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Parent Legal Centre in Smithers, helps families navigate the legal system

Offering legal advice to parents is only one of the services the Smithers Legal Centre provides
Left, Megan Olson, Managing Lawyer, and Jacquie Bowes, Aboriginal Community Legal Worker/Advocate, both work out of the Smithers office on Main Street. (Deb Meissner photo)

Parents Legal Centres (PLCs) help parents with child protection matters in communities, provide legal services and often work with other agencies to address specific needs of their clients. There are ten PLCs, including the one that services the Smithers/Hazelton and Houston areas.

“In Smithers at the PLC, we focus on building strong relationships with our clients,” Megan Olson, managing lawyer said. “This creates trust for them to keep moving forward and strengthen their families. The majority of our clients come to us during one of the most difficult moments of their life. Our purpose to be here is to help them through this process in a supportive, positive manner.”

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“We collaborate with other service providers in the community and complement the services they provide. We refer clients to get additional help, as well as help build relationships. Our clients often come to us isolated and distrustful. We work to bridge the relationships with people who can help them.

“For example, a mom comes to us having just left a violent relationship. We can meet with her at the Transition House, and help connect her to counselling and housing services. We explain the legal process and, together, we come up with a plan for her to safely start her new life with her children.

“Joined by our advocate, she meets with the social worker from the Ministry of Children and Family Development and shares what she has been working on. Ultimately, the kids stay with their parent and we have worked to keep things from escalating to court or from the kids having to spend time away from their mom.”

In another example, they meet a dad in court.

“We provide legal representation for him in the court process and successfully advocate for the kids to return to him under a supervision order. He goes to a day treatment program to work on his addictions, and builds parenting supports around him. We connect him with regularly to work towards removing MCFD from his life completely,” Olson explained.

To be eligible for PLC services, a person needs to qualify financially, and be a parent, guardian, or a person standing in the place of a parent.

The centres also provide information and advice on options for resolving child protection issues out of court with legal advice and representation and, where appropriate, through collaborative processes such as mediation and family case planning conferences.

Smithers PLC also provides legal advice and representation at uncontested hearings, and can provide an advocate who will support clients and go with them to meetings and appointments and provide referrals to other services, including online resources and other public agencies.

The Smithers office is located at 1242 Main Street in Smithers and can be contacted at 250-847-9088 on week days.

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Megan Olson, Managing Lawyer of the Parents legal Centre in Smithers. (Deb Meissner photo)