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LegalHelpBC.ca Answers COVID-19 Questions

New gateway website improves A2J

LegalHelpBC.ca Answers COVID-19 Questions

As a result of the COVID- 19, a series of Canadian and BC government policies have been announced that change the individual rights and responsibilities of British Columbians. There are new rules and policies related to health, courts, employment, and housing, with new announcements coming daily. People are facing greater uncertainties in these unprecedented times.

The coronavirus has created a need for British Columbians to be able to access current and reliable COVID-19 legal information and the BC public legal education and information (“PLEI”) sector has responded. Legal Aid BC, People’s Law School (“PLS”), Courthouse Libraries BC (“CLBC”), PovNET and many others have moved quickly to adapt services and publish relevant information.

The COVID-19 legal information published by a range BC PLEI organizations demonstrates the strength of our sector in BC. Yet it can be a challenge for people to find the correct information.

People are using Google more and more to find answers to their legal questions. British Columbians looking for current COVID-19 legal information on health, family and work need to filter through several search results on a topic, which is often confusing. They then need to find reliable sites and visit a series of different government and PLEI websites to find the current and complete information. Determining which source to rely on is a lot to ask of people who are already overwhelmed.

To better support the public in accessing the broadest range of COVID-19 legal information from one primary source, the Justice Education Society (“JES”) developed LegalHelpBC.ca. This new website publishes COVID-19 legal information in question and answer format, collected from over 20 organizations. To ensure the currency of the information in these fast-changing times, reviews and updates are done daily.

Aside from the broad range of COVID-19 legal information on the website, a key feature of LegalHelpBC.ca is direct access to Ask JES legal help services. Since 2013, Ask JES has provided free answers to legal questions by phone, live chat, or text. During COVID-19, Ask JES has extended hours, providing personalised live help weekdays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

To date, Ask JES has responded to more than 20,000 public inquiries. JES employs UBC law students, through the Law Students Legal Advice Program as first responders. Complex inquiries are escalated to JES staff lawyers. In all cases, only legal information and referrals are provided, not legal advice. Ask JES is focused on guiding people through the overabundance of information online and connecting people with the assistance they need.

In advance of going live, JES reached out to the BC Law Foundation, Legal Aid BC, PLC and CLBC to obtain support for sharing their published information on LegalHelpBC.ca. Their support has been paramount in being able to provide British Columbians with up-to-date information.

“BC PLEI organizations are working hard to provide legal information and services during COVID-19,” said Sonia Poulin, CEO of JES “LegalHelpBC.ca provides British Columbians with a starting point to get answers to their COVID-19 legal questions.”

At this time, JES is asking for support from the BC’s legal community. Direct linkages to LegalHelpBC.ca will boost the website’s prominence in search results, helping more British Columbians to discover this important new resource. Furthermore, volunteers interested in contributing content or doing a legal review of content are always welcome.

It’s important for people to feel confident in the information they find online. By collecting information from numerous credible sources, people are able to easily find the information they seek in one place. They can then dive deeper into their questions on other websites with more confidence. In these challenging times working together is key to being able to provide some sense of certainty and ease to people.

About JES BC

The Justice Education Society of BC (JES) is a non–profit organization with over 30 years of experience providing public legal education & information and justice system capacity building in Canada and overseas. In Canada, JES helps British Columbians learn about our justice system and address their legal issues. JES also works with partners around the world to strengthen justice systems, and increase access to justice and citizen security. More information is available at www.JusticeEducation.ca.

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