JUST ASK ANGIE
I am indigenous and having a hard time finding legal help in the usual channels. What else is out there?
If you self-identify as First Nations, Inuit and Métis, there are places to go for culturally-sensitive legal support. Many of these can be found under the umbrella of an organization called the First Nations Justice Council (www.bcfnjc.com), whose mission is to “support the wellbeing of future [First Nations] generations by transforming the status quo today – upholding self-determination, reclaiming legal traditions, and addressing systemic injustice”.
VIRTUAL INDIGENOUS JUSTICE CENTRE
Last column I talked about Gladue Services, this time I’ll highlight the Virtual Indigenous Justice Centre (VIJC). The VIJC is a call-in service for people who are indigenous or self-identify as indigenous. It is specifically for those navigating a criminal matter or a child protection matter. In some areas of the province, there are in-person versions of this service, but not yet on the Sunshine Coast.
To qualify for VIJC services, you must have 1) first tried applying – and then been declined – for free legal help/advice/representation through “Legal Aid BC” (Contact the Resource Centre at 604-885-4088 if you want more information about applying for legal help through legalaid.bc.ca/); 2) You also much have no other options for accessing a lawyer; 3) To connect with a VIJC you’ll need to have access to a phone (we can coordinate use of a phone if need be); 4) you must also be prepared to talk to the lawyer at an agreed-upon time by phone.
When you call into the VIJC, you’ll first talk to a navigator. They will check your eligibility, and then they can make bookings with a lawyer who will be accessible virtually (by phone/email/video chat), or they will book you an appointment with an in-person lawyer.
INDIGENOUS JUSTICE CENTRES
The Indigenous Justice Centres (IJCs) website (bcfnjc.com/indigenous-justice-centres-in-british-columbia/ ) says that IJCs (or Virtual IJCs, in our case ) “provide culturally appropriate information, advice, support and representation directly to Indigenous people at the community level.” The Goals of VIJCs are: a) Keep Indigenous people safe by reducing incarceration; b)Divert Indigenous people to a healthy path away from justice involvement; c)Make the justice system experience more Indigenous; and d)Make it easier for Indigenous people to navigate justice and obtain support.
To contact the VIJC call 1-866-786-0081, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Friday. You can also contact them by email firstname.lastname@example.org. ***If you contact them by email, do not share any detailed information about your legal case.
To find out more about connecting with VIJC or for any legal-related matter or otherwise, book a time to speak with Resource Centre staff in person, or over the phone to find out more.
ABOUT JUST ASK ANGIE
Angie Theilmann is an information and referral specialist at the Sunshine Coast Resource Centre, your community information hub. The Resource Centre is open Monday to Thursday 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Appointments are recommended to be sure we are available to help you. Contact us: email@example.com or 604-885-4088.