Legal

 Topics
1.Sex Work and the Law
2.Legal Advice and Resources
3.SWAN and PIVOT Legal Rights Pocket Cards
4.Understanding Legal Terms
5.Immigration and the Law
6.The Police and the Law
7.Child Protection
8.Family Law Resources

Sex Work and the Law

What are the laws around sex work in Canada?
On December 6, 2014 the federal government introduced Bill C-36, new laws that replace the prostitution laws that were struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada in December 2013.

These laws criminalize (i.e. make illegal)
-communicating for the purpose of selling sex near a school, playground or daycare
-the purchase of sex (i.e. clients who pay for sex)
-advertising sexual services online or in print (with the exception of advertising one’s own services)
– those who gain material benefits from sex work (e.g. managers, drivers, etc./does not apply to those in “legitimate living arrangements” or with “legal or moral obligations” to sex workers).

Where can I get more information about sex work and the law?
Stella in Montreal has put together a series of helpful cards describing the new laws in detail and what they will mean to you:

 

If you work in Vancouver, here are some things you should know about the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Police Department’s approaches to sex work:

The City of Vancouver is committed to the health and safety of sex workers. Visit their new webpage that outlines its position, initiatives, priorities and progress in regard to increasing the health and safety of sex workers in Vancouver.

The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) have created a set of Sex Work Enforcement Guidelines. The VPD has released a video about these guidelines to ensure that sex workers and the public know about their focus on safety, respect, and building relationships with people working in sex work, and to reiterate that their enforcement approach does not concern adult consensual sex work. The VPD have also committed to release a Chinese version in 2016.

Sex Workers United Against Violence and Pivot launched a new pocket card to educate sex workers about the VPD’s recently enacted Sex Work Enforcement Guidelines.

The card makes three key points:
1.In all situations involving sex workers, the Guidelines state that the VPD’s priority is to ensure the safety and security of sex workers, and all cases of violence or abuse of sex workers will be treated as serious criminal matters;
2.The police should not harass, target, arrest or intimidate sex workers for doing sex work; and
3. If a sex worker attempts to report violence and her/his report is disregarded or neglected, or if a sex worker is harassed or arrested by police for being involved in sex work, she/he should tell an organization that they trust and consider filing a police complaint.

The Sex Work Enforcement Guidelines came into force January 2013, and they represent an important shift away from criminalizing sex workers towards ensuring sex workers have access to police protection.

“These policy statements recognize that criminalization of sex work makes it difficult, if not impossible, for sex workers to access police protection. Our hope is that the policy will create a major shift among VPD officers, and that their policing practices become focused on the critical issue of sex workers’ health and safety.”  -Katrina Pacey, Pivot Legal Society
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Legal Advice and Resources


Rise Women’s Legal Centre

Lawyers and law students provide legal advice and legal representation for low-income women in the lower mainland on civil law matters, particularly family law. Phone for intake appointment.
When: check website for intake appointment dates
Where: unit 201-456 West Broadway (at Cambie)
Phone for intake appointment: 604-451-7447

Free Legal Clinics at Atira Women’s Resource Society
Women can obtain free legal advice (up to 30 mins) from lawyer Mary Childs in: wills/estates, criminal law, police complaints, mental health law, insurance law, privacy law, personal injury, and small claims.
Women only.
When: Every Monday from 1-4pm (except stat holidays)
Where: 101 East Cordova Street
By appointment only. Call (604) 331-1407  to book an appointment.

Atira Legal Advocacy Program
Women can obtain free assistance with: welfare, disability, tenancy, human rights, FOI requests, minor civil or criminal matters, police complains, complaints about professions (such as doctors), some family law matters and child custody issues with layer Amber Prince
Where: 101 East Cordova Street
When: Monday to Thursday and alternating Fridays from 10am-3:30pm
By appointment only. Appointments can be booked by calling 604-331-1407
For more information on Atira’s legal resources, click here.

Jane Doe Legal Network – If you are a woman who has experienced violence and need legal help, the Jane Doe Legal Network may be able to provide you with confidential legal advice. Contact Shahnaz Rahman at West Coast Leaf 604 684 8772 ext.123

The UBC Law Students’ Legal Advice Program offers free legal advice on criminal law, small claims (e.g. ICBC), residential tenancies, WCB, Employment Insurance, CPP, Social Assistance, BC Benefits, wills and estates, consumer transactions, employer-employee relations, human rights and criminal injury compensation. They do not cover personal injury cases, business law or family law. You can call 604-822-5791 for an appointment – they will ask you (1) where you live, (2) the nature of your problem and (3) if you require language assistance. They also hold clinics in Cantonese, Mandarin and Korean.

This program offers free refugee/immigration advice at the following clinics:
Vancouver – Gordon Neighborhood House 1019 Broughton St.
Call 604.822.5791 to book an appointment
Surrey – Chuck Bailey Rec Center 13458 107A Ave.
Call 604.822.5791 to book an appointment

BWSS – Legal Advocacy Workshops
The Legal Advocacy Program at BWSS provides support, advocacy, information and accompaniment to women who have experienced violence and who are involved in the legal system. We also provide advocacy with other systems, including social assistance and child protection. The BWSS Legal Advocate is not a lawyer and does not give legal advice.
Cantonese-speaking legal advocate available.
For more information or to make an appointment, call 604-687-1867 (we accept collect calls) or email legaladvocacy@bwss.org

The Canadian Bar Association (BC Branch) offers a Lawyer Referral Service. For a fee of $25 plus tax, you can consult a lawyer for up to 30 minutes. After the consultation, the fees charged are strictly between the client and the lawyer. The lawyer is not obliged to take on the client’s case, nor is the client obliged to keep the lawyer.
To access this service, call 604-687-3221 or 1-800-663-1919

The Justice Education Society’s Court Information Program for Immigrants
Free legal education and information in English, Punjabi, Hindi, Chinese and Vietnamese.
Workshops and one-on-one information available.
Information only. No legal advice or advocacy given.
For more information call 604-760-5727
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SWAN and Pivot Legal Rights Pocket Cards

On December 3, 2015, Pivot Legal Society launched new legal rights cards that outline the new sex work laws in Canada, as well as the Vancouver Police Department’s approach to sex work in concise and easy-to-read pocket cards.
Canada’s Sex Work Laws (English)
Canada’s Sex Work Laws (Chinese)
Canada’s Sex Work Laws (French)
Vancouver Police and Sex Workers: Know Your Rights (English)

The (older) SWAN Legal Rights Cards are still relevant and outline your rights in regard to searches, detention, arrest, translation and signing documents when visited by police or other government officials. They include information on how to file a police complaint if you feel you have been treated unfairly. 
Legal Rights Card (English)
Legal Rights Card (Chinese)
Legal Rights Card (Farsi)
Legal Rights Card (Korean)

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Understanding Legal Terms

Where can I get more information on legal terms?
Maggie’s: The Toronto Prostitutes’ Community Service Project has published a booklet called Legal Ease, a glossary of legal words used in courts and by the police.
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Immigration and the Law

Where can I get more information on working in sex work and immigration status?

 

Where can I get more information about humanitarian and compassionate applications?
Legal Services Society has published a short booklet A Guide to Humanitarian and Compassionate Applications: A Guide to Humanitarian and Compassionate Applications

If you are an immigrant sponsored by your husband:
Live Safe: If Your Sponsor Abuses You  describes what newcomers (immigrants) to Canada can do if abused by their sponsors and when leaving an abusive relationship. It also describes financial help, support services, and legal resources.

If you are an immigrant sponsored by your husband (Chinese – Simplified)  and   If you are an immigrant sponsored by your husband (Farsi ) describe to immigrant women who were sponsored by their husbands and are afraid for their safety, what their rights are, what they can do, who can help, and when to talk to a lawyer or legal aid.

What can I do if my sponsorship breaks down?
Legal Services Society has published  Sponsorship Breakdown which provides useful information for people who need help when their sponsorship to Canada breaks down:

I came to Canada on a Student Visa. Now I’m married to a Canadian, so I’m a Citizen and can work legally in Canada, right?
No, you do not automatically become a Canadian Citizen when you get married to a Canadian. You need to apply for Permanent Resident Status. In your situation, you can apply using an “In Canada” application for spouses. AFTER you have Permanent Resident Status, you can work legally. If you wish, you can apply for Canadian Citizenship after 3 years of becoming a permanent resident. To get more information and request for application kits call Citizenship and Immigration Canada: 1-888-242-2100, Monday-Friday, 8 am – 4 pm.

I do not have immigration status. What are my rights?
Know Your Rights
Conozca Sus Derechos
Connaissez Vos Droits

Where can I get more information on immigration and refugee law?

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The Police and the Law

What do I do if I am detained?

  • If you have not been told you are under arrest, ask if you are free to go. If the police tell you that you are not free to go, that means you are being “detained”.
  • You are not obliged to give any information to the police and do not have to say anything. You have the right to remain silent and should exercise that right.
  • Sometimes, by staying silent, you can increase your risk of arrest or of harassment. You may want to tell police your name and address to show you are cooperative.
  • Tell the police that you do NOT consent to a search of your person, your locker or your belongings.

(Source:Sex Work & Immigration Rights by Pivot Legal and the ORCHID Project)

What do I do if I am arrested?

  1. Be polite. Don’t fight or swear – even if they swear at you.
  2. Ask if you are under arrest. The police must tell you if you are under arrest and must tell you why.
  3. You have the right to remain silent. You can refuse to talk to police or answer their questions but you must give your name and address. You do not have to give them any other information.
  4. Tell the police that you wish to remain silent until you have had a chance to speak to a lawyer.
  5. Tell the police that you do not consent to you or your belongings being searched.
  6. An officer must tell you his or her name and badge number if you ask them. The officer should show you a badge within a few city blocks.
  7. Insist on a woman officer if you are searched.
  8. Note badge numbers, names, license plates and scout car numbers of police officers and witnesses.

(Source:Sex Work & Immigration Rights by Pivot Legal and the ORCHID Project)

What do I do if I am charged?

  1. If you are held in jail, the police must arrange for you to speak with a lawyer by telephone. If you are not able to speak to a lawyer in English, legal aid will arrange for a translator to be present on the telephone or in person.
  2. If you are not held in jail but you are charged with a criminal offence, you will be given a date to appear in court. You will want to speak to a lawyer right away.
  3. You can apply for a legal aid lawyer (at not cost to you) by calling the Legal Services Society at 604-408-2172 (Lower Mainland) or 1-866-577-2525 (outside the Lower Mainland).
  4. There is a legal aid lawyer at every courthouse on weekdays. You can speak to the legal aid lawyer for free and in person when you attend your first court appearance. The lawyer will assist you in court and will arrange for a translator for your court appearance if necessary.

The Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms states that anyone who is unable to understand or speak the language of legal proceedings are entitled to the assistance of an interpreter.

(Information compiled from various sources, including Sex Work & Immigration Rights by Pivot Legal and the ORCHID Project.)

How do I make a complaint against the police?
 This brochure provides information on how to make a complaint against the police in Vancouver.

What do I do if the police ask about my immigration status?
The police can tell Citizenship and Immigration Canada if they believe you are unlawfully in Canada. They may ask you questions regarding your immigration status. You have the right to remain silent and should do so. Ask to speak to a lawyer right away.

What should I do if the police come into my workplace?
If you are detained:

  • If you have not been told you are under arrest, ask if you are free to go. If the police tell you that you are not free to go, that means you are being “detained”.
  • You have the right to know why you are being detained.
  • You are not obliged to give any information to the police and do not have to say anything. You have the right to remain silent and should use that right.
  • Sometimes, by staying silent, you can increase your risk of arrest or of harassment. You may want to tell police your name and address to show you are cooperative.
  • Tell the police that you do NOT consent to a search of your person, your locker or your belongings.

If you are told you are under arrest:

  • Ask if you are under arrest. The police must tell you if you are under arrest and must tell you why.
  • You have the right to remain silent. You can refuse to talk to police or answer their questions but you MUST give your name and address. You DO NOT have to give them any other information.
  • Tell the police that you wish to remain silent until you have had a chance to speak to a lawyer and a translator (if needed).
  • Tell the police that you do NOT consent to you or your belongings being searched.

If you are taken to jail:
After you have been arrested, the police may release you without taking you to jail, in which case you will likely be given a piece of paper with telling you when and where to appear for court. You will want to speak to a lawyer right away.

  • If you are held in jail, the police must arrange for you to speak with a lawyer by telephone. If you are not able to speak to a lawyer in English, legal aid will arrange for a translator to be present on the telephone or in person.
  • You can apply for a legal aid lawyer (at no cost to you) by calling the Legal Services Society at 604-408-2172 (Lower Mainland) or 1-866-577-2525 (outside the Lower Mainland).
  • There is a legal aid lawyer at every courthouse. You can speak to the legal aid lawyer for free and in person when you attend your first court appearance. The lawyer will assist you in court and will arrange for a translator for your court appearance if necessary.

(Source:Sex Work & Immigration Rights by Pivot Legal and the ORCHID Project)
If a police officer comes into my workplace, what can he/she search?

  • The police may ask for permission to search you and your personal belongings. You have the right to say no. Tell the officer that you do NOT consent to be searched. Be aware that they may search you anyways. Even if you think you are being illegally searched, do not physically resist.
  • In certain circumstances, the police have a legal right to search you even if you do not consent.
    1. If you are DETAINED (you are not free to leave but also have not been told you are under arrest), the police officer can only conduct a “pat down” search if they believe you may be in possession of a weapon.
    2. If you have been told that you are UNDER ARREST, the police can search you, your belongings and your immediate surroundings. If you believe you are under arrest, follow the steps 1 to 4 on the panel to the right.
  • If the police have a search warrant, they can search the premises but do not necessarily have the right to search you or your personal belongings if you have not been placed under arrest. They also do not necessarily have the right to search your personal locker.
  • Regardless of whether you have been arrested or whether the police have a search warrant, it is very important to tell the police that you do NOT consent to a search of your person, your locker or of your belongings.
  • The police can only conduct a strip search (make you take off your clothes) if they have reasonable grounds to believe you are hiding something under your clothes or in a body cavity. If you are a woman, these searches must always be done by another woman.

(Information from Sex Work & Immigration Rights by Pivot Legal and the ORCHID Project.)

Under what circumstances can the police come into my workplace?

  • A police officer can enter your workplace in various circumstances, including:

An officer may be working “undercover” (not in uniform and not identifying him/herself as a police officer) or in “plain-clothes” (not in uniform, but identifying him/herself as a police officer).

Undercover officers do not need to identify that they are police officers, even when asked and do not need a search warrant, but do need consent of a staff person to enter the premises.

An officer may be in uniform or may identify him/herself as a police officer. They do not need a warrant to enter the premises if a staff person consents to their entry. If they do not have permission of a staff person to enter the premises, the officer must have a search warrant to legally enter.

An officer may enter without a search warrant and without permission only in very limited circumstances; where it is impractical to obtain a warrant because the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that entry is necessary to:

Prevent imminent bodily harm or death to any person; or to prevent the imminent loss or imminent destruction of the evidence.

(Information from Sex Work & Immigration Rights by Pivot Legal and the ORCHID Project.)

What do I do if city officials or police officers come into the massage parlour?

At massage parlors, city officials or police officers will come around to do routine checks. By-laws require that employees, owners, and operators cooperate with inspectors. A little preparation and a calm head can make these routine inspections go smoothly.  So here are some pointers to remember:

Keep in mind, you are a self-employed worker at the massage parlour. There’s no need for you to fear the city officials or police officers.

Ask for the officials’ business cards (They have to give you one if you ask!)—it is a good idea to have them in case of emergency or complaints. It’s also nice to be on a first name basis with inspectors.

Have your ID handy. They want to make sure you are over 19.

Covered windows are against by-laws in certain municipalities. In these municipalities, make sure all the windows of studios are uncovered.

If you have more questions about specific by-laws in your municipality, please contact us.

Inspectors are not authorized to search any of your personal belongings or ask personal questions unless you are charged with something. You can ask “Am I charged with something?” if they want to search your purse.
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Child Protection

If my child is taken by the Ministry of Children and Family Development, what are my rights as a parent?

What are the child protection laws in BC? What are my rights as a parent?

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Family Law Resources

Family Justice Counselling
Family justice counsellors can give you information about the law and about the Provincial (Family) Court process. They work with both spouses or parents to try to resolve children’s guardianship matter at hand. This government program provides a range of free services (if you meet their income threshold)  including:

      • information and referrals,
      • help filling out family court forms,
      • mediation and conciliation services, and
      • help planning a separation agreement.

Phone: 604-660-2421 (Service BC, ask to transfer to a family justice counsellor near you)
Or call Justice Access at 8000 Hornby Street directly at 604-660-2084
Drop in hours (for first intake appointment): Monday-Friday 8-5pm (Wed till 7pm)
For more info, click here.

Surrey Family Justice Center
604-501-3100
301-7380 King George Hwy, Surrey

Family Duty Counsel (for independent legal advice)
Family duty counsel are lawyers paid by the Legal Services Society (BC Legal Aid) to help people with low incomes deal with their family law problems. If you have a family law issue, you may qualify for help from family duty counsel inProvincial or Supreme Court even if you don’t qualify for a legal aid lawyer.

In Provincial Court
Family duty counsel can help you with family law matters, including child protection issues (if the Ministry of Children and Family Development becomes involved with your family).

Duty counsel can give you advice and speak on your behalf in court on simple matters. However, they won’t take on your whole case and won’t represent you at a trial. They can also attend Family Case Conferences at some courts.

Duty counsel may be able to help you even if you’re not financially eligible. (See Do I qualify for legal advice? on the Legal Aid website.)

Call your local Legal Aid office to find out when the service is available.

Duty counsel are available by appointment or on a walk-in basis in various locations. For more information, and a list of locations and hours, see How to find Provincial Court family duty counsel on the Legal Aid website.

In Supreme Court
If you’re a person with a low income experiencing separation or divorce, you may be eligible for up to three hours of free legal advice from Supreme Court family duty counsel.

Duty counsel are lawyers who can provide advice about:

      • parenting,
      • child support,
      • property (limited),
      • tentative settlement agreements, and
      • court procedures.

Call 604-660-1508 (vancouver), 604-775-0628 (Westminster)

How to prepare for a meeting with a Family Duty Counsel
For more info, click here.

Legal Services Society (Resources on legal aid)

Publication: Living Together or Living Apart – English & Chinese
For more info, click here.

Parenting After Separation Workshops

Justice Education Society in Partnership with Justice BC
Parenting After Separation is a free three-hour workshop for parents dealing with family break-up issues of child custody, access, guardianship and/or support. Topics include the impact of separation on children, decision-making and legal options. Parenting After Separating Parent Handbooks are available in multiple languages. For information about locations where these workshops are held, click here. For more details about these workshops, click here.

A new online course has also been made available. Click here to access in English, Chinese and Farsi.
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