Rise Women’s Legal Centre is a community legal clinic based in Vancouver BC, serving individuals who self-identify as women all over British Columbia. Our services are open and inclusive, regardless of age, place of origin, race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality or ability, including those women who support themselves by selling or trading sex.
Legal services are provided by senior law students from the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia. Student clinicians work full-time at Rise for one academic term, and receive academic credit for their participation in our externship program.
Our student clinicians are trained and supervised by Rise’s staff lawyers while they gain hands-on clinical experience and learn practical legal skills, assisting under-served women in BC with their family law matters.
Why Family Law?
Our students practice predominantly in the area of family law, as it is the most significant unmet legal need in the province. Due to limited legal aid funding allocated to family law cases, many women in BC are unable to access counsel.
Left with few options, many women are forced to manage their family law cases without the benefit of consulting a legal professional. According to a 2017 report of the Canadian Bar Association’s BC Branch, 40% of BC residents in provincial court for a family law case are without legal representation.
Family law pertains to important aspects of people’s lives, such as divorce, custody and guardianship, access and parenting time, child and/or spousal support, property division, and protection orders.
Family law matters can be complicated and multiply quickly, prolonging proceedings if legal issues are not dealt with in the proper time.
Outcomes in family law cases can have a major effect on the physical, psychological, and financial security of women and their children.
Why Women Only?
Access to justice is a women’s equality issue. While all residents of British Columbia have been impacted by significant cuts to legal aid starting in 2002, the services that were (and continue to be) disproportionately accessed by women – family law and poverty law – sustained the deepest cuts. Rise serves individuals who self-identify as women in recognition of the particular harms that women and children suffer post relationship breakdown. At Rise, we believe that the ability to know and assert one’s legal rights is the starting point for a justice system based on fairness and equality.
The effects of marital breakdown on women can be severe. Data analyzed by the University of Toronto in 2008 shows that women’s median income in the years following their separation dropped significantly more than men’s, and did not recover. Numerous research studies confirm that women still earn less than men in the paid labour force, are disproportionately responsible for child and elder care within families, and are disproportionately the victims of family violence. The result is that women are less likely to be able to afford a lawyer than men, exacerbating the effect of the cuts to government-funded legal aid.
Rise Women’s Legal Centre was created through a partnership between West Coast LEAF and the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia.
West Coast LEAF is the first and only organization in BC dedicated to promoting gender equality through the law. West Coast LEAF exposes and works to end discriminatory laws, policies and practices to create a more just society, and educates youth and adults about their legal rights and responsibilities through a social justice lens. Based in Vancouver on Unceded Coast Salish Territories and focused on issues in BC, West Coast LEAF promotes substantive equality for women and girls in the courts, in the legislature and in schools. Rather than treating everyone the same, substantive equality is an approach that recognizes and celebrates differences and ensures that historically disadvantaged people can actively participate in society and access justice.