mental or physical disability, or if you are Aboriginal and the case affects your traditional livelihood. The other key qualifier in B.C. is income. This is all set out in the legislation, but the cutoof works out to be about $1,600 a month maximum for one person or, for example, $2,900 for a household of three people.

It’s a good system. Over 25,000 people a year qualify for some form of legal aid. Without a doubt, it’s a constant source of clients and income for lawyers in this province. Last year, over 1,000 private practice lawyers in B.C. did legal aid work.

These private practice lawyers are essentially contract lawyers — hired guns — who represent the clients. They are not Legal Services Society lawyers, who are also in the throes of funding issues. In Vancouver, and other locations, there are Legal Services Society offices. They are staffed by Legal Services Society lawyers and support staff. These are not the lawyers who represent clients in legal matters. The Legal Services Society staff lawyers ensure those who need legal aid have access to it and they support the lawyers who provide the actual legal services to clients.


Here in Victoria, we have the Law Centre office. It is not full of lawyers waiting to represent a client. It is full of very enthusiastic law students from UVic who are keen to help, under the supervision of lawyers and faculty from the UVic Faculty of Law.  They handle a number of cases through that office, but there are limitations. Really, who wants to be represented by a student who heads back to class as you head off to jail? The able students at the Law Centre will handle some criminal matters, divorce and family law matters, human rights, civil, employment insurance, welfare, landlord issues and some CPP issues.


But how does it work? Let’s take, for example, the Andrew Barry case. He was charged and recently convicted in the murders of his two daughters on Christmas day in 2017. It’s not known whether Barry was on legal aid. That’s a matter between he and his lawyer. Given the testimony at trial about his financial situation, it’s easy to assume he was. So let’s go with that.

Barry would have applied for legal aid after he was arrested. Assuming his financial situation, he would have to meet the threshold test of income and case need, as set out above. Once approved, Barry would be able to hire any private practice criminal lawyer of his choosing. Barry chose wisely and had two excellent Victoria lawyers representing him.

Barry’s lawyers could act knowing all their fees were covered by legal aid.

Why do excellent, top-gun lawyers do legal aid? Because it pays. On time. While it may not pay their usual hourly rate, it pays and it pays in an area of law where most clients do not have the means.  Most offenders don’t break the law because they have buckets of money. Those that do will pay the usual hourly rate lawyers charge.

So what would a lawyer under legal aid be paid? You might be surprised by the answer. Lawyer pay rates are determined by the legal aid tariff — found at https://lss.bc.ca/lawyers/tariffGuide. This does not apply to staff Legal Services Society lawyers, but contracted private practice lawyers. In other words, those that go to court.

What the tariff tells us, in the criminal law realm, is lawyers are paid for specific steps. For example,  a lawyer will be paid for appearances or matters such as bail, in custody hearing, scheduling a trial, sentencing, etc. A bail application pays $600 where the client has been charged with murder.

The tariff pays $1,400 for the first two half days of a trial. Then it pays $700 per half day thereafter. The tariff also states that trials longer than 20 days require an “approval” from the Legal Services Society. Lawyers are permitted to bill more than the maximum with permission. This is based on years of call and is known as Tier 1 through 3. This moves from a daily rate to an hourly rate. These enhanced fees can reach $143.75 an hour for all prep and trial time. This is based on the enhanced fees and exceptional responsibility premium. Very likely, but again something between the lawyers and the Legal Services Society, the lawyers for Barry were being paid at the $143.75 an hour rate. For a ten-hour day of prep and trial — not unheard of — it would be just shy of $1,500 a day per lawyer.

So what is the cost of the Andrew Barry trial? Pretty simple to hit the main notes: The emotional and psychological costs to the girls’ mother, the extended families and friends is simply unimaginable and impossible to quantify.

The actual financial costs are much more easily understood. Over something like 100 days of trial, the Andrew Barry murder trial could have cost more than $250,000 in fees to his lawyers. On top of this are judge costs (B.C. Supreme Court judges make over $325,000 a year), clerk costs ($50,000 a year), sheriff costs ($55,000 a year), jury costs, Crown lawyers ($150,000 a year). You get the idea. All these salaries are approximate as it depends on the judge, the clerk, etc., and their personal experience.

The important thing to remember is legal aid is available to anyone who qualifies. It permits an accused in the criminal justice system to choose any lawyer who does legal aid to represent them. It is a very good system and a much needed system. But it is important to have all the information when determining the pros and cons of the system.

Brian Young, a former lawyer, is an instructor of criminal justice at Camosun College.


B.C. school trustees ask for provincial, federal aid to stomp out student vaping

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Vaping has become a major problem in B.C. schools, reports the trustees’ association.

Dax Melmer / Postmedia News files

British Columbia’s school trustees are asking for help to stop students from vaping.

Stephanie Higginson, the president of the B.C. School Trustees Association, says her members report that their schools are spending more time policing vaping and more students are breaking the rules around vaping.

Higginson says members approved a motion at the association’s provincial council meeting urging federal and provincial governments to make funding available for vape education and cessation for students.

She says council members also want vaping product advertisements, promotions and sponsorships to align with current tobacco legislation.

Higginson says a solution should be part of a larger mental-health support strategy that the association been advocating for and they know that kids who have access to such supports are less likely to vape.

The motion will be presented to B.C.’s ministries of Health and Education and to provincial health authorities and Higginson says it will also be presented to the Canadian School Board Association to advocate for support on the federal level.


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