Emma Ronsley

Bella Coola Legal Advocacy Program receives national recognition

The Bella Coola Legal Advocacy Program, under the leadership of its founder, Anne Fletcher, has been nationally recognized for its work.

The Bella Coola Legal Advocacy Program, under the leadership of its founder, Anne Fletcher, has been nationally recognized for its work.

Alex Peel, Community Engagement Coordinator of the Legal Services Society, nominated Anne for the Access to Justice All-Star Award. The The National Self-Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP) created the award, which is intended to recognize those working to ensure everyone has access to legal resources, regardless of their location, income level, or any other barrier.

“The Legal Services Society (LSS) has had the privilege of working in partnership with Anne Fletcher and the Bella Coola Legal Advocacy Program for many years,” said Peel.” Anne supports low-income British Columbians access legal services in some of the most remote and hard to reach parts of BC. She is creative, passionate and a lifeline to many people who might otherwise have no one to help them. Anne is a great asset to our program, and to her community.”

Anne began the program almost nine years ago when she created the Bella Coola Legal Advocacy program. The BCLAP is a continuing program funded by the Law Foundation of B.C  and a Community Partner of the LSS. The program has also received funding from The Notary Foundation of B.C., The Law Foundation of Ontario (Access to Justice Fund), and the Central Coast Regional District.

Anne obtained her law degree from the University of Notre Dame and graduated in 1991. She was licensed to practice in Oregon, but after coming to the Valley in 1995 she decided to stay.

Since then she’s focused on how to use her background in law to better serve the people of the Central Coast.

“The program has really grown over the past nine years and I can truly say I love my work,” she shared with CMNews. “It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience to work in this region and to have the program recognized at this level is really exciting.”

Presently, Anne provides free and confidential legal advocacy services including information and referrals, summary advice and support, and full representation in many legal matters including housing (on and off Reserve), income/social assistance, debt, police accountability, human rights, disability, Indigenous legal issues, elder issues, child protection, family, criminal, legal aid, wills/estates (on and off Reserve), EI, employment (on and off Reserve), pensions, and more.

She is supervised by lawyer Anja Brown, who has been part of the program since the beginning and makes her home in Vancouver.

“I have been Anne’s supervising lawyer since the legal advocacy program began,” said Brown. “Through Anne’s on-going hard work and dedication, the program has evolved to deliver legal advocacy to Bella Coola as well as neighbouring communities and has helped to fill the access to justice void. The recent recognition of Anne’s work by the National Self-Represented Litigant Project is very well-deserved.”

With the help of funding from the LSS and the Law Foundation of Ontario, Anne has been able to bring her advocacy work to Bella Bella and Klemtu.  Most recently she has expanded the program to include workshops through the Mid-Coast Indigenous Law Project. Working with Brown, Anne is now traveling the central coast organizing and facilitating legal workshops focused on legal issues affecting indigenous peoples, which are delivered by Brown.

The Mid-Coast Indigenous Law Project will deliver eight separate workshops on the following topics:  Indigenous sovereignty jurisprudence, featuring the Tsilhqot’in Supreme Court of Canada decision, the Jay treaty, etc., Indigenous fishing, hunting, and gathering – harvesting rights and processes, debt and  taxation issues specific to Indigenous people, “Indian” Status, Band membership, Custom adoptions, Indigenous child protection concerns and processes,  Family law in B.C, Provincial Court; Matrimonial Property on Reserve federal legislation and BC Supreme Court processes; and introducing “Clear Skies” a publication of the Aboriginal Services of LSS about domestic violence and legal remedies, Criminal law issues unique to Indigenous peoples, including Gladue pre-sentence reports, rights of Indigenous prisoners, etc.

Housing On Reserve issues, remedies in the BC Supreme court and Federal Courts; human rights concerns off reserve, and the BC Residential Tenancy Act.

“These workshops will be presented in both Bella Bella and Klemtu,” said Anne. “They will be open to the leadership, local service providers and Band staff, as well as the general public. Nuxalk Radio will also be attending and recording.”

Anne also has a law student joining her program for the 2017 summer season.

“I’m so pleased to announce that Emma Ronsley will be working with the Bella Coola Legal Advocacy Program this summer from May through August,” said Anne. “Emma is a Law student at the UBC Allard School of Law and she currently works with the UBC Indigenous Community Legal Clinic, which provides free legal services to the Indigenous community in the Downtown Eastside Vancouver. Emma will be working alongside me at the office in Bella Coola, and on monthly visits to Bella Bella and Klemtu, as well as in Anahim Lake, with funding provided by the Law Foundation of B.C.”

Services offered by the Bella Coola Legal Advocacy Program are free and completely confidential. You can get in touch with Anne by calling 250-799-0044, toll free at 1-877-499-0044, or on Facebook.