Access to Justice by Land and Sea


February 2024

In communities across the central coast, the Bella Coola Legal Advocacy Program (BCLAP) has always worked to maintain an in-person presence through regular roving clinics to reach clients who need legal advocacy services.

Expensive plane charters and infrequent ferry services had historically made this a very costly and uncertain endeavour. That’s why the BCLAP created a made-for-the-coast solution to reach communities spread out over a large area with challenging geography.

BCLAP decided that having its own boat would enable them to serve Central Coast communities more effectively and flexibly. Named the Galene, the 40-foot diesel-powered repurposed boat had a built-in office to meet clients privately, wi-fi and living quarters, so it even helped the team save on accommodation costs.

The Law Foundation of BC helped make this a reality with a $75,000 grant, solving a major logistical headache for BCLAP. It is one example of the Foundation’s commitment to supporting access to justice for the majority-Indigenous residents of the Central and Outer Coast in Nuxalk, Heiltsuk, Wuikinuxv and Kitasoo/Xais-xais communities. In remote communities, Zoom isn’t always a workable solution as internet connections can be unreliable. And when it comes to meeting the often complex legal needs of clients who may be marginalized in the justice system, meeting face-to-face goes a long way in building trust.

After a two-year pilot, the restoration of more convenient ferry services have allowed the BCLAP to retire the vessel and focus inland on visiting communities lacking hotel accommodation with a legal services RV.

The BCLAP is one of 100 legal advocacy and clinic programs, supported by the Law Foundation, providing legal services to low-income people in over 50 communities across B.C.